Kimberlys Guide to Ice Cream, part 1 - Custard

Being somewhat foolish, I started ice creams with custards. There would have been easier ways, but I probably would have gleefully avoided anything involving hot dairy and egg yolks for as long as possible, so maybe it was better this way.
My earlier experience with custards was somewhere between a complete disaster and occasionally acceptable. I am sure microwave lime curd can be delicious and simple to make, but my scrambled lime juice eggs were just not quite the same.
Occasionally I had managed not to destroy a chocolate pudding, even turned out a coconut cream pie - but it was just as likely that I would curdle the whole mess as that it would be edible. (Technically, yes, the curdled mess would still be edible. Just not very enjoyable.)
I think my fascination with buttercream and therefore pastry creams helped in the end. With a decent helping of cornstarch, a pastry cream tends to be more forgiving of beginners mistakes, so with a strong whisk and a willingness to start over again if need be (which happened often enough), custards became only slightly terrifying, not completely so. At least they showed that with enough time to start over if need be, it would usually work out.

I can't really do much better than Bravetart, so if you are looking for good directions, head over there and do as she tells you. I used quite low heat, lower than she recommends, convinced any minute the mixture of eggs and dairy would spontaneously scramble. What actually happened was it took about three times as long as it needed to, but eventually, the custard thickened, and nothing scrambled. So I didn't really mind the extra time it took.
I did not have a vanilla bean, so I used an extra tablespoon of vanilla extract. I also did not have bourbon, so, I used an extra tablespoon of vanilla extract. The recipe also calls for vanilla extract, so I put that in too. Excessive? Probably. (Why yes, we do buy vanilla extract by the pint.) The results were very nice though. Just pour it all in at the end. As vanilla extract contains alcohol, if you pour it in while you are heating the custard still, it might just start evaporating off, leaving you with rather less vanilla than you had hoped. Or so I have read for the logic behind stirring in vanilla at the end. If you steep a bean in the milk and cream, or use vanilla sugar, those go in wherever the recipe suggests the milk and the sugar go.
I could have brought in some snow (it was February), but I didn't think of it, so I skipped the ice bath.After straining and adding the vanilla, I just covered the bowl and put it in the fridge. One day I will actually try an ice bath and see the need, I am sure.

I used a smaller pot on my first try, later I switched to a wider-bottomed pot -even at the same heat, the custard formed more quickly. Surface area, you know. Just had to stir a little more.

 Everyone makes ice cream in their robe, right?
Lots of bowls. 
All set up for straining the custard.

The test for thickened custard is generally "coating the back of a spoon", (works with a spatula too, when it no longer runs off in droplets but actually forms a layer that lies nicely on the spatula, you're done), or you can clip a thermometer to the side  and stir til it gets to around 170°F. You'll notice when it thickens though - it won't get as thick as a pudding or a pastry cream, it will still be somewhat fluid,, but you will notice. You wouldn't want to try to put a pudding in your churn, anyway. (I may have tried this. Just leads to pudding freezing the churn solid. Cold chocolate pudding tastes good though, so not much was lost, but ice cream it was not.).
If there is a little scrambling, don't worry, that is what the strainer is for.

And through the strainer it goes!

So, if you are just starting out with custards, start here, use lower heat if you are nervous and take a bit longer about it, and if it sounds too complicated, you will get something edible without the ice bath too (as the custard keeps thickening a bit til it is cooled, I assume it is there mostly to prevent a last-minute overcook.)

Since homemade vanilla ice cream is pretty nice and you can cover it in chocolate and strawberry sauce later, it's the simplest place to start -and if you're worried about wasting ingredients,  you could skip the vanilla bean (as those are somewhat more expensive than the rest of the ingredients) til you are more confident, it will still be quite delicious.

 Or you can stir in some green tea powder. Up to you. 
Also works as a good excuse to for the next time.


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