Heston Blumenthal is a famous ice-cream fanatic. His vanilla ice cream recipe from Heston at Home doesn’t require liquid nitrogen, just lots of whipping cream and vanilla pods.

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Until I start shaving my head or driving a 5-Series probably about the only similarity between me and Heston is that we both have strong childhood memories of ice cream.

For me it was a Mr Whippy 99 cone from the sea-front kiosk at Lytham St. Anne’s. We had loads of family holidays in St. Anne’s and the highlight of every day would be an ice cream cone from the booth just off to the left of the pier. For me there is no ice cream in the world that could taste as good as one from here.

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To this day I absolutely love vanilla ice cream (and cannot forgive the BDSM community for besmirching the flavour’s good name). We always keep some in the house, and when it came time to restock I figured it might be cheaper, and tastier, if we made our own from scratch using Heston’s Vanilla Ice Cream recipe.

SUMMARY

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Recipes: Heston’s Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Heston at Home

Special Equipment: Ice Cream Machine
Special Ingredients: Vanilla pods

Time: 2 days
Cost: £6

Serves: Many
Difficulty: Easy

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Vanilla pods
  • 180g Whole Milk
  • 85g Unrefined Caster Sugar
  • 420g Whipping Cream

METHOD

  1. Scrape seeds from vanilla pods
  2. Combine seeds, pods, milk, sugar and cream in a large pan.
  3. Bring to boil then immediately remove from heat
  4. Cool over an ice bath or with ice packs
  5. When cool place in a sealed container and refrigerate overnight
  6. Churn in an ice cream machine for 30 minutes
  7. Stop the machine and blend ice cream with a stick blender for 10 seconds
  8. Churn in ice cream machine for another 10 minutes
  9. Place in freezer for at least 2 hours before serving

REPORT

Step 1: Preparing the Ice Cream Base

Ignore the skimmed milk powder in the first photo. Heston’s vanilla ice cream recipe uses just four ingredients: vanilla pods, sugar, milk and whipping cream.

In fact this recipe is almost entirely whipping cream, watered down with a bit of milk then sweetened with sugar and flavoured with vanilla pods.

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Loads of vanilla pods – the recipe calls for a staggering (and pricey) five of them. Wallet-hurting if you have to buy them from the supermarket, less so if you take our advice and buy in bulk off eBay. Start by scraping the seeds out of these.

Measuring out is very simple – you can plop the pan on the scales and keep hitting zero after adding each ingredient. Bring to the boil over a medium heat.

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We tried to cool the custard in an ice bath afterwards (a bowl set inside a bigger bowl which is filled with water and ice cubes). Our ice cubes had melted and the ice cream base was still warm. We just left it on the window ledge to cool. After which it needs to go into a sealed container, then into the fridge until the next day.

We use a cheap drum-style ice cream machine, so the overnight flavour-infusing is perfect as this gives our drum the time it needs in the freezer. Here’s a fun Wisegeek article on How Ice Cream Machines Work.

Step 2: Churning the Ice Cream

Man, look at that swarm of vanilla seeds that have settled onto the bottom of the tub. Beautiful.

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Actually, learning to deal with vanilla seeds for me has been a bit like dealing with HP in Final Fantasy VII.

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When you first confront the guards at Shinra’s Mako reactor No.1 you might be unsettled to find you can’t avoid losing health. Same principle here: it’s difficult not to be precious and try to preserve every last seed (especially given the cost of vanilla pods). Accepting that a lot of the seeds will go astray saves a lot of time trying to chase down every last one. Bear this in mind as you pour the ice cream base out of the tub and through a sieve. Do use a silicone spatula to scrape as many seeds as you can of the bottom though.

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Then just pour this custard into your ice cream machine and let it go to work. The yield for this recipe is slightly over a litre / kilo. A bit more than our ice cream machine could handle (regular tasting did help bring the volume down though).

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The Heston-innovation for ice cream recipes is to blitz it with a hand blender ¾ of the way through churning. The idea here is to break up the ice crystals that form within the mix, giving your ice cream a smoother mouthfeel.

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Ten minutes more and you have finished vanilla ice cream.

VERDICT

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In the book, Heston at Home, Blumenthal dedicates a brief passage to mass-produced ice creams. In brief: judge an ice cream not by size but by weight. Cheaper soft-scoop ice creams have air whipped into them to bulk them out. Next time you’re in the supermarket compare the weight of a litre of foamy Carte D’Or to a mere pint of dense Häagen Dazs.

With the latter brand as the benchmark we’d expect Heston’s Vanilla Ice cream recipe to at least match it. It is far better. Richly creamy, balanced sweetness and wonderful smooth vanilla punch, this is just about the best vanilla ice cream recipe I’ve ever tasted. All our other tasters were in agreement.

The first mouthful took me straight back to my favourite ice cream on the beach in St Anne’s. And I can’t think of any higher praise than that.

NEXT TIME

No changes. This recipe is perfect in every single way.

FURTHER READING

The Guardian – Felicity Cloake’s excellent series tackles vanilla ice cream recipes, including Heston’s.

Do you have a favourite ice cream recipe, or have you made this particular one? Let us know in the comments section below.