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Originally published July 23, 2014 at 12:03 AM | Page modified July 24, 2014 at 7:58 PM

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Recipe: Ice Cream Base

As long as you start with a good ice-cream base and add excellent ingredients, you can make any flavor in the universe: almond, basil, lime. It’s also going to taste a whole lot better than any you can buy.


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Makes about 1½ pints

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

2/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

6 large egg yolks

Your choice of flavoring (see note)

1. In a small pot, simmer cream, milk, sugar and salt until sugar completely dissolves, about five minutes. Remove pot from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly whisk about a third of the hot cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with the cream. Return pot to medium-low heat and gently cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).

2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cool mixture to room temperature. Cover and chill at least four hours or overnight.

3. Churn in an ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve directly from the machine for soft serve, or store in freezer until needed.

Note: This recipe for ice cream base may be churned on its own, but it is meant to have flavors added.

FLAVOR OPTIONS

Here are some flavor options and directions for incorporating them into the ice cream base recipe. Or invent your own.

AROMATICS

Vanilla, Coffee or Green Tea: If making vanilla ice cream, slice 2 vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape down the sides. Add seeds and pods; or ½ cup whole coffee beans ground coarsely in a coffee grinder or food processor; or ¼ cup green tea leaves to the cold milk and cream mixture. Let custard steep off the heat for 30 minutes before straining. Chill.

Mint or Basil: In a food processor, pulse together 1 cup clean and dry mint or basil leaves with 2/3 cup sugar until pulverized and bright green. Use herb sugar instead of plain sugar to make the base. Let custard steep off the heat for 30 minutes before straining. Chill.

Cinnamon: Break a 4-inch-long cinnamon stick (preferably a fragrant variety like Ceylon or canela) into a food processor. Add 2/3 cup sugar and pulse until finely ground. Use cinnamon sugar instead of plain sugar to make the base. Let custard steep off the heat for 30 minutes before straining. Chill.

Lemon or Lime: In a food processor, pulse together zest of 3 lemons or limes with 2/3 cup sugar until smooth and brightly colored. Use citrus sugar instead of plain sugar to make the base. Let custard steep off the heat for 30 minutes before straining. Stir in the juice and zest of 1 lemon or lime. Chill.

FRUIT

Strawberry or Raspberry: Make the base without milk. In a blender, purée 1 pound berries, 3 tablespoons sugar, ½ teaspoon lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. Taste; add more sugar and/or lemon juice or vinegar if necessary. Purée should be on the sweet side, with some underlying tartness. Stir into base before chilling. Strain before churning if using raspberries.

Peach or Apricot: Pit and dice 3 pounds peaches or apricots (no need to peel them). In a saucepan over medium heat, combine fruit with ½ cup sugar. Simmer gently until fruit is tender, about 10 minutes. Purée in a food processor or blender. Make the base without milk and vanilla extract. Stir ½ cup buttermilk and the fruit purée into warm, strained base. Add a few drops of almond extract if desired. Chill.

Cherry: In a saucepan over medium heat, simmer 6 cups pitted cherries (from 2 pounds) with 1/3 cup sugar until cherries are very soft, about 10 minutes. Purée in a food processor or blender. Make the base without milk. Stir ½ cup buttermilk and the cherry purée into warm, strained base. Add a few drops of kirsch if desired. Chill.

Banana: In a blender, purée 4 very ripe medium bananas, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and a pinch of salt until smooth. Make the base without milk. Stir ½ cup buttermilk and the fruit purée into warm, strained base. Add a few drops of vanilla extract if desired. Chill.

CHOCOLATES AND CARAMELS

Chocolate: In a saucepan, bring ¾ cup cream and 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder to a simmer. Put 1 cup chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl. Pour hot cocoa cream over chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Make base using 1½ cups milk, ¾ cup sugar and no cream. Stir chocolate mixture, ¾ cup crème fraîche or sour cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into base. Strain and chill.

Chocolate Hazelnut: Make the base with 2 cups milk, 1 cup cream and ¼ cup sugar. Whisk 1 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (such as Nutella) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into warm, strained base. Chill.

Salted Caramel: In a medium pot over medium heat, melt ¾ cup sugar with 3 tablespoons water, swirling skillet frequently, until sugar turns mahogany brown (it should be almost but not quite black). Continue making the base in the same pot, using ½ cup sugar. Make sure the caramel melts and the cream mixture is completely smooth before adding the egg yolks. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) into the base during the last two minutes of churning.

Butterscotch Bourbon: Make the salted caramel variation using ½ cup sugar for the caramel and not letting it get too dark in color (it should be reddish brown rather than dark mahogany brown). Stir 1 tablespoon bourbon into base before chilling. Omit the flaky sea salt.

NUTS

Almond: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook ½ cup sliced almonds with 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt until deeply golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate; reserve. In the same pot, toast 1 cup sliced almonds until deeply golden, five minutes. Proceed with base recipe in the same pot, using 1½ cups cream and 1½ cups milk. Let custard steep off the heat for 1 hour before straining (press down hard on solids). Add ¼ teaspoon almond extract to base before chilling. Break reserved nuts into pieces and add to base during last two minutes of churning.

Pistachio: Make the base using 2 cups milk and 1 cup cream. Whisk 1 cup unsweetened pistachio paste and ¼ teaspoon almond extract into warm, strained base. Chill.

Peanut Butter: Make the base using 2 cups milk and 1 cup cream. Whisk 1 cup natural smooth peanut butter and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract into warm, strained base. Chill.

Coconut: In a medium saucepan, toast ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut until deeply golden, about five minutes. Transfer to a plate; reserve. In the same pot, toast 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut until deeply golden, five minutes. Proceed with base recipe in the same pot, using 1 cup cream, 1 cup milk and 1 cup coconut milk. Let custard steep off the heat for 1 hour before straining (press down hard on the solids). Add reserved toasted coconut to base during the last two minutes of churning.

— Melissa Clark, The New York Times



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