ice cream cones

Ice cream is a sweet treat that many can't resist, but the dessert is even better when it's made with love at home -- and it's easier than you think! With a solid ice cream base and a good ice cream maker, you can make virtually any flavor you want, right in your own kitchen. It's also a fun activity for your kids.

This vanilla bean ice cream base from the Food Network is delicious on its own, but you can also try strawberry cheesecake, peanut butter cookie dough and chocolate-chocolate chunk variations, if you choose.

When using an ice cream maker, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions, as many require you to freeze parts ahead of time. Also, machines usually make ice cream to a soft consistency, so if you want it frozen to a more traditional texture, you'll need to freeze it in a container for longer.

Be aware of the quantities of any recipe you use. For instance, this recipe makes 4 quarts (1 gallon) of ice cream, and the average ice cream maker holds 1-2 quarts. You'll need to have extra containers on hand, too, if you're making multiple batches, so keep that in mind.

Try this vanilla version first, and then get creative with your own flavor additions. We promise it will be worth the effort!

Tyler Florence's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Base

Ingredients:
  • 10 cups heavy cream
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 24 large egg yolks
Directions:

To make the vanilla ice cream: Combine the cream, milk, salt, and 2 cups of the sugar in a large pot. Split the vanilla beans down the middle lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife; add them to the pot and toss in the pods for added flavor. Place the cream mixture over medium heat, and bring up to a simmer; stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Ideally, the temperature should reach 175 degrees F (just below scalding) for a smooth-textured ice cream; this should take about 15 minutes. Shut off the heat, cover the pot, and allow the cream mixture to steep for 15 minutes to further infuse the vanilla flavor.

In the meantime, combine the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and blend them lightly with a wire whisk. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and continue to whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved and the eggs are thick and pale yellow; about 6 minutes.

Using a large ladle or measuring cup, temper the eggs by gradually whisking in about 4 cups of the hot cream mixture. Return this back to the rest of the cream in the saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of a spoon when you run your finger across it, about 10 to 12 minutes (do not let boil.)

Pour the vanilla custard through a fine strainer into another pot* and chill completely in a sink full of ice, stirring here and there; this should take about 1 hour. Ideally, let the ice cream base "age" overnight in the refrigerator before churning in an ice cream maker to improve the flavor and texture of the final product – but it is still good if you decide to process it right away. Divide the ice cream into quarts** and churn each in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. When done, the ice cream will be the consistency of "soft serve." ***To harden the ice cream fully, freeze in plastic covered containers.