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Probiotic vs. Custard: a vanilla ice cream showdown

2011 August 24
by Alice

In the last few weeks, I’ve made two different types of vanilla ice cream: one with raw milk, raw cream, and a few egg yolks, without any cooking, and one with store-bought cream and hella yolks in a custard. As much as I had been not-so-secretly hoping that the all raw one had been the tastier one (’cause it’s RAAAWW, which means it’s GOOOOD), the custard version blew it out of the water. Hands down, far and away, superior in every way.

vanilla ice cream with spoon

I can’t claim that this was a fair experiment. I documented more in my head than with a camera and notepad. I took short cuts with the first ice cream that I didn’t take with the second. Maybe I subconsciously knew that the second was worth all the extra steps… Maybe I was just more impatient the first time around. ¿Quién sabe?

So what were these two versions?


Vanilla Ice Cream, Part I

I adapted this ice-cream from Nourishing Traditions’ Vanilla Ice Cream recipe.



    2 cups raw cream
    3 egg yolks
    1 cup raw whole jersey milk
    2 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 cup maple syrup

For this ice cream, all I did was beat the yolks lightly, add the other ingredients, and mix it all together. I then got impatient and, instead of letting the base chill properly before freezing, threw it into the ice cream maker and processed it Right Then And There.

I’ll grant this method the award for speediness. After less than an hour, I had soft-serve consistency, and it wasn’t half bad. It wasn’t 110% good though, or even 90% good. Even after letting it set up overnight in the freezer, this ice cream had texture issues. The spoon was left ever so slightly coated with grease after each bite, and the consistency was icy at best. To add insult to injury, the maple syrup taste didn’t come through quite right.

Don’t get me wrong – this ice cream got eaten. Entirely. Even subpar ice cream doesn’t last long around me. It did, however, last far longer than I predict this next one will…


Vanilla Ice Cream, Part II
(This time it’s personal. Personally delicious.)



    1 cup whole milk
    pinch of salt
    150 gms sugar (3/4 cup)
    1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
    2 cups heavy cream
    5 large egg yolks
    1 tsp vanilla

I wanted to make ice cream last night, but in a haze of decision fatigue, couldn’t decide on any particular flavor. Salted caramel sounded like it would take too long. Strawberry would require using our frozen berries before strawberries went out of season (which is a big no for me for food preservation), or buying some at the grocery store (which is verboten according to No-Spend Month). After staring at the wall for longer than I’ll admit online, I decided to make vanilla, because that happens to be my default.

Oh, what’s that? Yours too? Fancy that. Maybe we’re from the same country.

Lacking enough cream to make this puppy work, I blitzed down to Natural Grocery on my new bike with only 6 minutes before closing (that tells you how well No-Spend Month is going). Gotta love that bike. I was shoved out the door a few minutes later with some organic heavy cream, cane sugar, and some hippie pads. What can I say, a lady’s got needs. Especially during certain times. Of the month.

Armed with the cream, I set out to make David Lebovitz’ standard vanilla recipe, since the mint chocolate chip came out so well.

I won’t go into extensive detail on how to make this version, since David does it so well, and since I followed his instructions to a T, but I will say that it took considerably longer to make. I had to steep the vanilla bean in milk with salt & sugar for an hour, beat up the egg yolks, temper them with some reheated milk, then add the yolks to the rest of the milk and cook it to make a custard, then strain the custard into some heavy cream chilling over an ice bath, and finally add the vanilla extract when the mixture was cooled.

My dedication to making this batch better than the first led me to kick it up a notch by letting the base chill overnight. I processed it in the ice cream maker the next morning before work. Was definitely not a tad bit late to work due to making ice cream. Nooo, no, that doesn’t sound like me at all. Wink. The ice cream went into a large glass storage container with a piece of plastic wrap pressed over it to prevent crystals from forming, and hardened up throughout the day.

As soon as I got home from work, I started shoveling it into my mouth. I basically haven’t stopped since. The hubs and two houseguests concurred: it’s the best. You might even say “le mieux” (okay, since glace is feminine, I suppose it would be “la meilleure”, but that spoils it a bit). Creamy, smooth, like velvet on the tongue, except eminently more edible.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by this result. I’m always drawn towards the “healthier” or “less processed” food preparation method (isn’t all food preparation some sort of processing?), but in the end, not all substitutes work. Maybe even, most of them don’t work. Some day I’ll tell you about the vegan lemon bars I tried to bake that boiled in the oven and turned as hard as rocks. No matter how much I want to get the most nutrition out of my food, ice cream should always be made with a heated custard, if that’s what the flavor calls for. I’ll just have to get my beneficial milk bacteria from other non-heated sources.

vanilla ice cream

It’s okay, I can deal. I have this vanilla custard-y goodness in which to drown my sorrows.

One Response Post a comment
  1. carissa permalink
    August 24, 2011

    i (reluctantly) agree — sometimes i try to make “healthier” versions of dishes, only to conclude that there’s a good reason for all that fat/sugar/eat/etc. vegan, lower-sugar cookies are good and all, but they’re never going to be my Platonic ideal of cookies. :]

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