Perfect ice cream

These days one can buy such good ice cream that I don’t often make classic, custard-based ice cream myself, particularly since I discovered how easy it is to make semifreddo. When we were on holiday in Verona many years ago we had a divine nougat semifreddo. So, as soon as we got home, I looked for a recipe in Claudia Roden’s wonderful The Food of Italy and found one for semifreddo al miele, which I have used ever since. She also gives recipes for chocolate and wine semifreddos, with slightly different methods.

Semifreddo is just a form of Italian ice cream which is rich enough with eggs and cream not to need churning, and I find it very easy and quite quick to make. This quantity is for 4-6 people – if you want to make less, it works fine with 1 egg and 2 egg yolks, and half the quantity of honey and cream. You can use whipping cream instead of double to make it slightly lighter.

  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g orange blossom or acacia honey
  • 300 ml double cream

Bring some water to a brisk simmer in a medium saucepan. Put the egg, egg yolks and honey into a heat-proof bowl that will fit on top of the pan without touching the simmering water. Put the bowl onto the pan and whisk the mixture until it becomes thick and pale. I use a balloon whisk for this, but you could use a hand-held mixer. When it is ready you should be able to write your initial with the mixture dropping off your whisk, something which gives me a child-like pleasure.

Whip the cream until well risen and fold it into the eggs and honey. Pour into a plastic container and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. See what I mean about simple?

However, sometimes I want a classic ice cream and then I have turned to this recipe by Travel Gourmet, which is flavoured with brandy and sherry. If you have an ice cream machine it really isn’t difficult, thanks to Delia’s tip of using a little cornflour (or custard powder) to avoid the risk of the custard splitting, though it does need cooling and then churning so the preparation takes a bit longer. It is a delicious way of using up milk or egg yolks left over from other recipes. The vanilla ice cream below uses Travel Gourmet’s base, and is here to encourage me to make it more often!

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste

Beat the egg yolks, sugar, custard powder and vanilla with a whisk until thick and smooth. Heat the milk until it is just about to boil and then pour it slowly onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time.

Rinse out the pan if there is any sign of milk sticking to the bottom, then pour the mixture back in and heat it, stirring diligently with a spatula or wooden spoon until it thickens. Pour into a large bowl to cool. When the custard is cold, whip the cream until it is risen but still floppy, rather than stiff. Fold carefully into the custard using a large metal spoon or spatula. At this stage you can add any additional flavourings.

Unless you have a very fancy ice-cream maker, I find it helps to put it into the fridge for an hour or so to get really cold before you churn it. Then churn the ice cream until it is softly frozen, spoon into a container and put in the freezer to firm up. Remember to take it out of the freezer for about 10 minutes before serving to make it easier to scoop.

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