Italian Crema Ice Cream | with egg yolks (custard)

November 8, 2020 | © 2020 Biterkin

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This is a simple custard-based ice cream recipe; its flavour is plainly creamy, the kind you will find in ice cream parlours under the name “Italian Crema”. We use just enough vanilla extract to cover any possible taste of egg but without giving it an intense vanilla flavour. Personally, I rarely have vanilla extract on hand, so, to flavour it, I use a good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara instead of regular sugar. When the raw cane sugar has a beautiful aroma, it gives a lovely, subtle flavour to the ice cream, very similar to vanilla’s.

The word “custard” means that the ice cream contains egg yolks and cream which are cooked until thickened. Egg yolks, which have been used in the making of ice cream for centuries, are the miraculous ingredient which makes for a velvety ice cream; they also help to retain its lovely texture in the freezer. 

Custard-based ice creams, made with egg yolks, also have a perfect, luscious mouthfeel, superior to any other kind of ice cream.

The Biterkin tricks to a perfect Italian Crema Ice Cream:

Sometimes vanilla extract may be either too expensive or too difficult to find. But you do not need vanilla to give this ice cream the perfect “crema” flavour. You can get away by using a good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado, (instead of regular white sugar) and without using any vanilla at all. 

In order for this to work, the raw cane sugar you use should be of good quality. To evaluate the quality of the sugar, you only have to sniff it; it should smell divine.  In my experience, the best Demerara sugar comes from the island of Mauritius. 

What makes the raw cane sugar aromatic is its natural content in molasses, which gives an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma to raw cane sugars. This aroma is enough to cover the egginess in custard-made ice creams and give it this creamy desirable flavour which you could only achieve by adding vanilla extract. Of course, if vanilla extract is easier for you to find, then by all means you can use this instead.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

to show the ingredients of custard ice cream

Every single ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Ice creams are all about balance, both in terms of ingredients, as well as their quantities. Do not play around changing the proportions of the ingredients or trying to use low-fat versions of dairy and sweeteners, such as stevia/other decreased-calorie sugars. Look out for these:

The recipe at a glance:
Italian Crema Ice Cream | with egg yolks (custard)
Ingredients:

For best results, use a scale and measure the ingredients directly into the utensils, when you need them.

Avoid weighing in one utensil and transferring to another, as this causes a small, but important loss of quantity, especially in liquids.

For cup measurements:

If using cups to measure the ingredients, make sure that you thoroughly scrape the cup every time you empty it.

Use regular, whole cow’s milk, fresh, with around 3,5% fat.

Do not substitute with skimmed versions of milk (lower fat) or non-dairy milk, like nut milk. Both the fat and the milk proteins are needed for the recipe to work. 

You can use regular sugar (white granulated sugar) or a raw cane sugar such as Demerara or Turbinado. If using a good quality raw cane sugar, with a lively aroma, you can omit the vanilla extract, if you like.

Do not use sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia. Also, do not use confectioner’s sugar, it is not suitable for this recipe. 

For best results, use heavy cream with 35-38% fat percentage. It should be of pourable consistency. If you only have heavy cream with 39-40% fat, you can still make this ice cream, no adjustments need to be made.

It is ok to use cream which is suitable for whipping and/or ultra-pasteurised cream, as far as the fat content is right and you like its flavour.

Do not use lower fat versions. Do not use any kind of non-dairy cream.

If you live in the UK where heavy cream is not available, you can combine double cream and milk to create heavy cream.

For 500 gr heavy cream you will need:

  • 350 gr double cream (with 50% fat)
  • 150 gr/ml regular milk (3.5% fat)

To make the heavy cream, put the double cream in a large bowl, then pour in the milk, a little at a time, whisking smoothly after each addition until just incorporated. Do not over-whisk, or else it will turn into whipped cream; stop when the cream is smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency.

Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 500 gr heavy cream needed.

it is recommended to weigh the egg yolks, because egg sizes(and their yolks) may vary from my country to yours. If you do not have a scale, use only egg yolks from eggs which are in the range of around 65 – 75 gr; 2.3 – 2.65 oz (whole egg, in its shell). The weight of the eggs is written on their packaging and they may be labelled as “large” or “extra large”, depending on the country they are sold.

TIP: to separate the egg yolk from the white, do it when the eggs are cold from the fridge, as the egg yolks are firmer and are easy to handle.

Prefer “Pure Vanilla Extract” over “Vanilla Essence”, if available.

Vanilla is used to cover any possible taste of egg in the ice cream, and not to give it an intense vanilla flavour.

You can omit it if you use a good quality raw cane sugar such as Demerara (see “Sugar” in notes above).

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 1 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: put a towel under the bowl with the eggs, to keep it in place while whisking.

Instructions

Before starting, make sure that your ice cream maker is ready for churning when needed. This means that if it has a removable freezer bowl, it should be put in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer, usually 24 hours.

If you intend to transfer the ice cream to a container to store the ice cream, put this container in the freezer well ahead of time, too; this will prevent the ice cream from melting upon contact with it.

Step 1: Prepare the custard

Prepare the egg yolks: put the egg yolks (100 gr; 3.5 oz)  in a medium bowl, and whisk them for one minute to break them down. 

Prepare the heavy cream: pour the heavy cream (500 gr; 17.6 oz; 2 cups & 2 Tbs.) into a large bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over it. Set aside.

Warm the milk and sugar: place the milk (400 gr; 14.1 oz;  cup) and all the sugar (180 gr; 6.35 oz; 3/4 cup & 1 Tbs.) in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring often with a silicone spatula.

Pour the hot milk in the egg yolks: when all the sugar dissolves and the milk is hot and steamy, remove it from the heat and pour it over the egg yolks with one hand, while whisking them vigorously with the other. 

Cook until thickened: give a nice and thorough stir to the mixture and return everything back to the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly the bottom with a rubber spatula so that the base doesn’t catch. 

Remove from the heat when the custard starts to thicken slightly (this is at 80ºC / 176 ºF, if you have an instant-read thermometer). Pour over the mesh strainer and into the heavy cream. Stir.

Step 2: Chill the ice cream mixture

Cool it down: prepare an ice bath by putting ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl and carefully nest the bowl with the ice cream mixture in it, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave it to cool down for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the vanilla (if using; 1 Tbs. & 1 tsp.) and stir well.

`Chill thoroughly: the ice cream mixture should come to fridge-cold temperature, before you churn it with the ice cream maker. To chill it, use one of the two methods below (click on methods to read more):

Personally, I prefer the slow method, as during the refrigeration process the ice cream mixture matures and the flavours improve. However, most people do not notice this flavour improvement, therefore feel free to follow the method which is more convenient to you.
Another thing to consider in choosing the fast method is whether you have enough ice to fully submerge the ice cream bag.

When churning with a domestic ice cream maker, your ice cream mixture should always be thoroughly chilled. Otherwise, your ice cream maker may not be able to churn the ice cream to its fullest potential, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream.

Step 3: Churn the ice cream

Check the ice cream mixture if it is thoroughly chilled, before churning: it should feel fridge-cold to the touch (or if you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read 4ºC–8ºC / 39ºF-46ºF).

Prepare the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Churn: Give the ice cream mixture a nice and thorough stir. 

With the machine running, pour the chilled ice cream mixture through the canister and into the ice cream maker and leave to churn; depending your ice cream maker this can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes; (see below).

this Italian Crema ice cream will expand and fluff up during churning. It is ready when it looks smooth and fluffy. This could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending your ice cream maker.

To evaluate if it’s ready, lift a spoonful; it should be thick enough to stand on the spoon, but still be soft like soft-serve ice cream. If, upon lifting some ice cream with the spoon, a pool immediately starts forming on its edges, you will have to churn it for longer. 

In any case, if you feel doubts about the consistency, leave it for ten minutes more. But beware: at this stage, do not expect it to be like store-bought carton ice cream; for now it should be more like soft-serve ice cream. It will firm up and become like store-bought ice cream only after it sets in the freezer. 

So, stop the ice cream maker when it is thick and creamy, as described above. If you leave it for much longer, it will start turning grainy.

Step 4: Put in the freezer to set

Put in the freezer to set: before serving the ice cream or removing it to a container for storage, you have to put it in the freezer to set. Remove the removable freezer bowl (still filled with the italian crema ice cream) from the ice cream machine, cover with a lid and put it in the freezer to set. Setting time depends on your ice cream maker; see notes below for indicative times.

Serve or store: when it sets, you can serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl or transfer it to an airtight container for longer storing

This can take :

  • anywhere from 1 to 4 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning). 
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

Note: the times given are indicative, actual time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it every one hour or two, while it sits in the freezer. For example, with my Cuisinart ice cream maker, it takes one hour for the ice cream to set, whereas with the Krups ice cream maker it takes 3 hours. 

To evaluate if the ice cream has properly set, insert a knife into it, all the way to the bottom:

  • if it is properly set, it will be soft enough for the knife to be inserted into it, and yet have the same consistency from top to bottom
  • if it is not ready yet, it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down
  • if it is too hard for the knife to insert, you may have left it in the freezer for too long. You can still bring it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, just read the troubleshooting guide below.

If the ice cream stays in the removable freezer bowl for too long, it will harden and will be difficult to remove or serve.

Do not worry though, you can still make it scoopable by leaving it in the refrigerator to soften. This can take :

  • 4-6 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning)
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

(Note: the time given is indicative, actual time may vary depending many factors, so do check it once in a while while it sits in the refrigerator).

After this, the ice cream will be easy to scoop and transfer to another container; or serve directly from the ice cream maker.

Straight after churning, the ice cream has a soft-serve consistency and melts immediately upon contact with anything. This makes it impossible to serve or transfer to another container.

Putting it directly in the freezer for 4-5 hours after churning, will help it set and reach the right consistency.

Then you can serve it or transfer to a sealable container for longer storing.

Storage and serving

Storage: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells. 

Scooping: this ice cream, like all artisanal ice creams, freezes hard in the long term. To soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, put it in the refrigerator for one hour. 

Use a rubber spatula: 

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

How to boil milk (because it is a fact; when you boil milk, it curdles.):

But when you add sugar, you can safely bring milk to a boil; just make sure that all the sugar has dissolved before raising the heat to high. To achieve this, gently warm the milk with the sugar  over medium heat, stirring often to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved; then you can raise the heat and safely bring it to a boil. If the milk boils before all the sugar has dissolved, it will curdle.

Use a saucepan with a long handle:

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 1 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: put a towel under the bowl with the eggs, to keep it in place while whisking.

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