Vanilla Ice Cream | with egg yolks (custard)

March 13, 2021 | © 2021 Biterkin

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If you are looking for the perfect vanilla ice cream made with vanilla extract, with a loud and clear vanilla flavour, you are in the right place. This is a custard vanilla ice cream, which contains egg yolks, milk, cream and sugar. The word “custard” means that the ice cream mixture contains dairy and egg yolks; and it is cooked until thickened, which makes for the most perfect velvety ice cream.

Egg yolks have been used in the making of ice cream for centuries. They are the only natural ingredient which results in an ice cream with a luscious mouthfeel and also help retain its lovely texture in the freezer. 

In the recipe, you will find detailed instructions so that your vanilla ice cream comes out perfect every single time. The process is quite simple and, other than waiting, it requires little involvement. Although it is recommended to start by making the ice cream mixture the day before and leave it in the refrigerator to chill before churning, you are also provided with a faster way so that you can speed things up.

The Biterkin details to a perfect Vanilla Ice Cream:

Your best option is vanilla extract labeled as “pure vanilla extract”. Always check the ingredients; it should contain water, alcohol and vanilla bean extract. If possible, avoid the ones containing sugar or any other ingredients; they may seem like a bargain as they are cheaper, but in fact you pay for a diluted product, resulting in a weak vanilla flavour.

If you don’t have pure vanilla extract, refer to the ingredients section below, where you can find information on other forms of vanilla and how to use them. 

This is totally optional, but you can replace regular sugar with a good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado. These are sugars which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses, which gives them an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma.

By replacing regular sugar with a raw cane sugar like the above, you boost the vanilla flavour of the ice cream, creating the ultimate vanilla ice cream experience.

For best results, 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.

All vanilla ice cream recipes out there require that you add the vanilla extract right after you prepare the ice cream mixture and before chilling it in the refrigerator. Personally, I prefer to add the vanilla extract during the last minutes of churning instead, which helps the vanilla flavour to come out bold and shining. Just set a reminder to add it then, as you may forget it – especially if you are used to adding it at the beginning.

Another reason for adding it then, and not at the beginning, is that the alcohol and sugar content of the vanilla product you use may vary; if it is too much alcohol/sugar, this can disturb the balance of the recipe and get in the way of proper churning, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream. To avoid this, we add it after the ice cream has fluffed up and turned creamy.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

to show the ingredients of vanilla ice cream with egg yolks (custard)

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:
Vanilla Ice Cream | with egg yolks

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 measure something and empty it.

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

Do not substitute with skimmed 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 good quality raw cane sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara, which enhances the vanilla flavours.

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. 

Use heavy cream with 35-36% fat percentage. It should be of pourable consistency. 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. Just check the ingredients, for it should contain no sugar (or other sweeteners).

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 (17.6 oz.) heavy cream you will need:

  • 350 gr double cream (12.3 oz.) (with 50% fat)
  • 150 gr/ml regular milk (5.3 oz.) (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, stirring smoothly with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. You need the cream to be smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency. Resist the urge to  whisk, as it may turn it into whipped cream.

Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 500 gr (17.6 oz.) heavy cream needed.

* these 150 gr milk (5.3 oz.) are additional to the 325 gr milk (11.4 oz) asked in the recipe. This means that you will need in total 475 gr; milk (16.7 oz.), from which:

  • 325 gr (11.5 oz.) are for the recipe; and
  • 150 gr (5.3 oz.) are to mix with the double cream.

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.

For a perfect vanilla ice cream flavour, prefer “Pure Vanilla Extract” over “Vanilla Essence”, if available. If not, a good quality vanilla essence is the next best option.

You can also use “Vanilla Paste”, to do so use the amount equivalent to 2 vanilla pods as written on the product’s label. If using Vanilla Paste, add it in step 2 (instead of step 3 as you would do with the vanilla extract), after the ice cream mixture has cooled down and before you chill it. Whisk well to dissolve.

Avoid “Imitation Vanilla Flavouring” and “Vanillin” in this recipe, if you want a natural vanilla ice cream flavour. If this is the one you have and prefer, you can definitely use it.

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 milk 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.


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 ice cream mixture

Prepare the heavy cream: pour the heavy cream (500 gr; 197.6 oz; 2 cups & 2 Tbs.) into a large bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over it. Set aside.

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. Set next to the stovetop.

Warm the milk and sugar: place the milk (400 gr; 14.1 oz; 1 cup) and the sugar (180 gr; 6.35 oz; ¾ cup & 2 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 milk/yolks mixture and pour it back to the saucepan. Return to the heat and 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.

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.
One more thing to consider when 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. 

Leave to churn until almost done. Remember that you have to add the vanilla extract before it becomes too thick.

Add the vanilla: dd the vanilla extract, when the ice cream is no longer liquid and has turned creamy and fluffy. Leave to churn for 8-10 minutes more, until the vanilla extract has been fully incorporated and the ice cream is ready (see notes below).

this vanilla 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 vanilla ice cream) from the ice cream machine, cover with a lid and put it in the freezer to set. Setting time depends highly on the type of ice cream maker you use; 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.

The setting time for the ice cream largely depends on the type of ice cream maker you use.

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.

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 to set 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.

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

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 every one hour or two, 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.

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.

Use a saucepan with a long handle: 

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 1 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling milk 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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