Hidden away in my pantry is one of my prized possessions. Tucked between a jar of baked baking soda and a container of dutch-process cocoa powder hides a tightly sealed plastic bag containing over three dozen plump, aromatic vanilla beans. I bought them online a few months ago to replenish my supply of homemade vanilla extract, and every once in a while I open up the bag just to take a whiff and smile. I know, strange.
Lately I’ve felt the urge to actually start using them up, so I’m putting vanilla beans in everything. The subtle flavor is fantastic, but there’s something about the cute little speckles in a vanilla-flecked dessert that really makes me sing. So I stopped my recent peanut butter ice cream frenzy in flavor of an old classic (ha).
Of course, I still wanted to try something a little different, so I made this ice cream with honey instead of cane sugar. I had a bunch of questions: would the honey dissolve all the way? Would the ice cream still be creamy? Would it freeze harder or softer? Would it taste better, or bitter?
In the end, I fell in love with this ice cream. It churned up beautifully and met all my honey- and vanilla-loving desires. Subtle, yet sweet, this ice cream is outstanding on its own but also acts as a perfect vessel for all your favorite toppings. Spoiler alert, I have a recipe for one of those coming up next!
Honey Vanilla Ice Cream
- 4 cups half & half (I used lactose-free, as usual)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
- pinch of salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Stir together half & half and honey in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pods into the saucepan and then stir in the pods along with a pinch of salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and steamy but not boiling.
Meanwhile, lightly whisk together egg yolks in a small bowl. Pour a small amount (about a cup or so) of the hot half & half mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. (This tempers the egg yolks so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.) Pour the tempered egg yolks into the rest of the half & half in the pan and place back over medium heat. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Meanwhile, place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. When the ice cream batter has thickened, pour it through the sieve and into the bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Place the vanilla bean pods you caught in the sieve back in the ice cream batter to steep. Chill the entire mixture in the fridge for at least eight hours. Remove vanilla bean pods and freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Let ripen in the freezer for at least two hours before serving.
Source: Slightly adapted from Ted Allen.