We’ve been enjoying lots of no-churn ice cream recipes this summer. They’re quick and easy, always smooth and creamy, and they don’t require an ice cream maker. But I do have an ice cream maker that still deserves to be used, and my husband prefers the richness of a slowly churned, egg-based frozen custard. So to please him, I made this rich, creamy brown sugar ice cream. The flavor in this ice cream is incredible, with the complementary notes of vanilla bean, molasses from the brown sugar, and of course, the bourbon.
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Why You’ll Love This Ice Cream
Soft and Creamy. The texture of this ice cream is just so good. The egg yolks add a rich denseness, while the whipped cream keeps it so soft and creamy.
Bourbon + Brown Sugar. With the caramel notes from the bourbon and a hint of molasses in the brown sugar, this ice cream has the most incredible flavor.
Versatile. Want some spice? Add cinnamon or nutmeg, like in my cinnamon ice cream recipe. Like texture? Add some toasted, chopped pecans for a delicious nutty flavor and crunch.
Whole Milk + Heavy Whipping Cream.
The high fat content of whole milk and cream ensures a rich, smooth, creamy texture.
The dark brown sugar adds a deeper flavor, with molasses and caramel notes, that’s so good in this brown sugar ice cream. You can use either light or dark brown sugar. Besides sweetening ice cream, sugar also keeps it smooth. The reason sorbets are so smooth, even without any fat or dairy, is from their high ratio of sugar.
The egg yolks are what gives the ice cream “body”. They make the ice cream, or frozen custard, more dense with a luxurious texture and mouthfeel. I usually use 5 egg yolks for 1 batch of ice cream, but some people use even more for a richer custard.
If you’ve never used a fresh vanilla bean, you’re in for a treat. The fragrance is incredible. To use the seeds inside, you need to place the bean on a cutting board. Use the tip of a knife to score the bean lengthwise so you can split it open. Then, use the blade of the knife to scrape all the seeds out. Alternatively, you can use 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste, an ingredient that I absolutely love. It’s a little cheaper than using vanilla beans, and the flavor is amazing.
A pinch of coarse Kosher salt balances the sugar, and enhances the flavor of the ice cream. I always add salt to my dessert recipes.
Alcohol is an ingredient that you will often find in homemade ice cream. The reason for this, besides the flavor, is that alcohol lowers the freezing point of the custard. So as it’s churned and the custard freezes, the alcohol helps to prevent the formation of ice crystals which will make your ice cream icy instead of creamy. Commercially made ice creams contain other ingredients, such as guar gum, to perform this function and enhance the viscosity of the ice cream.
- The process is simple. First, the custard needs to be cooked on the stove, just to dissolve the sugar and warm the egg yolks. While whisking constantly, cook the milk, half the cream, egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla, over medium heat, just until the custard is steaming hot. You should not let the custard come to a boil.
- After cooking, strain the custard (to remove any bits of cooked egg), then chill it.
- There are two reasons for chilling your custard, prior to churning it. If you pour hot custard into your ice cream maker, it could warm up the ice cream maker too much so that it doesn’t churn properly, so you need to pour cold custard into your ice cream maker. Also, allowing the custard to rest and chill lets the flavors mingle and develop.
- I usually cook my custard at night and let it chill in the fridge overnight. Then I churn my ice cream first thing the next morning, so it will be frozen and ready to serve by that night.
- Before churning your ice cream, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream until soft peaks form, then whisk it into the chilled custard. This will make your ice cream incredibly smooth and creamy.
- Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the bourbon during the last minute of churning. Transfer to a lidded ice cream container and freeze until firm, about 8-10 hours.
- After churning, your ice cream will be a creamy, soft-serve consistency, and it will need to be frozen for at least 8-10 hours until firm.
- Use a lidded ice cream container to freeze your ice cream in. I use these cute ice cream tubs – I have them with a few different colored lids, they hold 1 quart each, and I just love them. And then, your patience will be rewarded with the most luxurious, delicious ice cream you can imagine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the bourbon optional?
Yes, you can leave it out, if you prefer. The alcohol not only adds flavor, though, but also promotes a smooth and creamy texture in homemade ice cream.
Should I use light or dark brown sugar?
You can use either, but dark brown sugar will give your ice cream a deeper flavor.
Why does the ice cream need to be cooked first?
Since the custard contains egg yolks, you’ll be cooking the custard briefly to heat the egg yolks.
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Brown Sugar and Bourbon Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
All recipes on Curly Girl Kitchen are developed for high altitude at 5,280 feet.
- Ice Cream Maker
- Electric Mixer (Stand or Hand-Held)
- 5 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste)
- ⅛ tsp coarse Kosher salt (if using table salt, use half the amount)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream, divided
- 1 tbsp good-quality bourbon or whiskey
- In a large saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla bean seeds, salt, milk and 1 cup of the cream.
- Over medium heat, cook the custard while stirring constantly with a spatula, until the custard is steaming and just starting to bubble around the edges, but don't let it come to a boil.
- Remove from the heat, and pour the custard through a mesh strainer to remove any bits of cooked egg. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight to really let the flavors intensify.
- Use an electric mixer to whip the remaining 1 cup of cream until soft peaks form. Whisk the whipped cream into the chilled custard.
- Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions, adding the bourbon during the last minute of churning. Transfer to a lidded ice cream container and freeze until firm, about 8-10 hours.
- The bourbon is optional, but helps to promote a smooth, creamy texture.
- Homemade ice cream is best eaten within about 2 weeks.