Ice Cream has come a long way. The creamy frozen food has been refined countless times over and has even undergone radical transformations to its formula thanks to hacks. However, true ice cream cannot be beaten given its smooth, rich consistency which requires "traditional" means of preparation. This fact alone is why it's essential for both trained chefs and students to respect these traditions.

A true ice cream

A true ice cream recipe starts with a cooked custard base. This has already been covered in similar dessert recipes found on this site but the short version is this is a dessert sauce that consists of milk/cream thickened with egg yolks, sweetened with sugar, and flavored with vanilla and/or other kinds of ingredients.

The custard is cooked in a saucepan or double boiler, and cooled down and chilled in an ice cream maker. The ice cream maker also churns the custard, breaking up the ice crystals for a smooth consistency.

In terms of formula, the ingredient ratio for the milk, cream, sugar, etc. can vary. It's especially troubling when some of these ingredients can be replaced or even omitted in some variations. However, there are still some common basics to take advantage of. Preferably, there should be more butterfat to milk fat in ice cream. On paper, a 2:1 cup ratio of milk to cream is a safe way to start. As for the sugar, 1/2 cup should be enough to sweeten the liquid.

The yolks are just there to help thicken the base and keep the ice crystals at bay.

They also contain fat so they need to be added with caution. For this ratio, four egg yolks should be the minimum and eight should be the maximum. That leaves the vanilla and a golden rule is one teaspoon at this point. A single vanilla pod is preferred as its natural spice is rich with flavor and aroma. Perfect for desserts.

The best recipe

The following recipe will yield a classic vanilla ice cream and should be followed to the letter for the best results so it's recommended to make a checklist of the ingredients and equipment required. There are however some exceptions but these require extra care. For example, a trained chef can definitely make the custard in a saucepan but it is recommended for amateurs to use a double boiler so they can have better control of the heat applied.

Also, liquids like the milk and heavy cream can be substituted for half-and-half but the volume should be adjusted to fit the original amount. With all of this in mind, the science of making ice cream should be better respected. Now for the recipe that will bring it all back.

Ice cream ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 pinch salt


  1. Combine the milk and heavy cream in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slice the vanilla pod down its length and scrape out the seeds using a sharp knife. Drop the seed into the boiling milk.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  3. Temper the yolk mixture by pouring in 1/3 of the boiled milk. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat while stirring constantly until the custard thickens or reaches 85°C.
  4. Remove the custard from the heat. Strain the custard into a bowl through a fine mesh and cool down completely over an ice bath.
  5. Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and churn until it reaches the consistency of a soft ice cream.
  6. Seal in a container and chill in a freezer.

Yield: 1 quart