Evaporated Milk Killed the Ice Cream Star

I love rootbeer floats. They are tasty and delicious. They help sore throats. I pretty much think rootbeer floats are the best food that has ever been invented. Ever. So I was at the store, in the ice cream aisle, thinking to myself, “we are nearly out of vanilla ice cream, and I want a rootbeer float because my throat is bothering me.” So I thought about the things I already had at home, and I looked at the 3 gallons of milk in my cart and I said to myself, “Wait: I can buy ice cream, or I can use up some stuff I already have at home and make ice cream. Cream, milk, eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla… I have everything I need. I love homemade ice cream, and it’s almost always a more cost effective solution.” I’ve made ice cream many times, so I had no reason to think it might not work properly. Here is my ice cream adventure:

I have only ever used cream and whole milk to make my ice cream. There has been some variation in the ratios of those things, but it is always cream and whole milk. On getting home, I discovered that I only had one cup of cream though, and my recipe calls for four. However, my recipe also says that you can substitute evaporated milk for cream, and you will just get a different consistency product. Whoever wrote that in my recipe was having a little private joke at my (and anyone else who tried that little trick’s) expense. I learned the hard way that if I want the creamy delicious ice cream that actually freezes the way it is supposed to, if I don’t have enough cream, I have to substitute more whole milk. Evaporated milk in the can ain’t gonna cut it.

In case you are curious, I only ever make vanilla ice cream. The reason is that you can always add candy, cookie crumbles, hot fudge, chocolate syrup, peanut butter sauce, fresh or frozen strawberry chunks or syrup and other condiments to change a vanilla flavor, and with soft ice cream (like this recipe makes) it’s just a matter of scooping it out, adding the condiment and stirring as you eat. It is also a nice way to make sure that everyone can have the ice cream of their choice, since all ice cream has a vanilla base flavor to it anyway.

The recipe, which is in the owner’s manual for my ice cream maker can be found here.

I have the gallon size ice cream maker, so I use the instructions for 4 quarts.
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cups +2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole milk
4 eggs beaten
4 cups whipping cream (if you don’t have enough whipping cream, add more whole milk. I will not think less of you. The recipe says you can use evaporated milk. Don’t.)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Combine sugar, flour and salt in a sauce pan. Stir in the milk and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick enough that which you lift the back of the spoon up, the milk mixture on the back coats it still. You have to stir constantly during the 15 minutes, or the bottom of the mixture will scorch. Milk is a finicky thing to cook with and this part of the process is time-intensive and demanding. But you get a gallon of ice cream out of the process. The deliciousness is worth it.

Beat the eggs while you are keeping the milk mixture stirring. It helps if you have little kid helpers who can stir milk or beat eggs for you while you are doing this part. Temper the eggs with the hot milk mixture. Tempering is when you take about a cup of the hot milk mixture and mix it slowly with the beaten eggs so they come up in temperature without actually cooking into a scrambled egg state.

Slowly pour the tempered eggs into the rest of the hot milk mixture, continuing to stir and cook for a minute before you remove it from the heat. Refrigerate the milk/egg mixture (known as custard base for the foodies out there) for 2 hours.

Combine your cream and vanilla in a bowl and add it to the chilled milk/egg mixture and stir well with a whisk to combine them. If you are worried that your attempts at keeping the eggs from scrambling in the custard base did not completely work, pour the custard base through a wire strainer before you add it to the cream. As long as I am good about stirring the custard base constantly while it’s cooking, I only ever have a random piece of coagulated egg white or two that wind up in the strainer; never enough to ruin my ice cream.

Pour the entire mixture into the ice cream canister and freeze according to the ice cream maker’s directions. Mine are back up there in the owner’s manual. I would add this, but it tends to be specific to your ice cream maker brand and model, and there is little point in repeating it, since I have never found any tidbits of wisdom that differ or need underlining in it. Enjoy!

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