Serious Eats: Recipes
Scooped: Spiced Vanilla Ice Cream
I have long resented the use of the word "vanilla" to mean bland, blah, and boring. Real vanilla is deep and complex. The white soft-serve that too often passes for "vanilla" is a sorry imitation of one of the great ice cream flavors.
Vanilla, especially in bean form, has a dark, rich flavor that makes for an extraordinarily sophisticated dessert. In this recipe, the other spices highlight elements of the vanilla bean's flavor that we don't usually encounter: the black peppercorns' spiciness, the black cardamom's smokiness, and the cinnamon's earthiness. The vanilla, though, is undoubtedly the star of the show. Anyone who thinks vanilla is boring hasn't tasted this ice cream.
A note about choosing and buying vanilla beans: The best vanilla beans are soft and pliant, and should give when you squeeze them. They'll have a slightly oily exterior and an incredible aroma. They come from all around the world: Madagascar, Tahiti, Mexico, and like all foods, beans from each country of origin will have a slightly different flavor. You'll find the best prices on vanilla beans if you order them online, and they'll be shipped to you shrink-wrapped. Wrap them in plastic and refrigerate them after opening, and they'll last for months.
About the authors:
Ethan Frisch is the chef and co-mastermind behind Guerrilla Ice Cream. He's traveled around the world (30 countries, 5 continents) and worked as a pastry chef and line cook in some of NYC's great (and not so great) restaurants. He currently lives in London, where he really misses New York City tap water.
Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries.