When we were kids there would often be Neopolitan ice cream in the freezer at our house. You remember it, right? The carton contained vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, and the flavors were usually separated into distinct layers. The layers were key for me because when I'd prepare a bowl of ice cream for myself, I made it my mission to avoid the strawberry ice cream as much as possible. I'm not sure anyone in our house liked strawberry; there were always big holes in the chocolate and vanilla layers, while the strawberry sat untouched. I could never put my finger on why I disliked the strawberry layer so much - I loved strawberries themselves, but churned into ice cream they just never held much appeal.
Times have changed, though, and while strawberry still isn't in my top 3 ice cream flavors, I do enjoy it as an occasional treat. I realized last week I'd never made a homemade version, and with a ton of strawberries in my fridge, it was definitely time to get on it. This recipe adds strawberry flavor to the ice cream by pureeing fresh strawberries and adding them to the custard before churning and additionally, by incorporating chopped strawberries during the last few minutes of churning. As a result, the ice cream is pale pink in color with bright red pieces of strawberries throughout. The strawberry flavor is present, but not overwhelming and while my palate generally isn't very sophisticated, I did notice hints of sweet, floral vanilla in the ice cream. One thing I really liked about this ice cream is that it gets firm (but is still creamy) after a night in the freezer. A pet peeve of mine is homemade ice cream that stays too soft, and that wasn't a problem here. Also worth noting - the strawberry pieces do get quite firm in the freezer. I liked their texture, but if it's not your thing, you could either leave them out, or puree them and add them to the custard for extra strawberry flavor.
It's a great time of year for this ice cream as strawberry season is upon us and the freshest in-season berries will definitely yield the most flavorful result. That said, frozen berries would work well too, so this treat can be enjoyed year-round!
Strawberry Ice Cream
from Williams Sonoma Frozen Desserts
2 cups hulled and coarsely chopped strawberries
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add 1 cup of the strawberries to the bowl of a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Puree until smooth and set aside.
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with 1/4 cup of the heavy cream, until pale yellow in color. In a medium saucepan combine the milk, 3/4 cup of the heavy cream, and the remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar. Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm - don't let the mixture boil. Slowly add the milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. When it's all been added, transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (it will register about 175 F on an instant read thermometer).
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pureed strawberries and vanilla extract. Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Let the custard cool slightly then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the remaining 1 cup of coarsely chopped strawberries and churn just until incorporated. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.
Makes about 1 quart