We do birthdays big in the Haley family. As kids, this was expected; we had “birthday week,” a tradition I was happy to carry with me far beyond childhood. Birthday week included our favorite breakfasts before school, a cookie cake, a meal wherever we wanted, our dinner of choice from my grandmother, and other various celebrations. As a seven-year-old, this was fantastic. As a twenty-seven-year-old* this is even more fantastic. I completely reject the notion that as one gets older, one’s birthday means less.
*I’m 26, but the law of rounding means I’m much closer to 27 than 26, but I’m holding on for dear life. Not going down without a fight. Hence the asterisk.
The good news for you, or anyone else that I am moderately familiar with, is that I do not limit my birthday excitement to my own day. I enjoy celebrating other’s big days just as much, maybe even more so. I just love the merriment of it all–I love taking a whole day (week) to tell one person how much you appreciate them and are happy that they were born. Embarrass them with your excitement–make them feel like they’re seven again–sing, a lot. This is a great thing we do as humans, celebrate each other.
Today is my Mom’s birthday, and in true Haley fashion, all of the stops have been pulled. This is the first birthday I’ve been able to actually celebrate with her really since high school and I am so thankful that I get to join in the fun. There will be dinner, there will be gifts, there already was a cookie cake, and so much more (that I can’t mention because she reads this and it’s a surprise).
Above all of the sugar and wrapping paper and sprinkles, what really matters to me is that she knows how truly wonderful she is and how lucky everyone is to have her around. She’s the strong, funny, independent, smart, and wise woman that taught me most everything I know and who I strive to become. She’s the voice in my head, she’s the reader for whom I write, and today is her day. It’s a good one, too.
Speaking of sprinkles, I have some. In the height of Summer, I bought an ice cream maker, invited my parents over for dinner, and made homemade vanilla ice cream. I put in chocolate chips and toffee pieces and a pinch of salt because I had just made those loaded cornflake cookies and couldn’t stop thinking about them. And today, because it’s a birthday, this ice cream is topped with sprinkles. Nothing says party like sprinkles.
Let’s get started.
Ice cream is pretty simple, provided that you are prepared. This preparation includes an ice bath.
Place a bowl over that ice bath and add a cup of heavy cream.
Place a fine mesh strainer over that bowl. Set this whole contraption aside.
Now, separate four eggs, you’ll need the yolks. Whisk them slightly and set those aside too.
The last thing you’ll need is some sugar, some whole milk, another cup of heavy cream, and a heavy pinch of salt.
In a medium sauce pan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and salt and whisk on medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to steam. Do not boil!
Once the mixture is steaming, remove from the heat. Grab your egg yolks, you’ll need them next. Using only 1/3 cup at a time, slowly whisk some of the warm mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk constantly, and continue this until about half of the cream mixture has been incorporated into the egg yolks. You’re tempering the eggs so they don’t cook when you add them to the hot milk/cream. Science!
Pour the yolk mixture back into the sauce pan and return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and a clean trail is left when you run your finger across the back of that spoon. I used a candy thermometer as well, and cooked it until it reached 165 degrees, checking for consistency as the temperature rose
Remove the mixture from the heat and pour it through the mesh strainer into the cold cream. Discard any solids. Add vanilla extract and stir until cool, about 5 or so minutes.
Now, that right there tastes like melted ice cream and I think it would be heaven spooned over a warm brownie. I’m not much into cold ice cream on hot baked goods, but cool ice cream sauce over hot baked goods? I’m very into that.
Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Meanwhile, make sure you’re ready to go with your ice cream maker. For instance, the bowl of mine requires at least 12 hours in the freezer before use, which would have been a real bummer if I hadn’t known that and consequently had to wait a day for homemade ice cream.
After the mixture chills, pour into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
When the ice cream is beginning to come together, add your chocolate chips and toffee pieces. Serve immediately for a soft-serve consistency or transfer to a air-tight container and freeze until solid, about 4 more hours or overnight.
Here’s a confession: I’m not an ice cream person, but even I can’t resist homemade ice cream. It’s so rich and creamy and in my mind, miles away from the stuff you buy at the store. Unless you’re in Texas and you’re buying Bluebell. It’s the best.
This ice cream was sweet, had a little salt kick from the toffee pieces, and a welcome crunch from the frozen chopped chocolate chips. Add a healthy amount of rainbow sprinkles and some more chocolate chips and dessert (or afternoon snack) is served.
Make this if you want to hold on to Summer for a little while longer. Make this if you’re celebrating a birthday. Make this if you have a new kitchen gadget and want to try it out. It’s not quick, it requires some planning and organization, but the outcome is so incredibly delicious, you’ll impress even yourself.
And most importantly, Happy Birthday Mom!
Here’s the recipe.
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate and Toffee
- 2 cups heavy cream, divided
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2/3 cup sugar
- Heavy pinch of salt
- 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, chopped
- 1/2 cup toffee pieces
- In a large bowl, make an ice bath with water and about 10-12 ice cubes. Nest a smaller bowl on top of the ice bath, then pour 1 cup of heavy cream into the bowl. Place a fine mesh strainer over the cream and set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan, add remaining cream and milk. Add sugar and salt and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk mixture is beginning to steam. Do not boil. When mixture is steaming, remove from the heat and, gradually, add warm mixture to egg yolks 1/3 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Continue adding warm milk mixture to the egg yolks until about half of the milk mixture has been added and the egg yolks are warm to the touch. Add the yolk mixture back to the sauce pan and return to medium heat.
- Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches 165-170 degrees and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and a clean trail is left when your finger is run across the back of the spoon. Do not boil! Remove mixture from the heat and pour through the mesh strainer into the cold heavy cream. Discard any solids. Add the vanilla extract, then stir the mixture until cool, about 5-7 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Churn ice cream according to your manufacturer’s directions. Once the ice cream has come together but is still soft, add in your chocolate chips and toffee pieces. When finished, transfer to an air-tight container and place in the freezer for at least 4 hours or overnight until firm. (Or serve right away for soft serve!)