Disney’s Animal Kingdom is quickly becoming one of my favorite theme parks. I remember as a kid I didn’t quite “get it.” But now, I love to just wander through the park, seeing all of the absolutely amazing details and finding the hidden walks and trails, including the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Africa. The pathway curves along through lush plants and exotic wildlife, including hippos, gorillas, and bright colorful birds.
Now imagine you’re wandering along the trail and you see a small path veer off to the side that you’ve never noticed before. Feeling adventurous (after all, you’re in Africa, right?) you follow it and find yourself surrounded by dense vegetation, only to break through and see a thatch-roofed stand offering just one thing: The. Best. Vanilla. Ice. Cream. … Ever. You can just see it, right? Sounds perfectly like some hidden magic that Disney would include in their theme parks. Well, if it ever happens, this would be the ice cream.
This isn’t a plain-Jane vanilla ice cream. The rich cream and sweet milk are highlighted, instead of over-shadowed by, the star of the show: The Madagascar Vanilla Bean. Now, I don’t know how things are where you live, but around here, vanilla beans pretty much cost about as much as an entire meal. But every now and then, it’s worth it. And this is one of those times. You cannot believe how much flavor you will get out of just one of these unassuming, glorious beans. Trust me.
The recipe couldn’t be easier. It’s my normal sweet cream base, except that you scrape the seeds out of a vanilla bean and add the seeds AND the bean shell (is it called a shell? A husk?) into the base before you bring it to a boil. I just made traditional vanilla bean ice cream, but this would be a FANTASTIC base to make for my Artist Point Berry Cobbler Ice Cream or to add any other mix-ins you can think of.
And of course, one bit and you’ll think you discovered the most perfect treat on an exotic (Disney) African jungle trek. 🙂
African Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1 Madagascar vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
In a large pot, mix together the milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla bean seeds and husk/shell. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes. In a separate dish, stir together the egg yolks and salt. When cream mixture has cooked at a boil for five minutes, remove from heat and slowly add about 1 cup of the liquid to the egg yolks (try not to get the shell of the vanilla bean in here), stirring constantly. Pour the now-hot egg yolks back into the pot with the remaining cream, return to low heat, and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, pour into a heat-safe container, cool completely and chill. When chilled, pour into the base of your ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Pour into a freezer-proof container and freeze at least 4 hours before serving.