African Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

African Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

African Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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.

African Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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.

African Vanilla Bean 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.

African Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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.


Banana Ice Cream with Curry-Candied Cashews: Cotton-Top Tamarins


I was so excited the other day when I came home and found this:


While these bananas may look rather mundane to most people, my husband hates over-ripe bananas. I was planning on make this ice cream last week, but the ripe bananas were gone by the time I got home from work. But luckily this time I caught them before they were extradited from my kitchen. 🙂 To prepare these for the ice cream, I sliced them both, sprinkled with a little brown sugar, and roasted in the oven until the sugar was melted and starting to bubble (about 10-15 minutes). Once cool, puree them in a food processor or blender and set aside.


So of course, bananas will work perfectly with the adorable Cotton-Top Tamarins at Animal Kingdom (yes, I know it’s a generalization). Honestly, when these guys are active we could stand and watch them for hours.  But then I started to wonder what I could pair with the bananas to make it fit better in Animal Kingdom. I thought I would be very scientific with this and research the Cotton-Top Tamarin. Turns out, they are mostly found in Columbia, South America. Here I was expecting them to be from Asia (mostly because I’m pretty sure my mom hangs out at their habitat while we ride Expedition Everest). And unfortunately, the main spices and flavors of Columbia weren’t really in line with what I was thinking for this ice cream.

But I am intrigued by the flavors found throughout Animal Kingdom, so I decided to infuse some of the spices found throughout the park. Behold, the creation of the Candied-Curried Cashews.


These glorious little morsels are a mix of brown sugar and spices that are pan roasted just until the sugar melts. They have a little kick to them but aren’t too spicy. More on that later.

The base for this ice cream actually is a little lighter than normal, using only one cup of heavy cream. You get a very similar creaminess from the bananas, so I replaced the extra cream with milk. Otherwise, the base is the same as a regular sweet cream base, just add the pureed bananas when the base is finished. The cashews get layered in after the base is churned.


So what does this crazy combination taste like? When you first take a bit you get the smooth, fruitiness of the bananas and the crunch of the cashews. The curry flavor is very slight, but then you end up with a bit of a tingly heat afterwards, which is both balanced and slightly heightened by the milkfat in the cream.


It’s a perfect pair that just screams Animal Kingdom, and will remind you of those fun and feisty Cotton-Top Tamarins.


Banana Ice Cream with Curry-Candied Cashews

Curry-Candied Cashews:

1 cup cashews (pieces & halves work fine)

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. tumeric

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium saute pan and cook over medium heat until sugar begins to melt. Remove from heat and spread out over a piece of wax paper to cool. Set aside.

Banana Ice Cream Base:

2 over-ripe bananas

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2-1/2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. corn syrup

3 egg yolks


1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Slice bananas, sprinkle with brown sugar, and cook in 375 degree oven until the sugar is melted and bubbly, 10-15 minutes. Let cool, then puree in a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Combine milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt. Remove cream mixture from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add about one cup of the hot cream to the prepared egg yolks. Slowly add the tempered egg yolks back to the pot with the remaining cream mixture, stirring the whole time. Return to low heat and cook until slightly thickened (about 5 minutes), stirring often. Remove from heat and pour into a chilled bowl. Stir in the banana puree and vanilla extract. Cool completely and chill. Pour into canister of ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s recommendations. When finished, layer base into freezer container with the curry-candied cashews, ending with a smattering of cashews. Freeze at least 4 hours in the coldest part of your freezer. Sprinkle with additional cashews when serving, if desired.