Homemade lemon ice cream is the perfect summer treat to combat soaring temperatures. This is a custard ice cream recipes using egg yolks, so it is rich, smooth and creamy. There's nothing like homemade ice cream to make everyone smile, so make a batch of this beautiful lemon ice cream. The flavor is tart, sweet and delicious.
Homemade Lemon Ice Cream
Because this lemon ice cream recipe is made with egg yolks, it's a custard ice cream. Custard ice creams are rich and dense, creamy and smooth, because the base is thickened with the yolks. They are sometimes referred to as frozen custards rather than ice cream, or French-style ice creams. Whatever you call them, custard ice creams are delicious, plus they scoop easier after being in the freezer versus getting icy. This is one of our favorites.
Homemade Lemon Ice Cream ingredients
For your shopping list:
- Heavy cream
- Whole milk
- Lemons (for zest and juice)
- Natural granulated sugar
- Egg yolks
- pinch of salt
Tip #1: Choose the Right Pan
Here's a quick pan lesson. When making a custard you need a heavy pan because the weight distributes heat gently and evenly. Even heat distribution cooks egg yolks without scrambling them. Almost any 3 quart heavy pot will do, but I prefer to use a pan called a saucier.
A saucier has sloped sides versus straight sides, making whisking and stirring easier. I've used my 3 ½ quart Le Creuset small Dutch oven as well, because the sides are a bit sloped. If your pan has straight sides, just be more careful whisking and stirring to get into the edges of the pan. Good pans are an investment but you will have them forever. The saucier is also my risotto pan.
Tip #2: Take Your Time
Making custard starts with heating the dairy (cream, milk, etc) over medium heat. You don't want it to boil so turn down if needed. Add the lemon zest while the dairy heats to infuse it with lemon flavor. Let it heat for about 15 minutes. While the lemon is infusing whisk eggs and sugar together in a bowl until smooth.
Next, add a ¼ cup of the hot dairy to the eggs yolks bowl and whisk until smooth. Do this again, and one more time. This is called tempering, so your egg yolks don't scramble when you pour them into the pan on the stove. Lastly pour the yolks into the pan on the stove and stir. Here's where you need to be patient, but it doesn't take long.
Stir the custard as it cooks. You will feel it tighten up and thicken as you stir. The custard is done when it coats the back of a spoon and leaves a line through it. Remove from the heat, add lemon juice and pinch of sea salt.
Top #3: Chill in an Ice Bath
Set up a large bowl of ice and water for an ice bath and place a medium bowl inside the ice. Place a sieve over the medium bowl and pour the liquid custard through the sieve. This remove any stray bit of egg and the zest for a smoother ice cream. Chill the lemon custard ice cream base well in the refrigerator and churn when you are ready.
Lemon Ice Cream Notes
I love cooking with Meyer lemons when in season. With their smooth skin, Meyer lemons are a little sweeter and more floral than a standard lemon. It is a cross between a common lemon and a sweet orange or mandarin. If only regular lemons are available they work great as well.
- Ice Cream Maker
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest use a microplane zester
- ¾ cup natural granulated sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- ⅔ cup lemon juice 3-4 lemons
- pinch of salt
- Pour cream and milk into a medium saucepan (about 3 quarts) and add lemon zest. Turn heat to medium low and allow the zest to infuse the half and half while you work on the eggs and sugar.
- Create an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water ¾ full and set aside to cool ice cream base. Set a medium bowl into the ice and pace a sieve on top. Whisk sugar and yolks together in a medium bowl until thick, pale and smooth. You’ll get a good arm workout.
- Get the dairy hot but don't boil it. Add a ¼ cup of the hot dairy to the yolks and whisk until smooth. Do this several times to “temper” the eggs so they do not scramble when you add them into the pan to cook the custard.
- Add the egg-sugar-dairy mixture back into the pan over medium-low heat and whisk continually. Turn heat down to low and cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon when you draw a line through it with your finger, just a couple of minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in lemon juice and salt.
- Pour the liquid custard through the sieve into the medium bowl to catch any egg bits and lemon zest. Let the lemon custard chill. When cold cover and refrigerate until very cold then churn in your ice cream maker. When done, scoop into a container, cover and freeze for several hours.