“I found an old measuring cup from Grandma Nette’s house while I was cleaning out the kitchen today. Can you guess what size it is?” my mom asked me on the phone last night
I didn’t miss a beat. It had to be a third of a cup. Yes, I am becoming more like my mom every day, but we have yet to reach that level of mind-melding. Grandma Nette left us a well-loved recipe for vanilla cream pie in which she clearly doctored the original measurements, increasing everything by one third. Grandma Nette was of the precision school of baking and she would tsk-tsk at my tendency to eschew measuring spoons for ‘a pinch of sugar, 2 glugs of olive oil, and enough salt to make it taste good.’ But whenever I make Grandma’s vanilla cream pie, I dutifully measure out the one and one third tablespoon of flour and one and two thirds teaspoon of vanilla, imagining her calculating the adapted measurements on the back of an envelope.
Grandma Nette and her vanilla cream pie were on my mind as I searched for recipes to make for the bridal shower I hosted tonight; you see, the lady knew how to throw a classy party. She was hostess supreme for the United Methodist Women’s Circle, keeping the church women in constant supply of her famous cinnamon rolls. So proper and charming was Antoinette, I harbored suspicions as a child that she must be the long lost sister of the Queen of England. In reality, she was born poor, never finished high school, and worked herself silly running a small-town grocery store with my Grandpa Jim while raising two boys and making pies and grinning all the way. She passed away 5 years ago this summer at the age of 100, and that I got to spend 18 Thanksgivings in her dining room and celebrate 19 birthdays on her front porch are some of the greatest blessings of my entire life.
This frozen vanilla custard, inspired by her vanilla cream pie, would suit her taste: it’s classy, simple, and rich. I inherited her rolling pin, her love of poetry, and her taste for coffee, scalding hot, with something sweet after dinner. I hope inherited even a third of her grace.
We served the custard as part of our bridal shower spread with these sugar cones dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkle covered. Classy, no? Congratulations to Shannon and Michael: an ice cream toast to all the sweetness ahead for you two!!
Frozen Vanilla Custard (adapted from David Lebovitz)
1 c whole milk
2/3 c sugar
2 c heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 1/2 t good quality vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
Warm the milk, sugar, and one cup of the cream in a medium sized saucepan. Heat until the mixture just starts to bubble.
Pour the remaining cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks well. Slowly pour the warmed milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Then scrape this mixture back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the spatula. Add the vanilla. Pour the custard through the strainer and mix into the cream. Put the bowl into an ice bath and let cool completely, stirring occasionally.
Chill thoroughly in the fridge and then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions