It's not much much of a stretch to say that any baked sweet during the holidays could benefit from a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sure, you could reach for store-bought, and it wouldn't be bad at all. It'll melt nice over cake and pie and you'll go to bed happy. But it can't compare to the crazy-delicious luxury of real-deal homemade ice cream, impossibly rich and creamy, fragrant to the point of seductive.
This is one of the best ice creams to come out of my kitchen, and is on the short list for best vanilla ice cream I've had anywhere. It's a classic French vanilla: flavors of butter and custard slink into the honeyed, floral, caramel notes of vanilla bean. The texture is pure silk. The aftertaste lingers and lingers.
As for the Scotch, consider it vanilla enhancement. A good Highlands Scotch shares vanilla's floral and honeyed flavors while adding depth and maltiness. I'm partial to Glenlivet 12 for this, which is robust in flavor but keeps the focus on heady, funky Mexican vanilla beans. The whisky plays background here: don't tell people it's there and they might not catch it. But it's just the thing to make this a vanilla ice cream of champions.
The next time I make this (and rest assured, there will be a next time) I may try a smokier Scotch for an ice cream with more bite. But this version is perfect as-is. Pecan pie, chocolate cake, apple crisp: watch out. Vanilla's coming for you.
Note: Scotch sample courtesy of Glenlivet.
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About the author: Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries. Follow him on Twitter.