Earl Grey Ice Cream

Earl Grey Ice Cream
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Earl Grey ice cream
Cool and creamy!

This is a different ice cream than we normally make. No, not the flavor even though that is new, but the style of ice cream. As you’ll see, this ice cream is made without egg yolks, and, for some reason, is referred to as Philadelphia-style ice cream. We don’t know the reason for the designation, but do know that this is generally what you get when you buy ice cream in the U.S.

The ice cream we make is really frozen custard, made with a lot of egg yolks, for a super creamy, rich, decadent ice cream. An ice cream that you can’t find just anywhere; you pretty much have to make it. And, we would have made such an ice cream this time, but we already had nine egg whites sitting in the freezer. Making a custard-based ice cream would have added at least another eight egg whites to our stash. That’s too many for just us.

We knew about the Philadelphia-style ice cream, and thought that it was basically churned cream, half-and-half, sugar, along with flavorings. But, before we committed a couple of pints of dairy, we did a quick check on the Internet to be sure. Yep, we found a recipe on The New York Times for what they called Easiest Vanilla Ice Cream, with a variation for the version we’re making here, Earl Grey Ice Cream. We did cut back a bit on the amount of Earl Grey tea that was suggested because, as we added the tea to the cream mixture, it seemed like an awfully lot of tea.

Earl Grey Ice Cream

Yield: about 2 quarts

Earl Grey Ice Cream


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags, preferably Twinings
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

Abbreviated Instructions

Place cream, half-and-half, and vanilla in a large saucepan. Cut open tea bags and add the contents to the cream mixture. Add salt and place over medium heat.

Bring to a simmer, about 185-190°F. Remove from heat and stir in sugar until it dissolves. Let steep for 5 minutes.

Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Churn in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions. Pack into an airtight container and store in the freezer.


Ingredient discussion:

Normally, we try to use the best cream and half-and-half we can find, and, often, that’s organic. Organic doesn’t have weird-sounding ingredients, just cream and milk, which is something we can understand. That said, sometimes we don’t follow our own rule, especially when dairy products are on a 40% off sale. Then we go with the non-organic, but still (semi-) local brand.

cutting tea bags
Twinings is our preference for Earl Grey tea, but if you have a favorite, by all means, use that.

For the tea, we recommend Twinings brand Earl Grey tea. One of us drinks Earl Grey tea daily and states that Twinings is the best, so there you go.

Procedure in detail:

making ice cream base
It looks messy and dusty, but much of the tea will be strained out later.

Combine ingredients. Stir together cream, half-and-half, and vanilla. Cut open the tea bags (or better yet, use loose tea), and empty the contents into the cream mixture. You could try leaving the tea in the bags, as when you brew, but we didn’t. We knew that we’d be straining later. Now, stir in the salt. We add the salt now, to ensure that it all dissolves.

If you want to use a thermometer, aim for a final temperature between 185 and 190°F.

Heat to a simmer. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer while stirring nearly continuously. It’ll take about 15-20 minutes. During this time, two things happen. First, and perhaps the more subtle, the proteins in the dairy change, altering the flavor of the cream, resulting in a better ice cream taste. Second, of course, is that flavor is extracted from the tea. If you want to watch a thermometer while you stir and heat, consider simmering cream to between 185 and 190°F.

adding sugar
Once hot, stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved.

Sweeten and Steep. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar until completely dissolved. We added the salt at the same time, as per the NYT instructions, but the didn’t dissolve that well, so we recommend you put it in earlier. Now, just as when you brew tea, let it steep for 5 minutes.

ice cream base
Even after straining there are some tea leaves in the ice cream base. Many will settle out overnight.

Strain. Find the finest mesh strainer you have, pour the cream mixture through it, and into a glass bowl. Because the tea in bags is so finely ground, some tea leaves will get through, but don’t worry, we’ll get a few more out tomorrow.

Chill. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, preferably overnight. By chilling the ice cream base completely, it’ll freeze up faster when you churn it (or, depending on your ice cream machine, warm, or even just cool ice cream base might not freeze at all, leaving you with ice cream soup).

tea leaves
By pouring slowly you’ll avoid adding the “dregs” or tea leaves that settled to the bottom.
churning ice cream
We use a KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment and we love it.

Churn. Set up your ice cream churn according to the manufacturer’s directions and slowly pour the ice cream base into the churn. As you get to the bottom, you’ll see that quite a few tea leaves have settled overnight. Try to minimize the amount of tea leaves you add to the ice cream. Afterwards, churn according to the manufacturer’s directions for ice cream.

Pack and freeze. Scrape the ice cream out of the churn and into an airtight container. Seal and place in the freezer to harden. At this stage it’ll be like soft serve, maybe even extra-soft serve, so another night in the freezer should make it perfect. Of course, no one says that you can’t try some now, too.

We loved it! But of course we would. It’s ice cream, smooth and creamy, very creamy. But, it also tastes great. The ice cream has a nice tea flavor, with just a hint of bergamot, the flavoring in Earl Grey tea, but neither is so strong that you think you’re eating a tea infused ice cream. Instead, it just tastes smooth and delicious. Now, do we prefer Philadelphia-style, or custard-style ice cream? Let’s just say that they’re two different ice creams and leave it at that. We won’t choose, but we will say that this ice cream is an easy five stars.

Worth the trouble?

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