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This ice cream is reminiscent of the lemon ice cream you used to be able to get at the drugstore. I use a chinois to strain out any lemon rind to produce silky smooth ice cream. The original recipe calls for zested lemon without straining, but I find the occassional zest in the ice cream to be a distraction from the creamy texture of this ice cream. The original recipe, from Desserts to Die For, also calls for twice as much butter, which left our spoons a little greasy. The butter definitely has a purpose, however, and halving the quantity called for to only two tablespoons did the trick.


Cream base
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

Custard base
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

Lemon syrup base
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind

1 cup lemon juice

Heat cream base
Combine the ingredients of the cream base in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally.

Slowly add cream to eggs and cook until thickened
In an electric mixer, whisk the custard base well until the mixture thickens and turns a bright yellow color. While this is mixing, slowly add the hot cream base. Continue to mix until mixture is well blended and then return this mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 185° F. Remove from heat and pour mixture through a chinois to remove any lumps. Place the mixture in an ice bath and chill.

Prepare the lemon flavorings
While the custard base is chilling. Heat the lemon syrup base over medium high heat until boiling then reduce heat to medium and continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, you can combine with the fresh lemon juice. I like my finished ice cream smooth, so I strain this lemon zest, syrup and juice mixture with a mesh seive, but you can skip this step if you like bits of zest in your finished ice cream.

Freeze ice cream
Once the custart mixture has cooled to about 45° F, blend in the lemon juice and syrup. Freeze ice cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions and then transfer to a dedicated, smell-free container to let ripen in the freezer for several hours.

Click any image below to enlarge
  1. Comment from Sam 
    8:31 PM   20-Jul-2007
    After failing making ice cream twice I tried making your blackberry sherbet and that turned out pretty good. So, I thought I would try this lemon ice cream. I followed pretty much every bit of it, without any single change. My custard wasn't this yellow. I wonder the egg you used made this difference. Any idea? Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    1. Response from Brian
      9:31 PM   20-Jul-2007
      Hi Sam, the color may be a touch off in these photos, but I don't think that much. The picture at the top of the page is definitely a little out of whack, but the custard photos are reasonably accurate. I think with so many eggs, any subtle yolk coloration would probably account for variance in color. I'm using Rock Island free range hen brown eggs, but I thought they were all looked the same inside.
  1. Comment from T 
    6:29 PM   31-Jul-2007
    How did it taste? I like tart yet sweet riding down very creamy... What is it like?
    1. Response from Brian
      10:29 PM   04-Aug-2007
      It's definitely pretty creamy, and the lemon flavor is very strong. I think you will like this recipe as it balances tart and creamy well.
  1. Comment from Juan Jeanniton 
    12:53 PM   14-May-2009
    If you make a stirred custard, then add lemon juice to it, why doesn't the milk in the custard curdle? Do the egg proteins in the custard play a role in the stabilization of the custard against acid?
    1. Response from Brian
      11:14 AM   15-May-2009
      Hi Juan, I have no idea, but I'm guessing the cold temperatures plays a role in slowing down the process and preventing any noticeable curdling.
  1. Comment from Juan Jeanniton 
    7:53 AM   20-May-2009
    But Brian, if you took milk and cream in exactly the same amounts called for the recipe, and leave out every other ingredient, then chill the milk + cream overnight then add any acid, whether it be lemon juice, or vinegar, or citric acid, whatever the high-acid liquid, it would still curdle even if the whole thing is kept cold. I'm guessing that the egg proteins are playing a role in preventing this curdling.
    1. Response from Brian
      9:32 PM   22-May-2009
      Only one way to find out I guess.
  1. Comment from Raffaele 
    9:15 PM   04-Feb-2010
    Excellent recipe, everyone like this ice cream. Thank you for sharing
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