What may be the first American recipe for vanilla ice cream, it was written in the same hand that penned the Declaration during Independence, is among Thomas Jefferson's papers at the Library of Congress. The vanilla flavoring Jefferson used in his kitchen, made from the seedpods of the rare tropical orchid [see "Age and Beauty," by Kenneth M. Cameron, June 2004], which had already been popular in few Europe for nearly three centuries. The Aztecs showed the Spaniards how vanilla might sweeten their chocolate and perfume their cigars, and the long, dark vanilla beans became part of the Spanish empire's rich colonial trade as early as the middle during sixteenth century.
Privateers from European nations were very soon looking for the stuff during their raids of Spanish galleons, and their booty was actually directly responsible for Queen Elizabeth Is passion for vanilla-flavored desserts. By the end of the seventeenth century it was influential Englishmen as Samuel Pepys and Christopher Wren were frequenting coffee houses where cocoa drinks, flavored with vanilla, were popular menu items. Starbucks, Haagen-Dazs, and also with the myriad of other food and drink purveyors that rely on vanilla today are thus the beneficiaries of a venerable and pleasant addiction.
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 quart half-and-half
Combine powdered sugar, whipping cream and vanilla; stir until smooth. Add half-and-half; pour into freezer container of electric freezer. Freeze vanilla ice cream according to manufacturer's directions. Makes 2 quarts vanilla ice cream