It’s hard to deny the pull of summer on all the senses: the heat beating down during the day, the cool relief of the evening breeze, the sweat, the stickiness, the fat slices of melon and the ripe peaches, the abundance at the market stands, the sudden bloom of the peonies. Each of these brings joy, but for me, the greatest joy of all is that it is finally, finally ice cream season.
A scoop (or three) of ice cream on a scorching day is a pleasure that’s hard to beat. But it used to be that if you wanted to make ice cream at home, you needed the help of a special machine, or a large mixing bowl attachment. As someone who lives in a home with increasingly limited counter space — a phenomenon to which I’m sure many of you can relate — I had no interest in accumulating more bulky gadgets.
A few years ago, for Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt wrote about an at-home method that uses your food processor and a couple of ice cube trays to create a creamy, luscious ice cream at home, which many enthusiasts embraced. But the real revolution came when a two-ingredient, no-churn base recipe hit the scene, enabling anyone with a whisk and some determination to make ice cream without a machine at home. Because, my friends, it really is as simple as this:
ICE CREAM WITHOUT A MACHINE
- 2 cups of whipping cream
- 300 ml (1 small can) of sweetened condensed milk
And that’s it. Seriously, that is it. Now, don’t get me wrong, you are probably going to want to add some additional ingredients for flavour, but so long as you have these two ingredients, you are ready to make a versatile and extremely easy ice cream base. Your basic method goes a little something like this:
- In a large bowl, whisk whipped cream until you’re just past the soft peak stage, but stop before arriving to fully stiff peaks (if in doubt, err on the side of softer peaks; we don’t want to accidentally make butter!).
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into the cream, and whisk until fully incorporated.
- No matter what flavour you’re aiming for, add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla, then proceed to slowly incorporate any other flavours or toppings you desire, reserving some for sprinkling on top of the finished cream.
- Scrape mixture into a freezer-safe container and cover tightly with cling wrap. Freeze for 6 hours or overnight.
And that’s it! You’re done! Some things to bear in mind with this kind of ice cream is that it will have a texture more reminiscent of a semi-freddo than traditional ice cream, and that the texture will become more dense the longer it sits in the freezer. Another thing is that the sweetened condensed milk adds (as the name suggests) a generous amount of sweetness to the recipe, so this isn’t a great recipe for adding honey, maple syrup, or other sweeteners.
Other than that, the sky’s the limit as far as flavour pairings go. Here are some of my favourite flavours for ice cream without a machine:
- Chestnut ice cream with dark chocolate and walnuts: Add one cup of chestnut cream along with the condensed milk. Scrape half the mixture into the freezer bowl and sprinkle with dark chocolate and toasted walnut chunks. Repeat with remaining cream mixture and toppings.
- Espresso ice cream with brownie bits and a caramel swirl: Whisk instant espresso powder into cream mixture to taste. Scrape half the mixture into the freezer bowl and sprinkle with brownie bits and swirl in caramel sauce. Repeat with remaining cream mixture and toppings.
- Peanut butter ice cream with a jam ripple: Whisk together 1 cup peanut butter with the condensed milk until smooth; whisk into cream. Scrape half the mixture into the freezer bowl and sprinkle with chopped roasted, salted peanuts and swirl with raspberry jam. Repeat with remaining cream mixture and toppings.
- Double ginger ice cream with a rhubarb swirl: The night before, finely chop two 2-inch pieces of peeled, fresh ginger. Add ginger to small saucepan with cream, and bring until just before a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, allow to cool completely, then cool in the fridge overnight. The next day, strain the cream into the large mixing bowl and proceed with directions. Scrape half of mixture into the freezer bowl and swirl with rhubarb compote, then sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger. Repeat with remaining cream mixture and toppings.
- Kitchen sink ice cream with vanilla base: A terrific way to use up any dessert/snack bits you might have in your fridge and pantry (great candidates include brownies, cookies, pretzels, toasted nuts, pie, chips, chocolate, and so forth. If you can crumble or chop it, you’re good to go). Make the standard ice cream base, then whisk in two thirds of your desired add-ins. Scrape the mixture into the freezer-safe bowl and top with remaining add-ins.