If you have a whisk, you can make ice cream.
You’ll also need a freezer and ingredients, of course, but you can put your electric or manual machine away — and your frozen bowls or bucket of salted ice — and still make a perfectly decent summer treat.
The French have long used this technique of freezing whipped cream and vanilla custard to make parfait, which is usually served in slices. When scooped, it’s ice cream.
No-churn recipes with only heavy whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk as the base have flooded Pinterest in recent years, and that’s the basic technique behind Leslie Bilderback’s new book, “No-Churn Ice Cream: Over 100 Simply Delicious No-Machine Frozen Treats” (St. Martin’s Griffin, $22.99).
Bilderback, pastry chef at N/NAKA in Los Angeles, adds milk to the basic recipe, but even so, it’s a simple technique that can be fun for all kinds of cooks.
You might have and love your ice cream machine, but if you don’t feel like dragging it out or don’t have one, pull out a whisk and a bowl instead and let your culinary imagination go wild.
That’s the great thing about this method, Bilderback says. The basic steps are easy to measure and follow: Open a can of sweetened condensed milk and mix with 1 cup of any kind of milk. Whip one pint (2 cups) of heavy whipping cream to soft peaks and then fold the whipped cream into the milk mixture. (Half and half won’t whip, but you can use it in place of the milk for super-rich ice cream.)
You can add anything to that milk mixture — and Bilderback means anything.
As a pastry chef with more than 30 years in the kitchen, she lets her creative pastry imagination go wild in the book. She flavors ice cream with adzuki beans and tomatoes and isn’t afraid of scaring off readers with out-there concepts such as vanilla lobster or peach and prosciutto. (Fear not, there are also plenty of crowd-pleasers, such a strawberry cheesecake and chocolate cherry.)
Because we’re at the height of summer, my instinct is to make simple ice creams with blueberries, cherries and peaches, but I can see the sweet potato-marshmallow ice cream and apple spice ice creams making their way into my freezer this fall.
When you’re mulling what flavor to create beyond fruit, think like an Amy’s Ice Cream toppings bar. You could add sprinkles, crushed candies, graham crackers, marshmallows or syrups. Nut butters can be whisked into the milk mixture, and jam can either be used to infuse throughout the ice cream or, swirled in after the whipped cream and milks have been combined. Austinite Georgia Johnson of the Comfort of Cooking blog found inspiration in a box when she created a Confetti Cake Batter Ice Cream.
Bilderback explains that she adds a hint of lemon juice or salt and thins the sweetened condensed milk with regular milk to shave off a hint of that cloying sweetness. All the sugar packed into those little cans is exactly why this recipe works, she says. You don’t have to heat the milk to dissolve the sugar or worry about tempering the eggs if you’re making a custard.
Granted, there is a lusciousness to homemade ice cream made with six egg yolks that one made with sweetened condensed milk will never have, but sometimes, that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make.
On the other hand, this ice cream could be made even more pantry friendly by using Cool Whip, a shortcut that even Bilderback will take from time to time. “I’m not a snob by any means. We like what we like,” she says.
Because Cool Whip already has sugar, be prepared for ultra sweet ice cream. She likes to cut that sweetness with something like lemon curd.
Even without taking the Cool Whip route, Bilderback says this technique is hard to mess up.
Using a standalone mixer, it won’t take long to whip the cream, maybe less than a minute if you whip on a high speed. It’s safer to whip on low, but for a real hands-on experience, you can whisk the cream by hand. You’re looking for soft peaks, but hard is OK, too.
“I don’t think you can overwhip the cream,” she says, as long as you don’t whip it all the way to butter. It might look a little like cottage cheese if you whip too much, but it’ll still freeze OK.
When you fold the whipped cream with the milk mixture, use a whisk or a spatula. You don’t want to overmix at this stage, but it should be well-combined and look a little thicker than sour cream, she says.
Although there’s a place for ice cream machines and fancy techniques, Bilderback says that sometimes these shortcuts allow us to experiment more easily with flavors or, if we don’t think of ourselves as good cooks, just help us get a foot in a new door. “It’s only food. Just try it,” she says.
Take note of flavors ideas you see on TV or in food media and experiment with them by making half-batches of the basic no-church recipe. With no stove required, the technique is also kid-friendly, especially for youngsters who are ready to take on a solo dessert project but aren’t ready for full-on baking.
“My biggest job is to get people in the kitchen trying stuff,” she says. “I want people to stop being nervous about it. You can make a mistake, at least you learned a thing.”