Make Some Magic: Perfecting No-Churn Homemade Ice Cream - No. 121
Sidestep the hassle of an ice cream maker. You just need a loaf pan, sweetened condensed milk, and cream!
MY FIRST ICE CREAM MEMORIES were sitting on an ice cream maker packed with rock salt in the backyard and taking turns hand-cranking it with my sisters. It was hot, but all we needed was the sweet reward of our mother’s peppermint ice cream.
And in spite of owning two electric ice cream makers, one that’s still in the box and the other a smaller counter-top model with an insert that must be stored in the freezer, but is never in the freezer, and who knows where it is, I think I love the idea of making homemade ice cream more than making it.
So it’s no surprise that I’m now smitten with no-churn ice cream. Lazy ice cream.
If you haven’t tried it, it’s based on a can of sweetened condensed milk, whipped cream, some interesting flavors, and a loaf pan. And it’s the most velvety, rich and near-gelato-like ice cream you can pull together in 20 minutes (plus the six hours it needs to freeze.) And it is fun!
My daughter Kathleen, in her Jacksonville, FL, kitchen, and I in my Nashville kitchen made all kinds of fabulous no-churn ice creams recently to just figure it out. People say no-churn is too grainy or it doesn’t scoop well, and I’ll admit you’ve got to try it a few times to, like I said, figure it out.
Kathleen was crazy about the vanilla, olive oil, and fresh mint ice creams. And being the chocolate person, I owned that recipe and worked out the best way to make the strawberry, which included roasting the strawberries first to draw out their flavor and evaporate the liquids so they don’t even think about getting grainy when they freeze.
But first a little backstory
Long before there were ice cream makers for the home, people figured out a way to make ice cream without them. I flipped through the 1952 Memphis Cookbook and found dozens of ice cream recipes, all frozen in those aluminum ice cube trays that once fit into the refrigerator freezer.
Sometime around 2010, British cookbook author Nigella Lawson was on book tour and shared not just a recipe for no-churn ice cream but how she learned to make it from her great aunt. Everyone wrote about it.
Around the same time, in the Everyday Food publication from Martha Stewart, Anna Last shared a simple recipe for no-churn ice cream using cream, sweetened condensed milk and good vanilla. What’s interesting is that Anna is originally from Australia, and no-churn ice creams have been popular there for decades.
You’ll find them in old cookbooks by Australian food writing legend Maureen Simpson. And Anna said condensed milk has been used in many Australian dessert recipes and was originally a holdover from rationing during World War II.
And just think about some of our favorite American desserts—Key Lime Pie, Smith Island Cake, and the classic German Chocolate Cake. We wouldn’t have them without canned milk. Canned milk has saved cooks in remote places since the beginning of time, or at least since the late 1800s when Gail Borden invented canned condensed milk and it became a pantry staple.
In the no-churn ice cream recipe, sweetened condensed milk adds a silky texture, flavor, and makes the ice cream easier to scoop. The whipped cream, on the other hand, adds the fluffiness you expect in ice cream.
Follow some rules, and then go break them to make great ice cream
Actually, making no-churn ice cream is an embarrassingly simple method, which is just whipping cream and combining it with sweetened condensed milk and freezing it.
Start with two ingredients: Sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream.
Get creative with flavorings: Even the basic vanilla recipe can take on new flavors if you add a little almond extract or a tablespoon or two of Kahlua. Vanilla extract, Kahlua, rum, or any alcohol make the ice cream softer and easier to scoop.
Sweetness: To cut the sweetness, reduce the sweetened condensed milk. In some of the recipes, I don’t add the whole can. Add a pinch of salt. Add 2 ounces cream cheese to the mixing bowl and whip before adding cream.
Gather your equipment: You’ll need an electric hand mixer or stand mixer to whip cream. Plus metal loaf pans in which to freeze the mixture and love the blue ones from Great Jones! A pullman bread loaf with fitting lid is perfect, but you can also use foil or plastic wrap to cover any 9-inch loaf pan. And you need a little space in the freezer. An ice cream scoop with spring action is best for creating those perfect round scoops.
Allow time: Plan ahead so you can let the ice cream freeze at least 6 hours. And for perfect scooping, remove the ice cream from the freezer 30 minutes ahead of serving time.
What no-churn ice cream taught me is that we shouldn’t put off making it. Life’s too short to go a summer without ice cream you make yourself.
What’s your favorite homemade ice cream?
For Paid Subscribers
This Thursday I’m sharing a fabulous throwback shrimp and rice casserole. And congrats to Shelley C. of Nashville who is May’s cookbook giveaway winner and receives a copy of Leah Koenig’s The Jewish Cookbook.
Have a great week! I’m off to try a two-ingredient ice cream with just whipped cream and a can of dulce de leche. Wish me luck!
- xo, Anne
Between the Layers is a reader-supported newsletter plus archives devoted to cooking, baking, history, and culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.
Vanilla No-Churn Ice Cream
This is going to be one of those recipes that I forever keep in my back pocket because it's STUPID EASY and yields great results. I took this to a pool party and it was the perfect end to a summer day. I decided to pour about 2 cups of the ice cream mixture into a separate container, pouring in a little bit at a time so I could layer it repeatedly with rainbow sprinkles. Toddler treat secured—my daughter was delighted to have a special container all to herself. Thanks to Ellen and Lisa for sharing the recipe with us! - Kathleen.
Makes 8 servings
Prep: 10 to 15 minutes
Freeze time: 6 hours
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or paste
1. In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or in a stand mixer with whip attachment, whip the cream on medium-high until it forms soft peaks, about 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute longer.
3. Pour into a 9-inch loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.
4. Pull the pan from the freezer 30 minutes before you want to start scooping.
For coffee ice cream: Add 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 2 to 4 tablespoons Kahlua along with the sweetened condensed milk.
For cinnamon ice cream: Infuse the cream with cinnamon by simmering a couple cinnamon sticks in the cream, turn off heat. Chill the cream overnight, remove the cinnamon sticks, and whip. Or add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon along with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.