No Ice Cream Machine? Meet Our Silky-Smooth No-Churn Ice Cream

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

I love ice cream. It's easily my favorite dessert to make at home, a fact reflected by the sheer number of ice cream recipes and variations in my cookbook. And while my favorite ice cream machine is less than $50, I understand that it's not an investment everyone can make.

That's where the popularity of no-churn ice cream comes in. Virtually all of these recipes start with evaporated or sweetened condensed milk combined with a boatload of whipped cream. The results are tasty, but the combination of canned milk and a high proportion of cream results in a distinctly non-traditional flavor profile—like an eggless Philadelphia ice cream crossed with the cooked, milky flavors of canned dairy, and the texture of a frozen mousse.

I wanted something more in line with a classic supermarket ice cream like Edy's, Turkey Hill, or the Homemade brand: easy to scoop straight from the freezer, creamy and light (both in texture and richness), with a vanilla custard vibe.

To avoid the high percentage of whipped cream most recipes use for aeration, I decided to base my recipe on whipped eggs, instead. Not meringue (egg whites and sugar would be too lean and too fluffy for ice cream), and not pâte a bombe (whipped egg yolks and sugar would be too dense and rich), but whole eggs.

The trick is to warm the eggs and sugar over simmering water, stirring constantly with a flexible spatula until the mixture hits 160°F. This ensures that the egg is cooked through, making it safe to eat and easy to whip.

My favorite way to do this is to nest the bowl of a Kitchen Aid Pro in a large pot or Dutch oven filled with an inch or two of water, plus a ring of tinfoil to act as a booster seat for the bowl. This prevents it from touching the bottom of the pan and overheating, while allowing steam to flow freely around its sides. Otherwise, when the bowl acts as a lid to the pot, the entrapped steam can quickly overheat the eggs, and it's hard to see when the water starts to boil or needs to be topped off.

Next, I whip the cooked eggs and sugar until the mixture is light, pale, and thick enough to mound up in the bowl like soft serve when allowed to fall from the wire whisk. This is the time to add the vanilla, or whatever extract or flavoring you prefer, such as espresso powder, peppermint oil, rose water, etc. Whipping should take between five and eight minutes depending on the power of a given stand mixer; if the process seems to be taking substantially longer, it's a strong indication that the bowl-to-beater clearance needs adjustment.

By the time the mixture has whipped up thick and pale, it will be cool enough to fold in a bit of whipped cream. This is added for richness and flavor, rather than aeration, so it's okay to whip the cream in advance and then store it in the fridge until needed; the bowl only needs a quick rinse before being re-used for the eggs. Otherwise, the cream can simply be whipped by hand in a separate bowl.

I'm not too fussy about folding in the cream; a few stray lumps are nothing but an aesthetic issue, while over-mixing can deflate the ice cream and make it too dense. The idea is to work gently and incorporate the cream as best you can, without obsessively chasing down every last lump and crushing air from the base by accident.

Once fully mixed, transfer the "ice cream" to a nonreactive container; if you're not confident a loaf pan is anodized aluminum or stainless steel, it's safer to use a glass or ceramic loaf pan, or else a rinsed out yogurt tub or some other freezer-safe container.

The size and material of the container will affect how long it takes the ice cream to freeze, but I'd budget at least eight hours. This is longer than traditional ice cream, but the no-churn mixture starts off much warmer by comparison. Even so, once fully frozen, it will scoop up just the same.

As-is, the recipe makes just over one quart, but it's easy to double if you need dessert for a crowd—whether serving blackberry cobbler à la mode, or showering the ice cream in rainbow sprinkles (the heart wants what it wants).

But for the purists out there, this no-churn vanilla ice cream doesn't need to be dolled up—its sweet simplicity is worth savoring all on its own.