I can still picture my grandfather packing rock salt into the barrel of his old ice cream maker when I was a kid. My sister and I would anxiously await our turn to crank the handle and transform the sweet liquid base into luscious vanilla bean ice cream.
As spring rolls into summer every year, I anticipate so many seasonal recipes. As I look ahead on my calendar, I’m quite sure that there will be plenty of time to share my current list of warm weather favorites: homemade jams, grill recipes, hearty salads, and a variety of dishes incorporating summer staples like corn, zucchini, and peaches.
As Labor Day approaches, however, I am once again reminded that I might need a half dozen summers to share all of my tomato dishes and that I could spend a several weeks on ice cream recipes alone.
So when some friends recently sang the praises of my most basic recipe for no-churn ice cream, I mentioned that I would make a mental note to post the recipe next Memorial Day weekend. That way, people would have the whole hot summer to enjoy this cold treat.
The reply was simple: “Do you stop eating ice cream after Labor Day?” Well no, I don’t! A scoop of this sweet vanilla ice cream satisfies my sweet tooth any time of year and tastes as perfect on its own as it does atop a warm fall apple crisp (recipe coming soon!), under a drizzle of the salted hot fudge sauce I make at Christmastime, or alongside a slice of birthday cake.
A big appeal of “no-churn” ice cream is that it eliminates the need for an ice cream maker. Additionally, sweetened condensed milk provides a shortcut that makes the process of preparing and chilling a custard base unnecessary.
The addition of regular milk is not often seen in no-churn recipes, but I think this improves the ice cream and sidesteps what would otherwise be an overly sweet result. Vanilla bean paste is an option that offers concentrated vanilla flavor and the telltale vanilla bean flecks. Vanilla extract, or even a vanilla bean, may be used instead.
This recipe is also a fun one to prepare with kids. The process is quick—perfect for short attention spans—and watching the liquid cream whip into billowy clouds is fascinating. When made by lunchtime, the transformation into a special treat will be finished by dinner.
My family also enjoys my coconut, chocolate, and coffee Kahlua chocolate chunk variations. If you happen to like this shortcut to the old-fashioned method, let me know. If so, I’ll be sure to schedule the most-requested flavor to welcome the summer of 2016!
Yields approximately 1 quart.
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup milk (nonfat is fine--that's what I use)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (may substitute vanilla extract or the seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean)
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine the sweetened condensed milk, milk, vanilla, and salt. Set aside or cover and refrigerate until ready to proceed.
- Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a handheld electric mixer). Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. (This takes about 2 minutes in my stand mixer; it will take a bit more time with a handheld mixer.)
- Fold the sweetened condensed milk mixture into the whipped cream. I find that a whisk will do this most effectively. You want to be careful not to totally deflate the whipped cream. That said, it will become soupier. This is okay. (To ensure I don't over mix, I stop mixing when I still see a few pea-size pieces of whipped cream. You won't notice them in the finished ice cream.)
- Spoon the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and freeze for 6 hours. Once the ice cream has been in the freezer overnight, it's best to let it soften for 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature (or in the fridge for about 20 minutes) prior to scooping. Homemade ice cream tends to freeze harder than store-bought varieties due to the absence of stabilizers.
- When whipping cream, maximum volume will be achieved if you start with a cold bowl and beaters. I place them in the refrigerator while I prepare the sweetened condensed milk mixture. Also, place a metal or freezer-safe glass dish (a loaf pan works well) in the freezer before assembling the ice cream ingredients. The ice cream will freeze more effectively when transferred to an ice-cold container.
- Vanilla bean paste is an excellent option in ice cream, offering concentrated vanilla flavor and the telltale vanilla bean flecks. (I called around and this can be found locally at Mis En Place Kitchen Store, located at 341 N. Queen Street in Lancaster, and Williams-Sonoma at Park City. It can also be purchased online. Nielsen-Massey is a recommended brand.) An equal amount of vanilla bean paste may be used whenever a recipe calls for vanilla extract.
For a non-dairy, naturally-sweetened chocolate ice cream that’s equally delicious, you may wish to try the following recipe: