While I absolutely love my ice cream machine and marvel at all that it can do, knowing how to pull off a great no-churn ice cream comes in handy whenever I need a frozen dessert in a hurry, or on those occasions when I want to serve a crowd. Compared with recipes for traditional ice cream, no-churn recipes are neither limited to the capacity of an ice cream machine nor do they require lengthy cooling for the pre-churned custard base.
Those advantages free me up to make more ice cream in less time, which is a win-win scenario for summer dessert — especially when it comes to this particular incarnation: a bourbon brown sugar ice cream spiked with cinnamon and vanilla. It is more than satisfying enough to stand as a dessert all on its own, but not so rich that it can’t be smothered with sundae toppings and paired with other desserts, where its butterscotch-y profile works with the likes of brownies, pecan pie and a bubbling blackberry cobbler. Beyond that, it can even be dressed up with a flavorful mix-in such as buttered pecans or crispy, chocolate-covered cereal bits.
The process is simple enough. I start with whole eggs and a blend of brown and white sugars, plus a shot of bourbon, cooked over a water bath to about 160 degrees. Aside from ensuring the eggs are fully cooked despite the addition of sugar, that specific temperature helps partially coagulate some of the egg proteins, making them easier to whip into a stable foam.
Once cooked, the eggs can then be whipped until they are thick enough to hold soft peaks — a stage cold eggs would never reach on their own. The timing will vary depending on the power of your electric appliance, but expect about 15 minutes using a typical handheld mixer; a stand mixer will generally cut that time in half. Once the egg foam is thick and pale, I whip a bit of cream to about the same consistency, making it easy to fold the two together. Aside from adding richness, whipped cream helps preserve the airy structure of the foamed eggs while providing the sort of fresh dairy flavor we expect from ice cream.
Whether you are making no-churn or traditional ice cream, the fastest way to freeze it is to increase its surface area. So for a batch this size, I like to scrape the prepared base into a 2-quart baking dish. Not only does the shape help the ice cream freeze faster, baking dishes tend to be made of glass, ceramic or stoneware. Heavy materials like those stay cold longer than metal or plastic, so the ice cream won’t melt prematurely when it is taken from the freezer. Plus, the shape of a baking dish creates a nice, long runway for pulling up big, round scoops of ice cream.
Because no-churn ice cream starts out so foamy and light, I let it thicken in the freezer for an hour before stirring in my favorite-mix in. Buttered pecans are a favorite with my family, but lately I’ve been melting coconut oil with chocolate (dark, milk or white) to create a crispy coating for my favorite cereal. Crunchy, low-sugar kinds work best (think Rice Krispies, Kix, Crispix, Chex).
FOR THE ICE CREAM
4 large eggs (about 7 ounces, shelled)
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 ounces light brown sugar (shy 1/4 cup, loosely packed)
1/2 ounce bourbon (about 1 tablespoon; see NOTE)
1/2 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for other brands, use less
Pinch ground cinnamon
6 ounces chilled heavy cream (about 3/4 cup)
FOR THE BUTTERED PECANS (OPTIONAL)
1 ounce unsalted butter, sliced into thin pats (about 2 tablespoons)
4 ounces raw pecan pieces (about 3/4 cup)
1/8 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for other brands, use less
FOR THE CRISPY CINNAMON CLUSTERS (OPTIONAL)
2 ounces finely chopped dark, milk or good-quality white chocolate (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 ounce refined coconut oil (1 heaping tablespoon)
1 1/4 ounces Kix (about 1 1/3 cup), Crispix (1 heaping cup), Rice Krispies (about 1 cup) or other crunchy, low-sugar cereal
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the ice cream: Combine the eggs, granulated and brown sugars, the bourbon, if using, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Stir with a flexible spatula until well combined, then place the bowl over a large pan of gently bubbling water. Stir and scrape continuously until the mixture registers 160 degrees on a digital/instant-read thermometer. This should take no more than 10 minutes, so adjust the heat as needed to keep things moving along. Transfer the bowl to a cool work surface.
Use a handheld electric mixer to beat the warmed egg-sugar mixture until pale and thick enough to hold soft peaks, about 15 minutes (the timing will vary with the power of the mixer). When properly mixed, the mixture will be thick enough to mound up on itself in the bowl when dropped from a spoon.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks in a separate large bowl, then add about one-third of the foamed egg mixture, whisking by hand to incorporate. Add the remaining egg mixture, and fold until well combined.
Scrape into a 2-quart glass or ceramic baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. If you plan to use either of the mix-ins (see two options, below), let the ice cream freeze for about 1 hour, until thick and firm, before folding it in.
With or without the optional mix-in, continue freezing until the ice cream reaches 0 degrees before scooping. Serve as you would traditional ice cream, in ice cream cones or chilled bowls.
For the optional buttered pecans: Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat, then increase the heat to medium. Stir constantly with a heat-resistant spatula, until the butter is golden brown, about 1 minute, although the time will vary depending on burner output and skillet size. Remove from the heat, add the pecans, sprinkle with salt and stir until well coated. Let the pecans stand for 15 minutes; this will allow them to fully absorb the butter.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a plate with parchment paper.
Transfer the skillet to the oven (lower rack); toast the pecans until fragrant and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes depending on your personal preference. Scrape onto the plate and freeze until cold and dry to the touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a quart-size, freezer zip-top bag and freeze until ready to use (up to several weeks).
For the optional crispy cinnamon clusters: Line a plate with parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a medium, microwave-safe bowl, on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir well, then add the cereal and cinnamon, folding the mixture with a spatula so the cereal is completely coated.
Scrape onto the plate and freeze until cold and dry to the touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a quart-size, freezer zip-top bag and freeze until ready to use (up to several weeks).
NOTE: The bourbon can simply be omitted, if alcohol is an issue.
From chef Stella Parks, who serves as pastry “wizard” at SeriousEats.com and is the author of “BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts” (W.W. Norton and Co., 2017).
Tested by Vanessa Williams; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nutritional analysis is based on 12 servings.
For a printer-friendly and scalable version of this recipe, view it here.
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Servings Per Container: 12; Calories: 120; Total Fat: 7 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 80 mg; Sodium: 75 mg; Carbohydrates: 12 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 12 g; Protein: 2 g.