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Technique: No-cook Ice Cream Base (yes, with eggs)

Nutella Swirl Ice Cream

A few years ago, I happened upon a sale and bought a really good ice cream maker, which has led to more than a bit of creamy, frozen goodness around my place. It really doesn't take much effort to whip up a batch of ice cream base and with my machine, which doesn't require pre-freezing a bowl, I can have ice cream almost on a whim.

Amazon was smart enough to put a number of their ice cream machines on sale, just in time for the heat wave! That's marketing for you. So if you don't have a contraption of creamy goodness, head over to the 25% (or more) off ice cream machines sale .

There is a downside to making ice cream, however: making the custard base. Merely the thought of standing over a hot stove attentively stirring a pot of cream and eggs lest it scorch is enough to make me melt on a day when the mercury hits 90, as it's predicted to. (Yes, here in my ten feet of rain a year fog valley.) This means the odds of my making ice cream the traditional way rapidly decreases as my desire for ice cream increases. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

At least it was...

...but not anymore!

This ice cream base can be made in about 10 minutes and almost entirely off the stove. I picked up the technique when I was fortunate enough to attend a cooking class at The Herbfarm and have been using the heck out of ever since. It's quick, painless and remarkably reliable - while I am sure you could mess it up, you would have to work at it.

The trick is heating the milk to near-boiling and then quickly whisking it into warmed egg yolks.

That's it. You're done. No standing over the stove stirring custard.

If you are concerned about safety, I have taken the temperature of this mixture at this point a number of times and it is usually over 180F, well past the bad beastie stage for egg yolks. You can use this technique with any ice cream recipe that uses no more than 2 egg yolks per cup of milk/cream.More yolks than that, check the temperature when you are finished mixing the milk/cream and eggs; it should be at least 160F/71C.

No-cook Ice Cream Base

This recipe makes a rich but not overly sweet custard base. Scrape in a vanilla bean, add a cup of crushed fresh fruit, or infuse the milk/cream with herbs (before adding yolks) to add flavor. You can also use this technique with your favorite ice cream recipe. You will need two bowls, one for mixing and a larger one that your mixing bowl will fit inside of with a couple of inches of room around it.

Ingredient        Volume           Weight
Milk                2 1/2 cups       560 grams
Cream            1 1/2 cups        335 grams
Sugar             3/4 cup            150 grams
Egg yolks       4

  1. Heat the milk, cream and sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to just under a boil. Stir occasionally so it does not scorch.
  2. While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks in large mixing bowl until combined. Run tap water until it is hot and put a couple of inches of water in the larger bowl. Float the mixing bowl on the water (hold it to stabilize) while continuing to whisk the yolks until they are warm and frothy, a minute or so. (The yolks should be just under body temperature, about 90-95F.)
  3. Place the mixing bowl on a towel next to the stove. Turn up the heat to bring the milk to the barest of boils. Slowly pour the milk into the warmed yolks, whisking constantly. Continue whisking for one minute after everything is combined.
  4. Chill the mixture thoroughly. I generally dump the hot water from the big bowl at this point and fill it with ice and water to cool the ice cream base faster. Just float the bowl in the ice water - remember to make sure it is stable so it doesn't tip over- and give it a little time (30-60 min) to cool. (The texture is better if the ice cream base is chilled overnight before churning but it's really not necessary.) When the ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, strain the mixture and freeze it using your ice cream maker.
This technique has made me an inveterate ice cream maker, which means I am always in search of new ideas. Since you're here, I am turning to you.
  • What's your favorite ice cream? (Feel free to leave one link to a recipe on your site if you'd like. I'd like.)
  • Is there a kind of ice cream you have always wanted to make but haven't?
  • Bacon ice cream? Anyone tried it? Yes? No? Gross?

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