No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream |
the Biterkin way

No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream | the Biterkin way

December 07, 2021

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© 2022 Biterkin

You do not need an ice cream maker to make this insanely good No-churn Cocoa Ice Cream. But you do need to bookmark this page, because as soon as you make it, you’ll want to come back for more. This way of making no-churn ice cream is unique and it took me years to develop, so you will only find it here. 

What makes this no-churn ice cream special, it that it uses the exact ingredients as for a “real” ice cream made with  an ice cream maker: milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. To bring these ingredients together, we add gelatine; and the resulting no-churn ice cream is just like the real thing in terms of a perfect ice cream flavour. This differentiates it from all no-churn ice cream recipes out there which use sweetened condensed milk and have a weird taste, very unlike that of real ice cream.

To make this recipe you only need a mixer. First you make a cocoa-milk jelly and a custard, chill them both, then whip the custard, mix it with the cocoa-jelly and freeze. Yes, it is that easy. In the recipe you will find detailed instructions to get you through the process successfully. 

In this cocoa ice cream the aroma of the cocoa powder you use shines through, so use your favourite one to make it. I have tested it with various types of cocoa powder, from cheap to expensive and from raw to Dutch-processed; and each batch was scrumptious, no matter the cocoa powder it was made with. If you do not have a favourite, in the recipe you will find everything you need to help you choose the cocoa powder which suits you best.

The Biterkin tricks to a perfect No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream:

If you love to know the whys behind this recipe, read below about the Biterkin way to making no-churn ice cream; this is the result of years of experimentation and cannot be found anywhere else. You can also find a trick to take the cocoa flavour a step farther, this is totally optional, but a nice trick to have up your sleeve.

When making a regular custard ice cream at home with an ice cream maker, we use milk, heavy cream, sugar and egg yolks and make an ice cream mixture by cooking the custard on the stovetop; then we chill it and churn in the ice cream maker. What happens during churning, is that air enters the ice cream mixture; this stays there because, at the same time, the mixture freezes. These air pockets which stay trapped in the frozen mixture result in a fluffy ice cream, which retains its fluffiness in the freezer. If it weren’t for the air, the result would be a hard, frozen granita block, which would impossible to scoop out or be eaten with a spoon. 

So, the important thing when making ice cream is to incorporate air and keep it there. But how can you make ice cream without an ice cream maker? What you have to do is to incorporate air BEFORE freezing the ice cream mixture (as opposed to WHILE freezing it, which is what you do while churning in the ice cream maker). You can add air in a dairy mixture, by whipping it, but it must contain enough fat to make it whip-able. You can easily make a no-churn ice cream using just whipping cream, sugar and egg yolks with the right amount of fat (around 25%) to make it whip-able. This kind of no-churn ice cream may be lovely, but lacks the one ingredient which gives it the perfect ice cream flavour: milk. 

While developing this no-churn ice cream -the Biterkin way-, the question was: how can we incorporate milk into the whipped custard, without deflating it? The answer came after experimenting with gelatine: we can make a light jelly made from milk and sugar. This makes the milk steady enough to incorporate into the whipped custard, without deflating it. We then freeze the mixture in the freezer until set. The result is mind-blowing: it is just like real ice cream; or at least, the closest you can get to it, without using an ice cream maker. No fuss; no special folding skills; no special ingredients. As this method is unique and cannot be found elsewhere, it is fair enough to call it “the Biterkin way” to no-churn ice cream.

This is a no-churn custard ice cream, made with egg yolks, which give the best texture possible to the ice cream. When making custard at home, you are usually asked to use an instant-read thermometer to check if the custard has reached the right temperature, which is around 80ºC/176ºF. This is the temperature at which the custard thickens; also, at this temperature, the eggs are perfectly safe to eat. But! While it is good to have a thermometer, it is only natural that you may not have one at home.

For this reason I have developed a very simple method, which uses the laws of physics to guarantee that the ice cream mixture is cooked to the right temperature. It is also the least labour-intensive one, as it does not require you to stand over the stovetop stirring until the custard thickens. Instead, you only need to bring the cream and sugar to a full boil and then pour the mixture into the cold egg yolks, while whisking vigorously. It works every time, because by combining the right amount of boiling cream with the right amount of fridge-cold egg yolks you have a perfectly cooked custard.

For this method to work, you have to make sure that:

  1. the ingredients are properly measured; it is important that the ratio of “cold egg yolks to boiling cream” is right
  2. the egg yolks are cold from the fridge (which is around 4ºC;39ºF, no need to measure the temperature, refrigerator technology is our modern world’s advantage), and
  3. you bring the dairy to a full boil (which is around 100ºC;212ºF, no need to measure the temperature, the laws of physics work here for you) and immediately pour it over the egg yolks, while whisking vigorously. 

Most recipes using gelatine ask you to soak the gelatine in cold water, before using it. But the problem when making this ice cream is that if we follow this path, we will end up with some extra water in our ice cream. Excess water in ice cream is something we need to avoid, as it creates ice crystals.

To fix this, we soak the gelatine directly in half of the cold milk used in the recipe. Additionally, we bring the rest of the milk to a boil along with the sugar, then add it directly into the softened gelatine and the cold milk. If we stir immediately and well, we bring the milk to the perfect temperature for the gelatine to fully dissolve, without destroying its setting properties, which could happen if the milk were too hot. 

This is totally optional, but you can replace regular sugar with a good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado. These are sugars which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses, which gives them an earthy, slightly tropical aroma, which perfectly matches other tropical flavours, like cocoa and vanilla.

By replacing regular sugar with a good quality raw cane sugar, you boost the cocoa flavour of the ice cream, which takes the chocolate-ness to the next level.

You will need a good-quality raw cane sugar to obtain the best results. To evaluate the quality of the sugar, you only have to sniff it; it should smell divine.  In my experience, the best Demerara sugar comes from the island of Mauritius, so I always check the packaging for the origin.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every single ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Ice creams are all about balance, both in terms of ingredients, as well as their quantities. Do not play around changing the proportions of the ingredients or trying to use low-fat versions of dairy or sweeteners, such as stevia/other decreased-calorie sugars. Look out for these:

The recipe at a glance:
No-Churn Cocoa Ice Cream | the Biterkin way
Ingredients:

For best results, use a digital kitchen scale and measure the ingredients directly into the utensils, as you proceed with the recipe. Wherever applicable, avoid weighing in one utensil and transferring to another, as this causes a small, but important loss of quantity, especially in liquids.

For cup measurements:

1 cup (US) = 235 ml

– for cocoa powder: first sift the cocoa powder into a bowl, then measure by the spoonful by gently taking a spoonful at a time from the sifted cocoa powder and adding it to the measuring cup. Cocoa powder should be freshly sifted to be measured right. I am pretty aware that if you google how much cocoa powder is 60 gr; 2.1 oz, it will give you a different cup measurement than the one provided in the recipe, but the google results can be totally off, depending how clumpy your cocoa powder is. So, after many trials and errors, I have found that the most reliable way to measure cocoa powder by volume cups is this: sift, then measure while freshly sifted.

– for liquid ingredients: make sure that you thoroughly scrape with a rubber spatula the cup every time you measure something and empty it.

Any unsweetened cocoa powder will do. 

If you have a favourite unsweetened cocoa powder, then use this one in this recipe, as its flavour will really shine in this ice cream. If not, use as your guide the cocoa’s colour and its aroma: a deep brown colour and a lovely cocoa aroma when you smell it, are proof that the final ice cream will have an amazing cocoa flavour.

Important: only use unsweetened cocoa powder. The term “unsweetened” means that it only contains cocoa powder, so check the label if there are any other ingredients listed. If there is sugar (sucrose) or any other sweeteners listed in the ingredients, do not use it for this recipe, it will affect its outcome. Exception: if in the ingredients list you see the  words “acidity regulators” or “potassium carbonate”, these are not sweeteners;  these indicate that the cocoa powder has been alkilized (Dutch-processed); this kind of cocoa powder is still unsweetened and perfectly ok to use.

If you want to know more on cocoa powder to help you choose before buying. then read below:
There are three types of unsweetened cocoa powder available at the grocery stores: Dutch-processed, raw cacao and natural cocoa powder. The difference between them lies in the way they have been processed, which impacts their colour and their flavour:
  • Dutch-processed cocoa powder is cocoa powder which has been treated with an alkali to neutralise its acidity. Although it is the most processed type of cocoa powder, it is for a good reason: Dutch processed cocoa powder is, hands down, the best type of cocoa powder to use for this ice cream recipe. It gives the richest possible flavour notes of cacao to the ice cream and an intriguing, deep, brown colour. Words written on the packaging: Dutch-processed, alkalized. Another indicator that the cocoa powder is Dutch-processed is that in the ingredients list on the packaging the words “acidic regulator” or “potassium carbonate” exist along with the cocoa powder. Hint: the world’s top cocoa powder brands are actually Dutch-processed.
  • Raw cacao powder is the least processed of all types of cocoa powder. It has a very light brown colour and is slightly acidic; it is flavour is, well, natural and not as rich as that of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Raw cacao powders are usually the  organic brands and their quality is sublime, but the cocoa flavour in the final ice cream, as well as its colour, are on the light side. Words you will see written on the packaging: natural, raw, organic, cacao (not to be confused with cocoa).
  • the most commonly available type of cocoa powder at the grocery’s store is natural cocoa powder. The term natural only means that it is not treated with an alkali, like Dutch-processed cocoa powder is, but it is still more processed than raw cacao powder. The word “natural” may appear on the label or somewhere on the packaging. This type of cocoa powder gives the least rich flavour of all, in comparison to the other two types of cocoa powder. Words you will see on the packaging: natural, 100% cocoa (especially in the ingredients).

Comparison apart, I have made ice cream with all three types of cocoa powder and in a variety of price range, from the cheapest to the most expensive and each batch was delicious. So use the above information as a guideline to fit your own taste and pocket and rest assured that no matter which one you will choose, everyone will love it.

If you find the above descriptions confusing, you can simply judge a cocoa powder by its colour and aroma:

  • when the cocoa powder is dark in colour and rich in its aromatic tones, it gives a richer cocoa flavour and colour to the ice cream (a dark brown hue, means that it is actually Dutch-processed cocoa powder a.k.a. alkalized)
  • if it has a light brownish hue, it is still aromatic but just a tad acidic and results to a sharper flavour and lighter brown colour in the final ice cream (when it is has a very light brown hue, it is actually natural cocoa powder; or raw cocoa powder, if it is organic)

You can choose either of the two and still have a stellar ice cream. 

If you are an ice cream making geek, you will also be interested to know that you can use both cocoa powder classified as “type 10/12” (which contains 10-12% fat) and “type 22/24” (which contains 22-24% fat). These two types, which are the most common available, are both suitable for this recipe.

Use whole milk, which is around 3,5% fat.

Do not use 

  • low-fat milk or skim milk
  • any kind of plant-based milk (non-dairy).

Those kinds of milk are not suitable in this recipe because we need both the fat and the milk proteins which exist in the whole milk to achieve the desired ice cream texture and fluffiness.

You can use regular sugar (white granulated sugar) or a good quality raw cane sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara, which enhances the cocoa flavours.

Do not use sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia. Also, do not use confectioner’s sugar, it is not suitable for this recipe. Not suitable either is honey or other liquid sweeteners, natural or artificial, because in ice cream making they behave differently than sugar and their quantities should be adapted before using them in this recipe.

Gelatine leaves: most gelatine leaves widely available, have the same setting properties. This means that 6 gelatine leaves can set 500 ml (2 cups) of liquid. This is usually written on the packaging.* (gelatine leaves referred to here, weigh 1.7 gr (0.6 oz) each and measure 11×7 cm (4.3×2.75 inches). .

Gelatine powder / granulated: this is usually sold in sachets; each sachet contains 2.5 tsp. gelatine powder and should be able to set 500 ml (2 cups) of liquid*.

* The setting properties of the gelatine are usually written on the packaging of the product. However, if the one you use does not include this information, worry not, as in the recipe you are provided with detailed description on how the milk jelly should be like, and what to do in case it is not.

Only use heavy cream suitable for whipping, with 35-38% fat percentage.

Do not use lower fat versions, or else the custard may not whip.

Do not use any kind of non-dairy cream. 

You can combine double cream with whole milk and use this instead of heavy cream in this recipe. For 375 gr (13.2 oz.) heavy cream, you will need:

  • 265 gr double cream (9.3 oz.) (with 50% fat)
  • 110 gr/ml whole milk (3.9 oz.) (3.5% fat) *

To make the heavy cream, put the double cream in a bowl, then pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring smoothly with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. You need the cream to be smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency. Resist the urge to  whisk, as it may turn it into whipped cream.

Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 375 gr (13.2 oz.) heavy cream needed.

* these 110 gr milk (3.9 oz.) are additional to the 330 gr milk (11.6 oz) asked in the recipe. This means that you will need in total 440 gr; milk (15.5 oz.), from which:

  • 330 gr (11.6 oz.) are those which will be used in the recipe; and
  • 110 gr (3.9 oz.) are to be mixed with the double cream.

it is recommended to weigh the egg yolks, because egg sizes (and their yolks) may vary from my country to yours. 

If you do not have a scale, use four (4) egg yolks from eggs which are in the range of around 65 – 75 gr; 2.3 – 2.65 oz (weight is written on the package and is whole egg, in its shell). The weight of the eggs is written on their packaging and they may be labelled as “large” or “extra large”, depending on the country they are sold. 

The egg yolks should be fridge-cold when you pour the boiling cream onto them, or else they may scramble.

TIP: to separate the egg yolk from the white, do it when the eggs are cold from the fridge, as the egg yolks are firmer and are easy to handle.

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would otherwise be left behind in bowls, saucepans, etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferring a flexible one.

Using a saucepan with a long handle is perfect for pouring the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other (step 2).

Bonus tip: if the bowl with the eggs is lightweight, put a slightly wet towel under it; this will keep it in place. 

A handheld mixer makes it easier to evaluate the stage of the whipping cream in step 3 and to stop when it reaches the desired consistency.

If you whip with a stand mixer instead, always keep an eye on it to avoid over-whipping.

It is recommended to use a stainless steel whisk to smooth the milk jelly in step 4, as opposed to a silicone one. A silicone whisk may not be steady enough to smooth the jelly.

Alternatively, if you use a hand-held mixer, you can as well transfer it to the bowl with the jelly and use this to smooth it.

Instructions
Step 1: Make the cocoa-milk jelly

Soften the gelatine: 

  • for the gelatine leaves: put the gelatine leaves (3 leaves) in a single layer in a large bowl and cover fully with roughly half of the cold milk (165gr; 5.8 oz; 2/3 cup). If the gelatine leaves overlap, take care to separate them regularly while they soften, or else they stick to each other and remain hard. 
  • for the gelatine granules: in a small bowl, put half of the cold milk (165gr; 5.8 oz; 2/3 cup) and sprinkle the gelatine powder (1½ tsp) over it. 

Set aside for 5-10 minutes for the gelatine to soften, stirring with a rubber spatula once or twice to fully hydrate the gelatine; leave the spatula in the bowl.

Prepare your workplace; place a plate with a whisk next to the stovetop; having a plate handy helps you shift quickly between the spatula and the whisk during cooking. 

Sift the cocoa powder (50 gr; 1.8 oz.; 2/3 cup) through a fine mesh sieve and into a bowl; set aside. Note that cocoa powder always needs sifting, so do not skip this step even if, by judging by the looks of your cocoa powder, it seems unnecessary.

Bring the rest of the milk to a simmer: in a medium saucepan put the rest of the milk (165gr; 5.8 oz; 2/3 cup) and half of the sugar (95 gr; 3.35 oz.; 1/2 cup). Stirring often with a rubber spatula, bring the milk to a simmer (small bubbles begin to pop on the surface), count to 10 and remove from the heat. Do not let the milk simmer before the sugar dissolves, or it may curdle.

Add the sifted cocoa powder: immediately add the cocoa powder into the boiling hot milk and whisk vigorously to dissolve the cocoa powder -some cocoa lumps left are ok.

Add the softened gelatine along with its cold milk into the saucepan with the boiling-hot cocoa milk and stir immediately with the rubber spatula, thoroughly scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Blend with an immersion blender the now-lukewarm cocoa-milk , stopping once during blending to thoroughly scrape the sides and bottom of the saucepan with the rubber spatula. 

No, you’d better not. The reason is that when we use a regular blender to blend a mixture, part of the mixture stays in the bottom of the blender when we pour it off.

Although this quantity seems unimportant, it is a loss which affects this ice cream’s  balance. 

The reason for using a stick blender is that it is the most effective and easy way to dissolve even the smallest cocoa lumps, while keeping the loss of liquid to the minimum. If you do not have a stick blender, read “how to skip blending” below.

To skip blending, all you need to do is to make sure that no cocoa lumps remain in the cocoa milk and that the softened gelatine has fully dissolved. To do so, just follow these extra steps during the process:

  1. When you sift the cocoa powder, use a very fine mesh sieve. 
  2. When you add the cocoa in the boiling-hot milk, whisk and stir the cocoa mixture until absolutely no cocoa lumps remain.
  3. While the the cocoa-milk mixture is still warm, pass it through a fine mesh sieve, gently pressing through it any cocoa lumps left after sifting; tap the sieve over the bowl to release any cocoa-milk stuck beneath it, then stir the cocoa milk again.
  4. After sifting, give a last, thorough stir to the cocoa-milk for one minute. It may seem unnecessary, but it is the only way to efficiently dissolve the gelatine. 

Cool down the cocoa-milk: pour the cocoa-milk into a sealable container and leave it to cool down while you make the custard. 

Step 2: Make the custard

Prepare the egg yolks: put the cold egg yolks (80 gr; 2.8 oz) in a large heatproof bowl, and whisk them well to break them down. Put them in the fridge to keep them cold, leaving the whisk in the bowl. Aim to proceed with the recipe soon, as the egg yolks dry out quickly.

Bring the cream to a boil: in a medium saucepan, put the rest of the sugar (95 gr; 3.35 oz.; 1/2 cup) and all the heavy cream (375 gr; 13.2 oz; 1 and 2/3 cups). Warm over medium heat, stirring often with the rubber spatula, until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat to high and remove the egg yolks from the fridge. If the bowl with the egg yolks is lightweight, put a damp towel underneath to keep it in place while you pour the boiling cream in it. 

Pour the boiling cream into the egg yolks: as soon as the cream comes to a full boil (starts bubbling up vigorously), count 10 seconds, remove it from the heat, and immediately start pouring it in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolks with one hand, while whisking them vigorously with the other.

When you boil the cream with the sugar, keep an eye on it to avoid boiling it for too long. Boiling causes water to evaporate; and if we let the cream boil for too long, the loss of water will disturb the balance of the recipe. The result? Your ice cream may take forever to set and will melt rapidly as soon as you serve it. This happens because the ratio of the sugar in the final ice cream mixture will be more than it should.

Do not worry about it too much, through; just be mindful while the cream is warmed and as soon as you see the first bubbles appearing on the surface, count to 10 (as for 10 seconds) and remove it from the heat.

Stir: with a rubber spatula, stir well and thoroughly for one minute, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.

You have to stir the custard with a rubber spatula while it is still hot, thoroughly scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, where residues of egg yolk lie. Those residues, which you cannot see, are there and they should be incorporated into the rest of the mixture, while it is still hot. Stirring also makes the custard thicken slightly.

Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve and into a clean bowl; after straining there will be custard stuck beneath the sieve: release it into the bowl with the rest of the custard by gently tapping the sieve over the bowl and scraping it with the rubber spatula.

Cool down the custard: prepare an ice bath by putting ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl and carefully nest inside the bowl with the cocoa jelly, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave to cool down, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Chill the custard and the cocoa-milk

When the custard and the cocoa-milk have cooled down, you have to thoroughly chill them before proceeding. You can choose one of the two methods below:

Personally, I prefer the slow method, as during the refrigeration process the custard matures and the flavours improve. However, most people do not notice this flavour improvement, therefore feel free to follow the method which is more convenient to you.
Another thing to consider in choosing the fast method is whether you have enough ice to fully submerge the two bags.

Step 4: Make the ice cream mixture

When the custard is fridge-cold, and the cocoa jelly has set, you can proceed with the recipe.

Check if the cocoa-milk jelly has the right consistency:  shake the bowl; the cocoa-milk jelly should be jiggly, just to the point of setting. It should be neither pourable, nor too firm. (otherwise, read Troubleshooting right below).

If the cocoa-milk jelly is too firm, try to whisk it vigorously until it is smooth and no lumps remain. If this doesn’t work, use a food processor to pulse it briefly, add some of the whipped custard (after going through the “Whip the custard to soft peaks” below) and then pulse again. When smooth, you can add it to  the rest of the custard and proceed with the recipe (skip the “Smooth the cocoa-milk jelly” instructions and go straight to “Mix the cocoa-milk jelly with the custard”). 

If the jelly hasn’t set at all and is still fluid, try to thicken it by adding one more gelatine leaf (or 1/2 tsp. gelatine granules). This means that you will have to go again through the process of step 1, but this extra time and effort are the only way for this recipe to succeed. To do so, steep the gelatine leaf in the cold cocoa-milk-wannabe-jelly (if using gelatine granules, pour 2-3 tablespoons of the cold cocoa-milk into a bowl and sprinkle the granules over it); leave for 5-10 minutes to soften. In a small saucepan, gently warm some of the cocoa-milk-wannabe-jelly, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan, remove from the heat and add the softened gelatine leaf (or the gelatine granules along with its cocoa-milk) and stir well to fully dissolve. Then gradually add  all of the cold cocoa-milk into the warm saucepan, stirring well, return to the container and back to the fridge to set.

Stir: this cocoa ice cream mixture may become very thick after chilling, so give it a nice, vigorous stir with a rubber spatula to loosen it before whipping it; this will allow it to whip for longer and to acquire a better texture.

Whip the custard to soft peaks: pour the custard into a mixer bowl. With the whisk attachment on, whip at medium speed until the mixture is thick and dollopable: this is when the waves that the whisk leaves on the surface of the cream hold their shape well, instead of disappearing in the cream.

Smooth and lighten the cocoa-milk jelly: in a separate bowl, put the milk-cocoa jelly and whisk until it is smooth and no lumps remain. Add  2-3 tablespoons of the whipped custard to the cocoa-milk jelly and whisk to incorporate. With a rubber spatula scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Whisk again.

Combine the cocoa-milk jelly with the custard: add half of the lightened cocoa-milk jelly into the whipped custard and fold it in briefly with the rubber spatula; then add the rest of the cocoa-milk jelly and fold again until the mixture has a uniform brown colour, without streaks. If you do not feel confident with folding, use the mixer instead: add the lightened cocoa-milk jelly into the custard and whip at medium speed for one full minute. Stop the mixer, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, bringing everything upwards, then whip for 30 seconds more, or until the mixture has a uniform brown colour, without streaks.

Step 5: Freeze until set

Transfer the whipped mixture into a freezable container (1.75 litre/quart)Cover well and put it in the freezer until completely firm and set, preferably overnight. Do not let the surface of the ice cream stay in direct contact with the cover during setting, or it will cling to it. If needed, leave the ice cream uncovered for one hour to let the surface set, then cover it well.  

Alternatively, if using the ice cream mixture to fill a mould, (like ice cream pop mould, torte or sandwich), pour it there right after whipping. Let it freeze for 24 hours before cutting/unmoulding.

The setting time for this no-churn ice cream depends on your freezer. It is most likely that it will take 6-8 hours, but it is recommended to let it fully set overnight; you can tell if the ice cream has properly set, if you insert a knife into and it is hard to go all the way to the bottom*. When it is set, you can soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, by putting it in the refrigerator for one hour, which will finally give the best texture and mouthfeel to this ice cream. 

* if the ice cream is not ready yet, when you insert a knife, it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down. In this case, you have to let it set for longer.

Storage and serving

Storage: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells. 

Serving: before serving, soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, by putting it in the refrigerator for 1 hour (or 30 minutes if it is freshly made).

Use a rubber spatula: 

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

Use a saucepan with a long handle:

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 1 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: if the bowl with the eggs is lightweight, put a towel under it, to keep it in place while whisking.

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No-Churn Vanilla Bean Ice Cream | the Biterkin way​

May 24, 2021 | © 2021 Biterkin

This No-churn Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is the closest you can get to making ice cream at home, almost as if you had an ice cream maker. The method used to make it is a fairly unusual one and can be found exclusively here. So if it is your first time around, do print the recipe or save it somewhere, as it is the best way to make a no-churn ice cream, with the most amazing ice cream essence. 

What makes this no-churn ice cream special, it that it uses the exact ingredients that you would use to make a custard ice cream: milk, heavy cream, sugar and egg yolks, which result in a perfect ice cream flavour. To bring these ingredients together, we  additionally use gelatine leaves; or gelatine granules. The process is quite simple, you make a jelly with the milk, then you make a custard, chill them both, then mix them together and freeze. In the recipe you will find detailed instructions to get you through the process successfully.

What I love in this ice cream is its simplicity: it does not contain sweetened condensed milk, nor any specialty ingredients; and you will not need any fancy equipment or special folding skills. It requires only a mixer -hand-held being just fine-, and very little involvement.

Vanilla beans are considered a rare treat, especially the top-quality ones, which can be rather expensive. This No-churn Vanilla Bean Ice Cream will put your vanilla beans to good use, as their lovely, luxurious flavour will shine loud and clear through the milk and cream.  

The Biterkin tricks to a perfect No-Churn Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

If you love to know the whys behind this recipe, read below about the Biterkin way to making no-churn ice cream; this is the result of years of experimentation and cannot be found anywhere else. You can also find some tricks to farther boost the vanilla bean flavour, these are optional and each one of them adds up to creating the perfect vanilla bean experience.

When making a regular custard ice cream at home, we use milk, heavy cream, sugar and egg yolks and make an ice cream mixture by cooking the custard on the stovetop; then we chill it and churn in the ice cream maker. What happens during churning, is that air enters the ice cream mixture; this stays there because, at the same time, the mixture freezes. The air which stays trapped in the frozen mixture results in a fluffy ice cream, which retains its fluffiness in the freezer. If it weren’t for the air, the result would be a hard, frozen granita block, which would impossible to scoop out or be eaten with a spoon. 

So, the important thing when making ice cream is to incorporate air and keep it there. But how can you make ice cream without an ice cream maker? What you have to do is to incorporate air BEFORE freezing the ice cream mixture (as opposed to WHILE freezing it, which is what you do while churning in the ice cream maker). You can add air in a dairy mixture, by whipping it, but it must contain enough fat to make it whip-able. You can easily make a no-churn ice cream using just whipping cream, sugar and egg yolks with the right amount of fat (around 20%) to make it whippable. This kind of no-churn ice cream may be lovely, but lacks the one ingredient which gives it the perfect ice cream flavour: milk. 

While developing this no-churn ice cream-the Biterkin way-, the question was: how can we incorporate milk into the whipped custard, without deflating it? The answer came after experimenting with gelatine: we can make a light jelly made from milk and sugar. This makes the milk steady enough to incorporate it into the whipped custard, without deflating it. We then freeze the mixture into the freezer until set. The result is mind-blowing: it is just like real ice cream; or at least, the closest you can get to it, without using an ice cream maker. No fuss; no special folding skills; no special ingredients. As this method is unique and cannot be found elsewhere, it is fair enough to call it “the Biterkin way” to no-churn ice cream.

This is a no-churn custard ice cream, made with egg yolks, which give the best texture possible to the ice cream. When making custard at home, you are usually asked to use an instant-read thermometer to check if the custard has reached the right temperature, which is around 80ºC/176ºF. This is the temperature at which the custard is thickened; also, at this temperature, the eggs are perfectly safe to eat. But! While it is good to have a thermometer, it is only natural that you may not have one at home.

For this reason I have developed a very simple method, which uses the laws of physics to guarantee that the ice cream mixture is cooked to the right temperature. It is also the least labour-intensive one, as it does not require you to stand over the stovetop stirring until the custard is thickened. Instead, you only need to bring the cream and sugar to a full boil and then pour the mixture into the cold egg yolks, while whisking vigorously. It works every time, because by combining the right amount of boiling cream with the right amount of fridge-cold egg yolks you have a perfectly cooked custard.

For this method to work, you have to make sure that:

  1. the ingredients are properly measured; it is important that the ratio of “cold egg yolks to boiling cream” is right
  2. the egg yolks are cold from the fridge (which is around 4ºC;39ºF, no need to measure the temperature, refrigerator technology is our modern world’s advantage), and
  3. you bring the dairy to a full boil (which is around 100ºC;212ºF, no need to measure the temperature, the laws of physics work here for you) and immediately pour it over the egg yolks, while whisking vigorously. 

Most recipes using gelatine, ask you to soak the gelatine in cold water, before using it. But the problem when making this ice cream is that if we follow this path, we will end up with some extra water in our ice cream. Excess water in ice cream is something we need to avoid, as it creates ice crystals.

To fix this, we soak the gelatine directly in half of the cold milk used in the recipe. Additionally, we bring the rest of the milk to a boil along with the sugar, then add it directly into the softened gelatine and the cold milk. If we stir immediately and well, we bring the milk to the perfect temperature for the gelatine to fully dissolve, without destroying its setting properties, which could happen if the milk were too hot. 

Although one vanilla bean is enough to flavour this ice cream and everyone will love it anyway, you can add two vanilla beans, if you feel like making a top-notch ice cream. This is the extra mile and I rarely do it, with vanilla beans being so expensive, but sometimes I want to create a “fine dining restaurant” experience for my guests and then this vanilla seeds-loaded and vanilla flavour-bursting ice cream is the one which perfectly suits the occasion.

This is totally optional, but you can replace regular sugar with a good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado. These are sugars which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses, which gives them an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma, giving the final ice cream an aroma similar to that of vanilla’s.

By replacing regular sugar with a good quality raw cane sugar, you boost the vanilla flavour of the ice cream, which takes the vanilla-ness to the next level.

You will need a good-quality raw cane sugar to obtain the best results. To evaluate the quality of the sugar, you only have to sniff it; it should smell divine.  In my experience, the best Demerara sugar comes from the island of Mauritius, so I always check the packaging for the origin.

Your best option is vanilla extract labeled as “pure vanilla extract”. Always check the ingredients; it should contain water, alcohol and vanilla bean extract. If possible, avoid the ones containing sugar or any other ingredients; they may seem like a bargain as they are cheaper, but in fact you pay for a diluted product, resulting in a weak vanilla flavour.

If you don’t have pure vanilla extract, refer to the ingredients section below, where you can find information on other forms of vanilla and how to use them. 

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every single ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Do not play around trying to use low-calorie versions of the ingredients or changing the quantities. What you should use: 

The recipe at a glance:
No-Churn Bean Vanilla Ice Cream | the Biterkin way
Ingredients:

For best results, use a scale and measure the ingredients directly into the utensils, when you need them.

Avoid weighing in one utensil and transferring to another, as this causes a small, but significant loss of quantity, especially in liquids.

If using cups to measure the ingredients, make sure that you thoroughly scrap the cup after every measuring.

Use regular cow’s milk, fresh, with around 3,5% fat.

Do not substitute with light versions (lower fat) or non-dairy milk. Both the fat and the milk proteins are needed for the recipe to work. 

Use regular sugar (white granulated sugar), or a raw cane sugar such as Demerara or Turbinado, which will enhance the vanilla flavour of the ice cream.

Do not use sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia. Also, do not use confectioner’s sugar, it is not suitable for this recipe. 

Gelatine leaves: most gelatine leaves widely available, have the same setting properties. This means that 6 gelatine leaves should set 500 ml (2 cups) of liquid. (the gelatine leaves I use weigh 1.7 gr (0.6 oz) each and measure 11 x 7 cm (4.3 x 2.75 inches). But the most important aspect is their setting properties*.

Gelatine powder / granulated: this is usually sold in sachets; each sachet contains 2.5 tsp. gelatine powder and should set 500 ml (2 cups) of liquid*.

* The setting properties of the gelatine are usually written on the packaging of the product. However, if the one you use does not include this information, worry not, as in the recipe you are provided with detailed description on how the milk jelly should be like, and what to do in case it is not.

Only use heavy cream suitable for whipping, with 35-38% fat percentage.

Do not use lower fat versions, or else the custard may not whip.

Do not use any kind of non-dairy cream. 

If you live in the UK where heavy cream is not available, you can combine double cream and milk to create heavy cream.

For 500 gr (17.6 oz.) heavy cream you will need:

  • 350 gr double cream (12.3 oz.) (with 50% fat)
  • 150 gr/ml regular milk (5.3 oz.) (3.5% fat) *

To make the heavy cream, put the double cream in a large bowl, then pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring smoothly with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. You need the cream to be smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency. Resist the urge to  whisk, as it may turn it into whipped cream.

Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 500 gr (17.6 oz.) heavy cream needed.

* these 150 gr milk (5.3 oz.) are additional to the 325 gr milk (11.4 oz) asked in the recipe. This means that you will need in total 475 gr; milk (16.7 oz.), from which:

  • 325 gr (11.5 oz.) are for the recipe; and
  • 150 gr (5.3 oz.) are to mix with the double cream.

it is recommended to weigh the egg yolks, because egg sizes (and their yolks) may vary from my country to yours. If you do not have a scale, use only egg yolks from eggs which are in the range of around 65 – 75 gr; 2.3 – 2.65 oz (whole egg, in its shell). The weight of the eggs is written on their packaging and they may be labelled as “large” or “extra large”, depending on the country they are sold.

TIP: to separate the egg yolk from the white, do it when the eggs are cold from the fridge, as the egg yolks are firmer and are easy to handle.

A good vanilla bean looks fresh and plump. The plumper the vanilla bean, the more the seeds which hide inside it are; and the more flavourful the ice cream will be. 

Although one vanilla bean is enough for this recipe, you can use up to two vanilla pods if you feel generous. 

Tip: when it is time to remove the vanilla bean from the ice cream right before churning, give each halved bean a last scrape with your fingers (clean hands, please), holding the halved bean between your thumb and index finger and gently sliding it lengthwise over the ice cream mixture, to remove any seed residues which are attached on the pod, and add them in. The reason to do so, is that the vanilla bean softens after steeping in the ice cream mixture and any seeds which are still attached to it are easy to remove and add to your ice cream.

For a perfect vanilla ice cream flavour, prefer “Pure Vanilla Extract” over “Vanilla Essence”, if available. If not, a good quality vanilla essence is the next best option.

You can also use “Vanilla Paste”, to do so use the amount equivalent to half a vanilla pod as written on the product’s label.

Avoid “Imitation Vanilla Flavouring” and “Vanillin” in this recipe, if you want a natural vanilla ice cream flavour. If this is the one you have and prefer, you can definitely use it.

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would otherwise be left behind in bowls, saucepans, etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferring a flexible one.

Using a saucepan with a long handle is perfect for pouring the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other (step 2).

Bonus tip: if the bowl with the eggs is lightweight, put a slightly wet towel under it; this will keep it in place. 

A handheld mixer makes it easier to evaluate the stage of the whipping cream in step 3 and to stop when it reaches the desired consistency.

If you whip with a stand mixer instead, always keep an eye on it to avoid over-whipping.

It is recommended to use a stainless steel whisk to smooth the milk jelly in step 4, as opposed to a silicone one. A silicone whisk may not be steady enough to smooth the jelly.

Alternatively, if you use a hand-held mixer, you can as well transfer it to the bowl with the jelly and use this to smooth it.

Instructions
Step 1: Make the milk jelly

Soften the gelatine: 

  • for gelatine leaves: put them in a bowl and cover fully with roughly half of the cold milk (160gr; 5.6 oz; 2/3 cup).
  • for gelatine granules: put half of the cold milk (160gr; 5.6 oz; 2/3 cup) in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatine powder (1 tsp) over it.

Set aside for 5-10 minutes for the gelatine to soften.

Bring the rest of the milk to a boil:  in a medium saucepan put the rest of the milk (165 gr; 5.9 oz; 2/3 cup) and 60 gr (2 oz.; 5 Tbs) of the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often with a rubber spatula. Tip: do not let the milk boil before the sugar dissolves, or it may curdle.

When the milk comes to a full boil (starts bubbling vigorously), immediately remove it from the heat, and pour it over the gelatine leaves.

Stir well and thoroughly with a rubber spatula for one minute.

Cool down the milk jelly:  prepare an ice bath by putting ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl and carefully nest inside the bowl with the milk jelly, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave to cool down, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the custard. 

Step 2: Make the custard
Prepare the egg yolks: put the cold egg yolks (100 gr; 3.5 oz) in a large heatproof bowl, and whisk them well to break them down. Put them back in the fridge to keep them cold, leaving the whisk in the bowl. Do not do this ahead of time, as the egg yolks dry out quickly.

Bring the cream to a boil: in a medium saucepan, put the rest of the sugar (125 gr; 4.5 oz) and all the heavy cream (500 gr; 17.6 oz; 2 cups & 2 Tbs.). Warm over medium heat, stirring often with a silicone spatula, until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat to high and remove the egg yolks from the fridge. If the bowl with the egg yolks is lightweight, put a damp towel below to keep it in place while you pour inside the boiling cream. 

Pour the boiling cream into the egg yolks:  as soon as the cream comes to a full boil (starts bubbling up vigorously), immediately remove it from the heat, and immediately start pouring it in a steady stream into the egg yolks with one hand, while whisking them vigorously with the other.
Stir:  with a rubber spatula, stir well and thoroughly for one minute, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.

You have to stir the custard with a rubber spatula while it is still hot, thoroughly scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, where residues of egg yolk lie. Those residues, which you cannot see, are there and they should be incorporated into the rest of the mixture, while it is still hot. Stirring also makes the custard thicken slightly.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and into a clean bowl.

Scrape the vanilla seeds from the vanilla bean directly into the ice cream mixture and whisk to combine. Αdd the scraped vanilla bean, too. Lastly, add the vanilla extract (1 tsp.), if using.

Cool down the custard:  remove the milk jelly from the ice bath. Refresh the ice bath with ice cubes if needed and carefully nest the bowl with the custard inside, taking care that no water slips into it. Leave for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Chill the custard and the milk jelly

When the custard and the milk jelly have cooled down, you have to thoroughly chill them before proceeding. You can choose one of the two methods below:

Personally, I prefer the slow method, as during the refrigeration process the custard matures and the flavours improve. However, most people do not notice this flavour improvement, therefore feel free to follow the method which is more convenient to you.
Another thing to consider in choosing the fast method is whether you have enough ice to fully submerge the two bags.

Step 4: Make the ice cream mixture

When the milk jelly and custard are cold, you can proceed with the recipe.

Check if the milk jelly has the right consistency:  shake the container; the jelly should be jiggly, just to the point of setting. It should be neither pourable, nor too firm (if not, read Troubleshooting right below).

If the jelly is too firm, you can pulse it briefly in a food processor, add some of the whipped custard (see below how to “Whip the custard to soft peaks”) and then pulse again. When smooth, you can add to in the rest of the custard and proceed with the recipe (skip the “Smooth the milk jelly” instructions and go straight to “Mix the milk jelly with the custard”). 

If the jelly hasn’t set at all and is still. well, milk, try to add one more gelatine leaf (or 1/2 tsp. gelatine granules) by following again the process in step 1. Alternatively, if you are short of time, you can omit the milk jelly; without it, this no-churn ice cream won’t be the same, but it still is very good. To do so, follow from step 3 and afterwards of the No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream | the custard version (this recipe is more or less the same, minus the extra mile of adding gelatine and milk).

Whip the custard to soft peaks: pour the custard into the mixer bowl. With the whisk attachment on, whip at medium speed until the mixture is thick and dollopable: this is when the waves that the whisk leaves on the surface of the cream hold their shape well, instead of disappearing in the cream.

Smooth the milk jelly: in a separate bowl, put the milk jelly and whisk until it is smooth and no lumps remain. Add  2-3 tablespoons of the whipped custard to the milk jelly and whisk to incorporate. Using a rubber spatula scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Whisk again.

Mix the milk jelly with the custard: add the smoothed milk jelly into the whipped custard. Whip at medium speed for one full minute. Stop the mixer, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, bringing everything upwards, then whip for 30 seconds more.
Step 5: Freeze until set

Transfer the whipped mixture into a freezable container (1.75 litre/quart)Cover well and put it in the freezer until completely firm and set, preferably overnight (to soften it for serving, see “Storage and serving below).

If using as a filling in a mould, ice cream sandwich or a torte, use it directly after whipping. Freeze for 24 hours before cutting/unmoulding.

The setting time for this no-churn ice cream depends on your freezer. It is most likely that it will take 6-8 hours, but it is recommended to let it fully set overnight; you can tell if the ice cream has properly set, if you insert a knife into and it is hard to go all the way to the bottom*. When it is set, you can soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, by putting it in the refrigerator for one hour, which will finally give the best texture and mouthfeel to this ice cream. 

* if the ice cream is not ready yet, when you insert a knife, it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down. In this case, you have to let it set for longer.

Storage and serving

Storage: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells. 

Serving: before serving, soften it to a scoopable consistency, by putting it in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Use a rubber spatula: 

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

Use a saucepan with a long handle:

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 1 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the eggs vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: if the bowl with the eggs is lightweight, put a towel under it, to keep it in place while whisking.

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