This no-churn vanilla 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.
If you love to know the whys behind this recipe, read below about the Biterkin way on making this no-churn ice cream. It is the result of years of experimentation and cannot be found anywhere else. You will also find some tricks to achieve the perfect vanilla flavour.
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:
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.
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.
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.
By replacing regular sugar with a raw cane sugar like the above, you boost the vanilla flavour of the ice cream, creating the ultimate vanilla ice cream experience.
In order for this to work, the raw cane sugar you use should be of good quality. 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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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 two vanilla pods 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.
Soften the gelatine:
Set aside for 5-10 minutes for the gelatine to soften.
Bring the rest of 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.
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 over 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.
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.
When it has cooled down, remove from the ice bath, add the vanilla extract (2 Tbs.) and stir well.
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:
Pour the milk jelly into an airtight container and cover well.
Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve and cover.
Put them in the refrigerator and let them chill for 8-12 hours; or up to 3 days.
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.
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.
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: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells.
Scooping: 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.