Philadelphia - style
Ice Cream

Philadelphia - style Ice Cream

January 13, 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

scoops of philadelphia-style ice cream
scoops of philadelphia-style ice cream

Philadelphia-style ice cream is the simplest ice cream you can make at home with your ice cream maker. The process is very simple, you just warm the milk with the sugar, then mix with the heavy cream and chill before churning. In terms of flavour, it is plainly milky, very similar to a vanilla soft-serve ice cream.

What differentiates it from other kinds of ice cream, is that we do not thicken the ice cream mixture. Ice creams are usually thickened to give them a nice body which melts slowly and uniformly. At home, we thicken the ice cream mixture using egg yolks or cornflour (aka cornstarch), which also help to retain the ice cream’s texture in the freezer for longer. But this adds time and ingredients to the process, which could  well be avoided, if you do not mind the melting and a shorter-term storage.

For me, Philadelphia-style ice cream is the ice cream I make when I have friends coming over and I need to make a quick, crowd-pleasing ice cream. I make the ice cream mixture the day before, churn it in the morning and serve it directly from the ice cream bowl, a few hours later. And honestly, whoever eats it, joyfully enjoys it. So if you choose to make it, know that you are not cheating or compromising just because it is so easy and needs only three ingredients. It is still a perfect ice-cream that will make everyone happy.

The Biterkin trick for a perfect Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream:

If there is one downside with most Philadelphia-Style Ice Cream recipes out there, it is that the ice cream will appear grainy during churning. This happens because the fat in the dairy tends to separate from its water, due to the absence of a thickening agent. To avoid it and achieve a flawless churning and a smoother finished ice cream, you can simply blend the chilled ice cream mixture for one minute just before pouring it in the ice cream maker for churning.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

to show the ingredients of philadelphia-style ice cream

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 and sweeteners, such as stevia/other decreased-calorie sugars. Look out for these:

The recipe at a glance:
Philadelphia - style Ice Cream recipe

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.

This recipe yields 1.2 lt/qt ice cream mixture, which is perfect for ice cream makers with 1.5 litre/quart capacity and up.

However, if you own a smaller ice cream maker, or if you do not want to buy more than a pint (or 500 ml) of heavy cream, you can still make this recipe, using these quantities:

  • 300 gr milk (10.6 oz; 300 ml; 1⅓ cup)
  • 145 gr sugar (5.1 oz; 3/4 cup)
  • 500 gr heavy cream (17.7 oz; 1 pint; 500 ml; 2 cups and 2 Tbs.)

Any declinations on conversions above, are intentional and do not affect the outcome of the recipe.

Only use regular, whole cow’s milk, fresh, with around 3,5% fat.

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

Use regular sugar (white granulated sugar).

Although you could use a raw cane sugar such as turbinado or demerara, note that it will change the flavour profile 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.

For best results, use heavy cream with 35-37% fat percentage. It should be of pourable consistency. Do not use lower fat versions. 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.

To make 635 gr (22.4 oz) heavy cream you will need:

  • 440 gr/ml double cream (15.5 oz) (with 50% fat)
  • 190 gr/ml regular milk (6.7 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, whisking smoothly after each addition until just incorporated. Do not over-whisk, or else it will turn into whipped cream; stop when the cream is smooth and preferably with a pourable consistency.

Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 635 gr; 22.4 oz. heavy cream needed.

* these 190 gr milk (6.7 oz.) are additional to the 380 gr (13.4 oz) asked in the recipe. This means that you will need 570 gr; milk (20.1 oz.) in total; 380 gr; 13.4 oz for the recipe; and 190 gr; 6.7 oz to mix with the double cream.medium

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.

Fact: When you boil milk, it curdles.

But you can boil milk with sugar; just make sure that the sugar fully dissolves before raising the heat: gently warm the milk and sugar over medium heat, stirring often to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved; then you can raise the heat and bring it to a boil. If the milk boils before all the sugar has dissolved, it will curdle.


Before starting, make sure that your ice cream maker is ready for churning when needed. This means that if it has a removable freezer bowl, it should be put in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer, usually 24 hours.

If you intend to transfer the ice cream to a container to store the ice cream, put this container in the freezer well ahead of time, too; this will prevent the ice cream from melting upon contact with it.

Step 1: Make the ice cream mixture

Put the heavy cream (635 gr; 22.4 oz.; 2¾ cups) into a large bowl.

Boil the milk and sugar: in a medium saucepan put the milk (380 gr; 13.4 oz.; 1⅔ cups) and the sugar (185 gr; 6.5 oz.; 3/4 cup and 1 Tbs.)warm over medium-high heat, stirring often. 

Bring to a boil and let it boil briefly for 10 seconds; remove from the heat and pour the hot milk over the heavy cream and into the bowl.  Tip: do not let the milk boil before the sugar fully dissolves, or the milk may curdle. Stirring often helps the sugar dissolve efficiently.

When you boil the milk, set a timer (or count to 10) to avoid boiling it for too long. Boiling causes water to evaporate; and if we let the milk boil for too long, the loss of water will disturb the balance of the recipe. The result? You may end up with a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream after churning, as the ratio of the sugar in the final ice cream mixture will be more than it should.

Do not worry about it too much, though; just use a medium saucepan (a large one will make the water evaporate more quickly), stay around; and set a timer as soon as you see the first bubbles appearing on the surface.

Step 2Chill the ice cream mixture

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

Chill thoroughly: when you churn it with the ice cream maker, the ice cream mixture should be thoroughly cold. To chill it, use one of the two methods below (click on methods to read more):

Personally, I prefer the slow method, as during the refrigeration process the ice cream mixture 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 ice cream bag.

When churning with a domestic ice cream maker, your ice cream mixture should always be thoroughly chilled. Otherwise, your ice cream maker may not be able to churn the ice cream to its fullest potential, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs. a fluffy ice cream.

Step 3: Blend and churn the ice cream

Check the ice cream mixture: if it is thoroughly chilled, before churning: it should feel fridge-cold to the touch (or if you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read 4ºC–8ºC / 39ºF-46ºF).

Prepare the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

(optional, but good to do for a smoother churning) Blend the ice cream mixture (with a blender or a stick blender) for 1 minute and immediately pour into the ice cream maker with the machine running. (optional, but good to do; results in smoother churning)

Churn until the ice cream is fluffed up and creamy. Depending on your ice cream maker, this may take anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

this philadelphia-style ice cream will expand and fluff up during churning. It is ready when it looks smooth and fluffy. This could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending your ice cream maker.

To evaluate if it’s ready, lift a spoonful; it should be thick enough to stand on the spoon, but still be soft like soft-serve ice cream. If, upon lifting some ice cream with the spoon, a pool immediately starts forming on its edges, you will have to churn it for longer. 

In any case, if you feel doubts about the consistency, leave it for ten minutes more. But beware: at this stage, do not expect it to be like store-bought carton ice cream; for now it should be more like soft-serve ice cream. It will firm up and become like store-bought ice cream only after it sets in the freezer. 

So, stop the ice cream maker when it is thick and creamy, as described above. If you leave it for much longer, it will start turning grainy.

Step 4: Put in the freezer to set

Put in the freezer to set: before serving the ice cream or removing it to a container for storage, you have to put it in the freezer to set. Remove the removable freezer bowl (still filled with the ice cream) from the ice cream machine, cover with a lid and put it in the freezer to set. Setting time depends highly on the type of ice cream maker you use; see notes below for indicative times.

Serve or store: when it sets, you can serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl or transfer it to an airtight container for longer storing.

The setting time for the ice cream largely depends on the type of ice cream maker you use.

This can take :

  • anywhere from 1 to 4 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning). 
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

Note: the times given are indicative, actual time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it every one hour or two, while it sits in the freezer. For example, with my Cuisinart ice cream maker, it takes one hour for the ice cream to set, whereas with the Krups ice cream maker it takes 3 hours. 

To evaluate if the ice cream has properly set, insert a knife into it, all the way to the bottom:

  • if it is properly set, it will be soft enough for the knife to be inserted into it, and yet have the same consistency from top to bottom
  • if it is not ready yet, it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down
  • if it is too hard for the knife to insert, you may have left it in the freezer for too long. You can still bring it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, just read the troubleshooting guide below.

Straight after churning, the ice cream has a soft-serve consistency and melts immediately upon contact with anything. This makes it impossible to serve or transfer to another container.

Putting it directly in the freezer after churning, will help it set and reach the right consistency.

Then you can serve it or transfer to a sealable container for longer storing.

If the ice cream stays in the removable freezer bowl for too long, it will harden and will be difficult to remove or serve.

Do not worry though, you can still make it scoopable by leaving it in the refrigerator to soften. This can take :

  • 4-6 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which must be frozen before churning)
  • 1 hour for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

(Note: the time given is indicative, actual time may vary depending many factors, so do check it once in a while while it sits in the refrigerator).

After this, the ice cream will be easy to scoop and transfer to another container; or serve directly from the ice cream maker.

Storage and serving

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

Scooping: this ice cream, like all artisanal ice creams, freezes hard in the long term. To soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, put it in the refrigerator for one 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.

How to boil milk (because it is a fact; when you boil milk, it curdles.):

But when you add sugar, you can safely bring milk to a boil; just make sure that all the sugar has dissolved before raising the heat to high. To achieve this, gently warm the milk with the sugar  over medium heat, stirring often to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved; then you can raise the heat and safely bring it to a boil. If the milk boils before all the sugar has dissolved, it will curdle.

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