I once made Brussels sprout ice cream.
Allow me to explain. Instead of going to the movies, my boyfriend and I make ice cream on Friday nights. And over four years, we’ve found ourselves in some flavor territories better left uncharted.
We’ve based most of our adventures on a recipe from this magazine’s sister publication, Cook’s Illustrated. It calls for using an ice cream maker to create a delightfully rich and luxurious texture, and it can accommodate all sorts of flavors and mix-ins.
An ice cream maker works by churning a mixture (usually milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks) as it freezes to keep the ice crystals small as they form and to incorporate air—so that instead of a solid block of frozen milk, you have silky, scoopable ice cream.
But did we really need to use the machine? Last year, I found a recipe for a no-churn orange ice cream tucked in my editor’s grandmother’s recipe box. It called for whipping heavy cream in a blender to stiff peaks and then blending in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, corn syrup, sugar, and citrus zest and juice—about a minute of work. No ice cream machine, no churning. You just pop the blended mixture in the freezer and wait.
The results rocked my world: velvety, creamy, scoopable ice cream. How could it be? As I read through the ingredient list, one piece of the puzzle was clear. The whipped cream—or, more specifically, the air trapped within it—stood in for the air normally incorporated by an ice cream maker. But in my experiments, I learned that too much air was trouble. When I used a stand mixer instead of a blender to whip the cream, I introduced too much air and ended up with a texture similar to that of frozen whipped topping. Not bad, but it wasn’t ice cream. I’d stick with the blender, which produces whipped cream that’s not quite as fluffy—a positive here.
The sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup called for in the heirloom recipe, both liquid sweeteners, helped create a smooth texture. I’d keep those. I found that I could replace the evaporated milk with whole milk (which I had on hand) with no negative effects. Two cups cream to 1 cup sweetened condensed milk and ¼ cup whole milk was the best, most consistent ratio.
This basic formula proved very adaptable. A hefty 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon of salt (to enhance the flavor) produced an intense vanilla ice cream with a texture that could hold a generous scoop of add-ins.
Melted chocolate incorporated beautifully. Soft stir-ins such as jams and caramel took a bit more experimentation, but with some tinkering and a light hand, I found the ratios that worked.
With a blender, some pantry ingredients, and a little know-how, the ice cream world can be your oyster. (But please don’t put oysters in your ice cream—or Brussels sprouts. Trust me.)