Beat the heat with no-churn ice cream

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

Happy National Ice Cream Month. Is there any food more welcome in the heat of summer than a frosty dish of ice cream? When temperatures start to sizzle (and they will soon, even though we've had a mild summer, so far), look to the freezer for some cold, creamy, fruity and delicious relief.

Sure, a trip to the ice cream shop is always a fun summer excursion, but homemade ice creams, gelatos, sorbets and granitas are such a breeze to prepare and a joy to eat that, if you plan ahead by a few hours, you won't have to leave home for the enjoyment. I have an ice cream maker. The problem is that I don't have enough freezer space to keep the canister chilled. So whenever I want some homemade ice cream, I have to plan ahead. That means I have to dig out some space in the already full freezer and let the canister chill for a couple of days. But once I figured out that I don't need that ice cream maker and all the fuss to go with it to make ice cream at home, my life changed (and sadly, my waistline along with it).

No-churn ice cream has been around for awhile, it's not a new concept, but I never really attempted it because I feared I wouldn't get the creamy, rich flavor that churned ice cream imparts. I imagined frosty crystals with no mouth feel. Ha!

Leslie Bilderback's book, "No-Churn Ice Cream" (St. Martin's Press, $22.99) not only showed me the cool way to no-churn, it also opened the door to some exciting new flavor combinations that make for some killer ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, and gelato.

The hero ingredient here is sweetened condensed milk because it's the perfect stand-in for the classic ice cream custard, which needs to be heated and stirred to thicken. Heavy cream is also the star and, with the two of them whipping together in perfect harmony, you can create just about any frosty delight you can think of in only minutes.

Fresh fruits, candied nuts, cookies and sauces also add another level of texture and flavor. And Bilderback shows that you can make a fantastic savory palate cleanser with tomatoes, cucumber and cilantro. Spike up the heat a little and omit the sugar and you got an icy alternative to gazpacho.

Variations are the head turners here: Bilderback counts on a few cooks to push the ice cream envelope and offers ideas such as vanilla-lobster ice cream made with sweet succulent lobster sauted in butter with sugar and vanilla then folded into a vanilla custard base to serve with shortbread cookies or a fruit salsa. She also pops up the pineapple ice cream with some rosy pink peppercorns, which add a hint of heat.

I know that there are probably not enough summer days to try every recipe in the book (there are more than 100 no-machine treats), but I plan to continue to make some frozen favorites on through the year — and my ice cream freezer will continue to collect dust on the shelf.

klawson@detroitnews.com

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Espresso Gelato

From "No-Churn Ice Cream" by Leslie Bilderbeck. Make a batch of brownies or blondies and serve them with a scoop of this gelato.

1/4 cup Italian espresso beans, ground for drip

(or 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder or coffee extract)

1 cup evaporated milk

3 tablespoons coffee liqueur (Kahlua, for example)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

One 13-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups heavy cream

Combine the ground espresso beans and the evaporated milk in a small saucepan, bring just to a boil, then set aside to steep and cool completely. Strain through a very fine–mesh strainer, or multiple layers of cheesecloth, to remove the coffee grounds.

In a large bowl, combine the coffee milk with the liqueur, vanilla, lemon juice, salt, and sweetened condensed milk.

In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until it reaches soft peak. Fold the cream gently into the coffee base, then transfer the mixture to a shallow freezable container.

Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper pressed directly on the surface of the ice cream, and place in the freezer for 6 hours.

Scoop and serve with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, a drizzle of coffee liqueur, chocolate-covered espresso beans, crushed almond toffee, or a simple dollop of whipped cream and a shake of cinnamon, like a cappuccino. Makes 1 quart or 8 servings.

Variations

Cinnamon-Coffee: Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the milk just after it is warmed, then proceed with the recipe as directed.

Flavored Coffee: Add one of those Italian coffee syrups to your espresso base instead of the coffee liqueur. Hazelnut, vanilla, caramel — whatever you like in your latte will work here!

Mocha: Add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the milk just after it is warmed, then proceed with the recipe as directed. Alternatively, layer the ice cream base with chocolate ganache as it is packed for the freezer.

Coffee-Orange: Add the finely grated zest of 2 oranges to the base before the whipped cream is folded in. Serve this with whipped cream and a candied orange peel garnish. Yum.

Per serving: 421 calories; 29 g fat (18 g saturated fat; 62 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 30 g sugar; 107 mg cholesterol; 134 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 0 g fiber.

Caramel Ice Cream

Recipe from "No-Churn Ice Cream" by Leslie Bilderbeck

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 cups evaporated milk

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups heavy cream

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. (Choose a pan that seems a bit too big — you'll see why in a minute.) Gently mix the sugar and water together so that it resembles wet sand. Be sure there are no stray grains of sugar on the side of the pan. Wash these down with a wet hand to prevent crystallization. Place the pan on the stovetop over high heat. Do not move the pan around or stir.

When the sugar begins to boil, add the lemon juice. Do not stir it in — the bubbles will do the stirring for you. Continue to cook until the mixture turns a dark amber color. This will happen fairly fast, so stay close. When it does, remove the pan from the heat.

Immediately whisk in the evaporated milk. The mixture will bubble up and steam like molten lava, so be prepared for that. Some cooks like to wear an oven mitt to protect their hands from the steam. When the milk is well incorporated, add the vinegar and salt. Cool the mixture completely over an ice bath.

In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until it reaches soft peak, then gently pour the cooled caramel mixture on top and fold them together. Transfer the mixture to a shallow freezable container.

Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper pressed directly on the surface of the ice cream, and place it in the freezer for 6 hours.

Scoop and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche, toasted nuts, sautéed pears, winter fruit compote, or a sprinkle of sea salt. Makes 1 quart or 8 servings.

Variations

Tangerine-Caramel: Add the finely grated zest of 4 tangerines and 2 tablespoons of orange liqueur to the caramel base. Serve with a mixture of winter citrus. For added zing, this combination pairs well with a little heat from red chile flakes; add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.

Caramel-Fleurdesel: Put an inch of your ice cream base in the freezable container, then sprinkle a layer of your finest sea salt on top. Repeat with another inch of ice cream, more sea salt, etc., until the container is full. Freeze as directed. The salt will be more apparent on the palate when sprinkled in this manner, as opposed to stirring it into the base.

Turtle Ice Cream: Toast 2 cups of chopped pecans until golden brown and fragrant. When completely cool, put an inch of ice cream base in the freezable container, then sprinkle on some pecans, and swirl chocolate ganache on top. Repeat with another inch of ice cream, more pecans and ganache, etc., until the container is full. Freeze as directed. Don't stir it into a swirl. The ice cream will swirl itself as you scoop.

Caramel and Winter Fruits: Caramel is the perfect counterpoint to rich, sweet, and tangy dried fruits. Make your own 2-cup blend of your favorite dried fruits. Consider apricots, dates, figs, golden raisins, currants, dried cherries, or cranberries. Add the zest of 1 orange and 1/4 cup of dark rum or brandy. Cover with boiling water and set aside to plump and cool for at least 30 minutes (ideally overnight). Drain off the liquid before layering the fruit with the caramel ice cream for a swirl.

Ice Baths

The fastest way to cool something down is over ice water. You need two containers, one smaller than the other. Fill the large one half full of ice. Fill the smaller one with the mixture to be cooled. Nestle the small container in the ice, then add water to the larger container of ice. Stir the mixture every few minutes for speediest cooling. This is also the safest way to cool anything, taking it out of the food danger zone (40 to 140 degrees is the ideal temperature for bacteria growth), and faster than any other cooling method.

Per serving: 385 calories; 27 g fat (17 g saturated fat; 63 percent calories from fat); 32 g carbohydrates; 25 g sugar; 101 mg cholesterol; 210 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 0 g fiber.

No Churn Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

Recipe from Minimalist Baker.com

2 14-ounce cans coconut cream or full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge (I like Trader Joe's coconut cream, or Thai Kitchen coconut milk)

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder

14-16 ounces pitted dates (if not sticky and moist, soak in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

Optional Add-Ins

1 ounce espresso, cooled

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cacao nibs

Place a large mixing bowl in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, add moist, pitted dates to a food processor and process until small bits remain. Then add hot water a little at a time until it forms a thick paste. Set aside.

Without tipping the cans, scoop out the coconut cream from the cans of coconut cream OR coconut milk, reserving the clear liquid for other uses. Place in chilled mixing bowl.

Note: If you're using coconut milk, you'll likely use less sweetener because there's less volume.

Using a mixer, whip until creamy and smooth. Then add cocoa powder, vanilla, almond milk and half of the date paste. Whip until fully incorporated.

Taste and adjust flavors as needed. I ended up adding most of the date paste and a little more cocoa powder.

Transfer to a parchment-lined freezer-safe container and cover loosely with plastic wrap, then foil to help freeze.

You can take this out in a couple of hours for a chilled mousse-like ice cream. Freeze overnight for a firmer ice cream.

Set out for at least 20 minutes prior to scooping, and use a scoop warmed under hot water for a proper scoop.

Will keep in the freezer for up to one week, but best when fresh. Serves 12.

Per serving (per 1/2 cup): 272 calories; 16 g fat (14 g saturated fat; 53 percent calories from fat); 34 g carbohydrates; 26 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 19 mg sodium; 3.4 g protein; 6 g fiber.

Tomato-Cucumber Sorbet

Recipe from "No-Churn Ice Cream," by Leslie Bilderback.

8 fresh or canned ripe plum

Roma tomatoes, halved

1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Juice and zest of 1 lime

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch of salt

Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor or bar blender and process until smooth, adding cold water slowly, as needed, to facilitate the blending. Add the lime zest and juice, sugar, and salt, then adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a shallow freezable container. Cover loosely with plastic or waxed paper and place in the freezer. Stir every 30 minutes until it starts to hold its shape. In about 4 hours it will have attained a scoopable consistency.

Scoop into chilled glasses or bowls. As a palate cleanser, serve with a sprig of cilantro. As an appetizer, use it to top a fresh cucumber, radish, and onion salad. Makes 1 quart or 8 servings.

Variation

Gazpacho Sorbet: This is the same basic idea, but much more flavorful, because it is not intended to cleanse the palate, but to excite it. Omit the sugar from the above recipe and add to the blender a full cup of fresh cilantro, 2 chopped scallions, 1 roasted Anaheim or poblano chile, and1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin.

Per serving: 33 calories; 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat; 0 percent calories from fat); 8 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 29 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber.

No Churn Pineapple Ice Cream

Adapted from "No-Churn Ice Cream." This is fantastic served with toasted coconut topping.

2 cups pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes (or you can use crushed pineapples)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, crushed (can use black peppercorns)

14 ounce-can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups whipping cream

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together pineapple and vanilla extract.

Pour the pineapple mixture into a blender and blend to an applesauce consistency (you can leave it chunkier if you prefer)

In a large bowl, stir the pineapple mixture, peppercorns into the condensed milk. Set aside.

In a large, chilled bowl (I used my stand mixer bowl), beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form.

Gently stir about 1 cup of the whipped cream into the pineapple mixture until well mixed.

Fold the remaining whipped cream into the pineapple mixture.

Scrape the entire mixture into a large plastic container, cover with lid and freeze overnight. Makes 1 quart. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 388 calories; 27 g fat (16 g saturated fat; 63 percent calories from fat); 34 g carbohydrates; 32 g sugar; 99 mg cholesterol; 86 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber.