Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook. Today: 4 ingredients. 1 step. No cooking. No churning. Ice cream!
Not having an ice cream maker never stopped us before. We’ve done all kinds of weird stuff in the name of doing it for ourselves. We’ve nested coffee cans and shaken (or kicked) them; we’ve returned obsessively to the freezer to stir; we may or may not have purchased this ball.
I am so impressed with us for doing all of that! We did a really good job of making ice cream, against all odds. But instead of doing any of it, you can glide over to your cupboard like you’re Nigella Lawson, find four ingredients, whip them into a cloud, then freeze—they will become ice cream while you go on with your day.
It’s really as simple as that—there’s no egg to deal with, nothing to heat or temper or ice bath or strain. Just cream and sweetened condensed milk, flavored with espresso powder and liqueur. The sugar and booze keep it from getting hard and icy; the whipped cream provides air (and, yes, cream); the thick condensed milk helps do the work of a custard.
“When I was a child, I used to make an ice cream with my great aunt that required no special equipment (save a freezer) and was the work of moments and a trio of ingredients: condensed milk, heavy cream, and vanilla,” Lawson wrote to me. “Needless to say, it was sickly sweet, but more latterly it occurred to me that by adding bitterness or sharpness—coffee, bourbon and salted caramel, the fixings for a margarita, the combined juices of pomegranate and lime—this effortless ice cream could make life subtly sweeter in the grown-up world.”
More: Serve it with another genius Nigella dessert: Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake.
The ice cream will have a creamy, almost buttery smoothness. The first time, I whipped it a bit too far and it had a more noticeably buttery quality—not the worst problem, but an avoidable one. The sweet spot is just when the whisk leaves trails in the bowl (I was trying to be proper and hold a soft peak when I lifted the whisk out—no need).
You can try all kinds of variations—Lawson has worked out at least six others for us. Food52er mrslarkin has this to add: “I loved this recipe so much that I made a mint chip version, using gin, mint extract, and grated chocolate, which was very delicious.” Definitely make a no-churn ice cream cake.
Or, like Lawson, “You could (and I often do) serve it with a chocolate sauce but my absolute favourite way of eating this is by squidging it into little brioches, like sweet burger buns, as they do in the south of Italy.”
Adapted slightly from Nigellissima (Clarkson Potter, 2013)
1 1/4 cup (300 milliliters) heavy or double cream, well-chilled
2/3 cup (175 grams) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons espresso liqueur
Very much like Nigella’s ice cream, this sunny, summery wonder from Southern cooking legend Dori Sanders requires no complex custard-making or churning. Just cream, whole milk, a good bit of sugar, and a ripe lemon (zest and juice, please). The genius here is in that very lemon, which, in addition to adding flavor to the mix, encourages creaminess. The acid in the juice thickens the mixture without whipping or, really, fussing at all. Just pick up a whisk and get to it.
Kulfi, a cousin to ice cream beloved in the Indian Subcontinent, typically requires a lot of love, care, and dedicated stirring (one of the reasons it’s so good!). Luckily for us, cookbook author Meera Sodha found a way to replicate kulfi’s signature creaminess without all that (literal!) pot-watching, using a few notable milk tricks: She heats canned evaporated milk and fresh cream together with fragrant rose water and cardamom, pours it into ice-pop molds, then cools it all the way down. That’s it! An utterly creamy, kulfi-like treat awaits.
This recipe showed us that just about anything can become ice cream if you dream big enough. Even—especially!—a humble frozen banana. Because of its high pectin content, the fruit whips up like marshmallow fluff in your food processor. The deep freeze also mellows the straight-on banana flavor, opening up the “recipe” for lots of mix-ins, riffs, and toppings.
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what’s so smart about it) at [email protected]—thanks to Food52ers mrslarkin and Ina-Janine for this one!
Photos by James Ransom
This article was originally published in August 2014, but we’re sharing it again because it’s that genius. The Food52 editors also added a few more very Genius ice creams you can (and should!) make this summer.