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News / Life / Food

Homemade ice cream, DIY-style

Here’s how to make it, and other frozen treats, without using a machine

By Noelle Carter, Los Angeles Times
Published: August 30, 2016, 5:59am
3 Photos
Homemade Stracciatella (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times)
Homemade Stracciatella (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times) Photo Gallery

If there’s one dish that signifies summer, it’s probably ice cream. Be it a simple bowlful or carefully balanced scoops piled high in a sugar cone, this is the stuff of bright colors and vivid flavors, perhaps a little messy but always fun. It’s an easy antidote to the heat that takes us straight back to childhood.

And though there are plenty of great ice creams to be found around town at specialty shops and restaurants, sometimes nothing beats a batch of homemade. Many classic recipes start with a custard base and require the use of an ice cream machine or some sort of churner.

A few weeks ago, one of my nieces texted me from Sacramento, Calif., curious about an ice cream recipe using just a handful of ingredients and no special equipment. Google “low maintenance ice cream” and you’ll turn up millions of recipes. No rock salt. No ice. No valuable counter or cabinet space given to equipment that might be used only a few times a year.

No-churn ice creams are actually pretty simple to make, and most recipes pull from a couple of basic methods. One of the most common methods out there involves whipped cream: you just fold flavorings into the cream and freeze. There are also recipes for something similar to granita, where an ice cream base is stirred as it freezes, slowly forming a frozen dessert.

For the whipped cream method, many recipes call for whipping a can of condensed milk in with the cream to sweeten it. Beaten together, the cream and milk have a velvety consistency, whipped to incorporate just enough air for an almost marshmallow-like texture. As for flavorings, you can add instant coffee or pureed fruit, nuts or spices, vanilla seeds or bits of crunchy toffee or chocolate chips.

For a simple stracciatella — an Italian dessert similar to chocolate chip ice cream — freeze the mixture until it’s almost hardened, then drizzle melted chocolate over it. The chocolate hardens almost instantly, forming shards that break as the mixture is stirred. A little liquor will soften your frozen creation while adding flavor, preventing it from freezing too hard. This is your canvas.

Another easy method is freezing chopped fruit and then just blending it in a food processor or blender. And with all the summer produce available right now, the choices are almost endless – stone fruit, berries, melons, you name it.

Recently, I got a flat of O’Henry peaches at the farmers market. Back at home, I froze the chopped fruit with a little sugar and pureed the fruit in a food processor. I tossed the fruit with a touch of almond extract — it helps to round out the complexity of the stone fruit — in a food processor and pureed until the fruit was broken down and slushy. At this point, you could fold the fruit with whipped cream, mascarpone or even crème fraîche. Or try adding a little Greek yogurt — the lower water content gives the yogurt a rich creaminess that works well in frozen desserts — and it’s not quite so heavy.

For a dairy-free version of your frozen dessert, use bananas as a base. Like avocados, bananas have been used in both health-conscious and vegan circles for the creamy, custard-like texture they impart to smoothies, frozen desserts and other dishes.

Bananas pair well with many flavorings, and there are a number of banana-based ice cream recipes including chocolate, peanut butter, another fruit, even pretzels. (Depending on the flavor pairing, you might not even taste the banana in the finished dish.)

For a decidedly adult take on the dessert, pair the bananas with ground pecans, raw sugar, a little cinnamon — and some rum. You could serve it in bowls studded with bananas and flambéed, as a rum float, or in scoops piled high on a cone. Messy and fun. Just as summer should be.

Bananas Foster ‘Ice Cream’ (Vegan)

30 minutes, plus cooling and freezing times. Makes a generous quart.

n Candied Pecans

½ cup vegan “raw” or “turbinado” sugar

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

1½ cups raw pecans

n Bananas Foster ‘Ice Cream’

1½ cups raw pecans

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

6 tablespoons vegan “raw” or “turbinado” sugar

6 large bananas

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons rum, optional

Candied pecans

In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and oil, stirring frequently until the sugar is melted. Add the pecans and stir to coat completely. Remove from heat and spread the nuts out on a greased sheet of parchment paper to cool.

In the bowl of a food processor, grind the nuts until they are reduced to a coarse meal, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oil and sugar and continue to process until the nuts are reduced to a smooth paste, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Add the bananas and continue to process until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the cinnamon, vanilla and rum if using, and pulse a few times to combine. Stir in the candied pecans by hand.

Spoon the ice cream into a glass or plastic dish and cover the surface of the ice cream with plastic wrap before freezing.

Stracciatella Ice Cream

20 minutes, plus freezing time. Makes a generous 1 ½ quarts.

1 quart heavy whipping cream

Seeds from ½ vanilla bean

1 can condensed milk (14-ounce)

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the whipping cream to medium peaks, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla seeds, condensed milk and salt and beat again to medium peaks, 2 to 3 minutes.

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Spoon the ice cream base into a glass baking dish, flattening the top with a spatula. Cover the surface of the base with plastic wrap and freeze until the base begins to harden, 2 to 3 hours.

Place the chocolate chips and oil in a glass measuring cup and microwave, stirring every 15 seconds or so, until the chocolate is melted. When the ice cream is almost frozen, drizzle the surface with some of the melted chocolate, then stir the chocolate into the ice cream. Repeat, drizzling more chocolate and stirring it into the cold ice cream, until all of the chocolate has been added and the ice cream is flecked with bits of frozen chocolate.

Cover the surface of the stracciatella with a layer of plastic wrap and freeze until hardened.

Peach Frozen Yogurt

20 minutes, plus freezing time. Makes a generous quart.

2½ pounds ripe peaches

½ cup sugar, more if desired

½ teaspoon almond extract

¼ teaspoon salt

1½ cups whole milk Greek yogurt

Peel and dice the peaches. Toss the peaches with the sugar and spread out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until the peaches are solid.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the peaches and almond extract and pulse until the fruit is pureed and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the salt and yogurt. Pulse again a few times until the yogurt is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Spoon the base into a glass or plastic dish and cover the surface of the base with plastic wrap before freezing.