Food & Drink

This is the easiest, fastest and best-tasting ice cream we've made all summer

No-Churn Bourbon Brown Sugar Ice Cream. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post. Food styling by The Washington Post’s Bonnie S. Benwick.
No-Churn Bourbon Brown Sugar Ice Cream. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post. Food styling by The Washington Post’s Bonnie S. Benwick.

While I absolutely love my ice cream machine and marvel at all that it can do, knowing how to pull off a great no-churn ice cream comes in handy whenever I need a frozen dessert in a hurry, or on those occasions when I want to serve a crowd. Compared with recipes for traditional ice cream, no-churn recipes are neither limited to the capacity of an ice cream machine nor do they require lengthy cooling for the pre-churned custard base.

Those advantages free me up to make more ice cream in less time, which is a win-win scenario for summer dessert - especially when it comes to this particular incarnation: a bourbon brown sugar ice cream spiked with cinnamon and vanilla. It is more than satisfying enough to stand as a dessert all on its own, but not so rich that it can’t be smothered with sundae toppings and paired with other desserts, where its butterscotch-y profile works with the likes of brownies, pecan pie and a bubbling blackberry cobbler. Beyond that, it can even be dressed up with a flavorful mix-in such as buttered pecans or crispy, chocolate-covered cereal bits.

The process is simple enough. I start with whole eggs and a blend of brown and white sugars, plus a shot of bourbon, cooked over a water bath to about 160 degrees. Aside from ensuring the eggs are fully cooked despite the addition of sugar, that specific temperature helps partially coagulate some of the egg proteins, making them easier to whip into a stable foam.

Once cooked, the eggs can then be whipped until they are thick enough to hold soft peaks - a stage cold eggs would never reach on their own. The timing will vary depending on the power of your electric appliance, but expect about 15 minutes using a typical handheld mixer; a stand mixer will generally cut that time in half. Once the egg foam is thick and pale, I whip a bit of cream to about the same consistency, making it easy to fold the two together. Aside from adding richness, whipped cream helps preserve the airy structure of the foamed eggs while providing the sort of fresh dairy flavor we expect from ice cream.

Whether you are making no-churn or traditional ice cream, the fastest way to freeze it is to increase its surface area. So for a batch this size, I like to scrape the prepared base into a 2-quart baking dish. Not only does the shape help the ice cream freeze faster, baking dishes tend to be made of glass, ceramic or stoneware. Heavy materials like those stay cold longer than metal or plastic, so the ice cream won’t melt prematurely when it is taken from the freezer. Plus, the shape of a baking dish creates a nice, long runway for pulling up big, round scoops of ice cream.

Because no-churn ice cream starts out so foamy and light, I let it thicken in the freezer for an hour before stirring in my favorite-mix in. Buttered pecans are a favorite with my family, but lately I’ve been melting coconut oil with chocolate (dark, milk or white) to create a crispy coating for my favorite cereal. Crunchy, low-sugar kinds work best (think Rice Krispies, Kix, Crispix, Chex).

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