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The Perfect No-Cook Vanilla Ice Cream Base

The Perfect No-Cook Vanilla Ice Cream Base

Last Updated on September 18, 2020 20 Comments

I love ice cream. But I'm also very lazy. So obviously, a no-cook ice cream base will always be the holy grail for me!

With a no-cook ice cream, you just mix all the cold ingredients together and then pop the mixture straight into your ice cream maker. Easy. And you win so many times...

  • less time and effort preparing the recipe
  • less time and effort spent washing up
  • no time at all wasted waiting for the mixture to cool down!

So, you work less and get to eat ice cream sooner. What's not to love? Well, the problem is that most no-cook ice creams are horrible.

The most common recipe you'll find on the web is a Philadelphia base that goes something like this:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¾ cup sugar

Bleugghh. Too fatty and sweet for me. And it gets really icy, really quickly in the freezer.

Most no-cook ice creams are too fatty and too sweet

And this is the problem with most no-cook ice creams. In order to work without cooking, they're often loaded up with fat and sugar. And because they don't use eggs or anything else to stabilize the ice cream, they quickly deteriorate in the freezer.

There's loads of ways round this using fancy sugars and stabilizers. But most people don't have easy access to these ingredients.

What I'm looking for...

I wanted to make a no-cook ice cream that didn't compromise either taste or texture and could be made with ingredients that are easy to find in most supermarkets. So it should:

  1. taste great (of clean dairy cream rather than of over sweetened fat)
  2. not become icy straight away in the freezer
  3. be made from easily available ingredients.

Not easy, it's true. Almost every recipe on the internet (and to be honest, there aren't many that don't use the aforementioned Philadelphia base), uses far more cream than milk and I know that means they're going to be too fatty for me.

However I did find a different Philadelphia base recipe in the book Ices: The Definitive Guide by Liddell and Weir which actually uses more milk than cream:

  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of cream
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of sweetened condensed milk

So I tried this and it was pretty good. Clean and milky with a nice firm body. The condensed milk gave the ice cream a slightly chewy texture and a very subtle cooked flavor that was in fact, quite nice.

Condensed Milk

The liquid sugar in the condensed milk no doubt helped control the ice crystals. However it was still a little bit icy. And it did get more icy, quite quickly in the freezer. And in the end, I decided the condensed milk gave the ice cream slightly too much chew. It was a bit toffee like.

Condensed milk

My condensed milk is 8% fat 55% sugar and 7% proteins 

But this recipe was good starting point. All I had to do was reduce the condensed milk and control the iciness. The thing is, removing some of the condensed milk was actually likely to increase the iciness. I had to replace it with something else.

Skimmed Milk Powder

Enter skimmed milk powder (SMP). It's easily available in the supermarket, it will replace the milk solids from the condensed milk and by soaking up the water in the milk, it should also help control the iciness.

Skimmed milk powder

SMP will add body and control iciness

But by replacing some of the condensed milk with SMP, we're also reducing the sugar level. On one hand, this is great as it allows us to taste more of the dairy flavors. But on the other hand, less sugar means the ice cream will freeze much harder in the freezer.

We could add a tablespoon of vodka to help keep the ice cream softer in our freezers. But I just leave it out a good five minutes before I serve it, to soften up. And this works fine!

Extra Stabilization?

Any ice crystals that melt while left out, will re-freeze as bigger crystals back in the freezer. I wanted to control this by adding extra stabilization. And with luck, this should also improve the general smoothness and creaminess of the ice cream. But what to use?

Eggs are what we'd usually use. And while there are recipes that use raw eggs in un-cooked ice cream, I didn't think it would appeal to many people! The thing is, most other stabilizers require heating to trigger them. For example, cornstarch, tapioca starch, locust bean gum all need to be heated or they won't work.

Xanthan Gum

The only ones I can think of that don't are Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum. While Guar Gum can still be pretty difficult to get hold of, Xanthan Gum is often used by vegans as an egg replacement in baking. So it should be in the health section of most big supermarkets. Or if not, your local health food shop.

Xanthan gum

Xanthan gum works at cold temperatures

With Xanthan Gum a little goes a long way. We don't need much and in fact, if you do use too much it can give the ice cream a slightly slimy texture. So be careful! Your measurement need to be exact.

You don't have to use any Xanthan Gum, but it will definitely make this ice cream better. It will be smoother coming out of the ice cream maker and will take longer to go icy once it's stored in your freezer.

Vanilla

I actually prefer this base without any vanilla. But if you want that flavor don't add too much or it will overpower those dairy flavors. And always use either vanilla beans or proper vanilla extract. The vanilla essence stuff is artificial and nasty! 

Anyway, the recipe...

Perfect no-cook ice cream base

The Perfect No-Cook Ice Cream Base

This is the perfect no-cook vanilla ice cream for the lazy ice creamer! Just mix everything together and add to your ice cream maker. More milk than cream gives it a nice clean taste. The skimmed milk powder, sweetened condensed milk and Xanthan Gum give it a smooth texture, a firm, slightly chewy body and a creamy mouth-feel. Just like all the best ice cream, but with none of the faff!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 375 ml Milk 3.5 - 4% fat, chilled
  • 250 ml Whipping/heavy cream 32 - 40% fat, chilled
  • 100 ml Sweetened condensed milk chilled
  • 25 grams Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 50 grams Sugar
  • 2.5 grams Xanthan gum (½ teaspoon)
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Vanilla extract (optional) or 1 Vanilla bean

Instructions
 

  • Add the skimmed milk powder, sugar, xanthan gum and salt to a bowl and mix thoroughly. If the xanthan gum is not completely mixed into the sugar before we add the liquids, it won't work properly.
  • Add the milk, cream and sweetened condensed milk to the bowl. They should all have been thoroughly pre-chilled in the fridge.
  • If you're using a vanilla bean, cut it open and scrape the beans into the mixture. If you're using vanilla extract, just mix it in.
  • Blend the mixture for 1 minute. It should start to thicken up to reach the consistency of a thin custard.
  • Place the mixture in your fridge or freezer. This is an optional step. But the colder you can get it before you put in the ice cream maker, the better the final texture.
  • Place the container that you're going to store the ice cream in in the freezer to pre-chill. This will reduce melting while you're transferring the ice cream to the freezer.
  • Prepare your ice cream maker. If you're using a compressor machine, turn it on for 15 minutes to pre-chill before you add the mixture.
  • If you've left the mixture in the freezer for too long and it's started to freeze slightly, give it another quick blend.
  • Add the mixture to the ice cream maker and turn it on. The ice cream will be ready after 20 to 30 minutes, when it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and has the consistency of soft serve or whipped cream.
    Knox Gear ice cream after 30 minutes
  • Stop the machine and quickly transfer the ice cream to your pre-cooled container. Place a layer of cling film or baking paper over the surface of the ice cream, to discourage ice crystals developing. Then add the lid and place the container in the back of your freezer for 2 to 4 hours to harden up.
  • Remove the ice cream from the freezer and allow to soften for 5 minutes before serving.
    Softened ice cream

About the author 

Carl

Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I'm always looking for the perfect ice cream. The "dream scoop". I document my findings, my successes and failures here...

  • Thanks for this recipe! I made some delicious coffee ice cream by heating milk to 170F and adding some ground coffee beans, waiting a couple minutes and then filtered the grounds. No vanilla but everything else remained the same. The consistency was perfect though it got a bit icy after chilling for a few hours in a -20F chest freezer. I am using a Knox ICM. Would a Lello 4080 help in this regard?

    Thanks!
    John

    • Hi John,

      Nice idea with the coffee! I’m thinking of doing a coffee ice cream with this base as well where I just cold infuse whole beans in the milk and cream in the fridge overnight. I’ve already tried cold infusion with 4 Earl Grey teabags and the results were fantastic.

      No-cook ice cream’s always going to be slightly icier and deteriorate faster in the freezer I’m afraid. I’m trying to work on ways to improve this but it’s difficult. Maybe more sugar will help. Or SMP. I’ll keep tweaking the recipe!

      The Knox ice cream maker is actually my favorite of the compressor machines apart from the Lello 4080. It’s such good value for money. And for me at least, it makes smoother ice cream than everything but the Lello.

      For sure, the Lello 4080 will make smoother ice cream than the Knox. This recipe comes out as smooth as butter from the Lello! But once it’s in your freezer it will still start to deteriorate after a few days regardless of the machine. Just a bit slower with the Lello.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Carl

  • Can I replace whipping cream and milk w/ H&H? Fat content of H&H would be marginally greater assuming a fat content of 18%.

    • Hi John,

      In terms of fat, that should be fine.

      If you were using 4% milk and 40% cream that would be 18%. If you were using 3.5% milk and 32% cream that would be 15%.

      So anywhere in that range should be OK. Don’t forget, the condensed milk also adds fat though.

      By the way I’ve moved your Knox Gear comments to the Knox Gear review. I’ll tackle those later this evening!

      Thanks

      Carl

  • I added 2 grams of powdered Sunflower lecithin to this recipe and it made the result much creamier and less icy.

    Cheers,
    John

  • However, the lecithin added too much “chewiness” so I think next time I’ll halve the xanthum and see how that works.

  • Converted to American Standard:

    1.5 cups Milk 3.5 – 4% fat, chilled
    1 cup Whipping/heavy cream 32 – 40% fat, chilled
    1/2 cup + 1 tsp Sweetened condensed milk chilled
    2 tbsp Skimmed Milk Powder
    4 tbsp Sugar
    1/2 tsp Xanthan gum
    ¼ teaspoon Salt
    ¼ teaspoon Vanilla extract (optional) or 1 Vanilla bean

    • I’m a little confused by the English conversion. I’m pretty sure the sweetened condensed milk is supposed to be LESS than a half cup. So maybe that was supposed to be 1/3 cup + 1 tsp? That’s what I used and I was very pleased with the results.

  • Amazing. Just made it, I poured some extra condensed milk in right before freezing and it tastes amazing so far. I Just put it in the freezer.

    Also, your blog has brought me back into the icecream game. Love the mixture of science and passion. Thank you!

  • Hi Steve,
    I’m searching for a DF vanilla ice cream base recipe [mild dairy allergy]. I’ve been using a canned coconut milk/cream combo that’s quite lovely. Would actually prefer a cooked custard type since I grew up with that and it adds to the science of the crystal formation. Also, a lower sugar content for medical reasons [could use fruit or honey]. Is this too much to request that you experiment with different ingredients? I’ve been experimenting with various recipes and not adding any sugar which doesn’t produce the results I’d enjoy. Thanks so very much1

    • Hi Charlotte,

      I’m about to start experimenting with no sugar and reduced-sugar recipes. I think reduced-sugar ice creams are much easier to get right.

      But check back in a couple of weeks: I should have something for you.

      Cheers

      Carl

    • Hi Charlotte,
      Did you find the dairy free base you wanted? I was thinking of using Silk Full Fat Oat Milk, it seems to have nice body to it. I was also thinking of playing with Bird’s Custard Powder. So much experimentation and so little freezer space!

    • Hi Melroy,

      That depends on what ingredients you have in mind?!

      If the other ingredients have a high water content, you can reduce the milk.

      If the other ingredients contain lots of solids, you may want to reduce the SMP.

      Cheers

      Carl

  • Hi Carl
    I just came across your site and wanted to thank you for all the information. My Turkish wife and I go to Turkey every year and my favorite ice cream is Turkish ice cream. I like it because it is as hard as rock but very creaming at the same time. It’s so hard that the servers use a scoop that is about 2 feet long so they can use both arms to get a scoop.

    I asked my wife why it was so hard and chewy and she said it is made with tree gum and salep. I had been making my own plain vanilla ice cream but after having the Turkish version I wanted to try adding the gum and salep and it has been successful for me and meets my taste. I wondered if you have any experience with gum and salep. The gum makes it chewy and the salep makes it hard.

    • Hi Mark,

      I haven’t tried it myself, and I’ve never evern tried Turkish ice cream, although I would love to try both!

      I did look into it in some detail several years ago, and as far as I remember Salep, comes from an orchid bulb and is controlled and difficult to get hold of outside Turkey.

      There was a decent looking recipe that used Guar instead of Salep, but I can’t find it anymore.

      If you Google, you can find a few, but again, I haven’t tried them

      It sounds like you’ve had some success, though, so feel free to post your basic recipe if you like.

      Thanks!

      Carl

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