Many people don’t own an ice cream maker but crave the kind of chewy, rich and intensely flavoured ice cream that costs £5 or more for a tiny tub. If you adore ice cream like I do, this can be prohibitive.
But how do you achieve luxury ice cream at home without a machine? There’s a lot of ice cream recipes claiming to be ‘no-churn’ but really aren’t because the chemistry of ice cream making is a precise one and not all recipes are properly tested. Like patisserie, ice cream-making uses a methodology reliant upon precise calculations and, in addition, it needs an awareness of how ingredients behave in a domestic freezer which cycles on and off, partially re-freezing the ice cream the longer it is stored inside.
Think of ice cream as a frozen soup of sugar, protein and emulsified fats which traps millions of air bubbles and minute ice crystals within. To this, we can add alcohol which lowers the melting point of ice cream, helping to create a softer scoop, and fruit which possesses its own potential for freezing into rock hard lumps of (albeit delicious) ice unless you prep it carefully, remembering that freezing mutes flavour. We can also alter texture by adding more egg and butterfat in the form of double cream but it’s important to resist the temptation to tip in more booze. Don’t, or you’ll end up with a slushie.
This recipe is versatile flavour-wise as long as you adhere to the proportions and remember that your mantra here is ‘whip whip, whip’- It should really be called Dominatrix ice cream. I’ve used Ely Gin Company’s blackberry-flavoured gin because they’re a fantastic local company who I have long been a customer of and their gin makes a superlative match for fresh blackberries although it will complement any berry. If you don’t have access to their products, try another berry-flavoured liqueur such as Chambord or even plain old gin. The cooking process breaks down the alcohol so you can safely feed this to children with no fear of them sliding under the table afterwards with a big ole grin on their faces.
The other thing to remember is to avoid using store-bought blackberries. I have made that mistake so you don’t have to. Testing this recipe a few weeks ago, I found myself scouring the countryside in vain for ripe ones and had to resort to some berries of Frankensteinian proportions from the local supermarket. Whilst it still tasted good, it was far removed from the joyously bright and bosky berry flavour you get when you use hedgerow blackberries which
have ripened slowly in our temperamental British summer.
Finally, that home freezer of yours. As I mentioned earlier, its cycles mean your ice cream will be exposed to periods of hard freezing and partial defrosting which encourages the formation of ice crystals as time goes on. The solution? Eat your ice cream swiftly. It’s not a hardship.
600g blackberries, washed and dried.
55ml Blackberry gin (or you can use Chambord or even plain gin if that’s all you have)
300g caster sugar
5 very fresh eggs, separated
1tsp vanilla extract
650ml (1¼pt) light double cream
Three large bowls and a 2 litre (3½pt) container with a lid.
Place the blackberries, gin and 2tbsp of the caster sugar in a small saucepan over a low to low-medium heat and simmer the mixture until it reduces to a sticky, thick fruity sauce. You want the berries to break down. Set it aside to cool completely.
Take a large bowl and beat the egg yolks with the vanilla extract and remaining caster sugar until it reaches the consistency of thick Jersey cream. Remember, beat, beat, beat! In your second bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form - it’s important not to overbeat this because the soft pillowy texture you are after will help keep the ice cream light and ice-free as it freezes. Then in a third bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, hold their shape and don’t slide out of the bowl when it is tipped up.
Fold the whipped cream into the egg yolks and then gently fold the egg whites into that mixture. Spoon out one third of the resulting mixture into a separate bowl and gently fold in the reserved blackberry sauce until it is combined. Now add this this very gently into the remaining cream mixture, rippling it through. Pour into the container, cover and
freeze overnight. I take it out after a couple of hours and give it a light stir but it freezes well without becoming icy even if you don’t do this.
When you want to eat it, let it soften for ten minutes beforehand.