Do you love strawberry ice cream? Like, REALLY love strawberry ice cream? Then this is the recipe for you. Fresh strawberries and velvety texture, this is the ultimate summer treat.
When I was a little girl, the doll Strawberry Shortcake ruled my world. I asked for strawberry ice cream and strawberry cake every year for my birthday. One year, I even had strawberry scented scratch-and-sniff wrapping paper on my presents.
Now that I’m older, I’ve given up dolls, but not my love of strawberries. I grow strawberry plants in my garden, and I eagerly anticipate plucking the sweet berries from them each June. At the top of my strawberry-loving list is ice cream.
MY IDEAL STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM
When I started the process of creating my ideal ice cream, I knew I wanted the texture to be luxurious and the color to be light pink. I wanted a rich strawberry-flavored base with visible bits of strawberry dotted throughout. For me, that means using a combination of strawberry puree and strawberries cooked into a jam, both of which get mixed into a custard base.
START WITH A VANILLA CUSTARD ICE CREAM BASE
Custards are made with eggs. Egg yolks contain lecithin, which are chains of fatty acids that make great emulsifiers. Lecithin helps the fat in the cream bind together, which creates a better emulsion and provides the rich, creamy, velvety ice cream texture I was after.
I first learned how to make this kind of custard ice cream from Skye Gyngell’s cookbook, A Year In My Kitchen, and it’s the foundation of almost every ice cream flavor I make. My version differs slightly from hers, but not much.
The high fat content in custard pairs beautifully with tart, sweet strawberries. I just couldn’t let another summer go by without making my own.
HOW TO AVOID CHUNKS OF FROZEN BERRIES?
The biggest problem with making strawberry ice cream is that fresh strawberries, which are mostly water, freeze solid when mixed with the ice cream base. You end up with large chunks of strawberry ice cubes in a sea of creamy goodness, and that’s kind of a killjoy for me.
I set out to remedy this problem.
There are a few ways to keep strawberries from icing up when you make homemade ice cream:
- Get them drunk
- Cook them on the stovetop
- Roast them in the oven
BOOZE TO THE RESCUE?
Alcohol, specifically a higher proof alcohol such as vodka, has a lower freezing point than water. When added to watery fruits like strawberries, it lowers the freezing point and prevents strawberries from becoming red ice cubes in your ice cream.
To try this technique, I cut one cup of strawberries into small pieces, tossed them with 2 tablespoons of sugar, and a 1/4 cup of vodka, and set everything aside for about 2 hours. Then, I strained off the liquid and added the strawberries to my ice cream base.
I found the alcoholic liquid leftover from steeping to actually be more flavorful than the berries (which was great in a cocktail!), but I wanted that strawberry flavor to stay in my strawberries. Also, I know a lot of people who don’t consume alcohol, and although the amount is minimal I really wanted to create a recipe that could be enjoyed by everyone.
So unfortunately, boozy berries were out of the picture for me. Though if you want to try this, you only need about a 1/4 cup vodka to 1 cup of diced berries. Let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, or as long as three days. You can also experiment with the type of alcohol—limoncello, Grand Marnier or rum. The higher proof alcohol the softer your berries will be in the ice cream.
COOK THE STRAWBERRIES?
There are pros and cons to both cooking the berries or roasting them in the oven:
- The Pro: Cooking releases water through evaporation and concentrates the strawberry flavor. You end up making a jam or sauce, which allows you to disperse the strawberry flavor throughout the ice cream.
- The Con: The flavor of the berries changes during cooking, and you miss out on that just-picked fresh strawberry flavor.
Making cooked strawberry sauce and adding it to my ice cream base gave me nearly everything I wanted in strawberry ice cream—a hint of sweetness to compensate for berries that might be a bit too tart, strawberry flavor throughout the ice cream, and larger pieces of berry for extra bursts of flavor.
But this ice cream, though delicious, still needed that fresh strawberry flavor.
MAKE A STRAWBERRY PUREE?
Once I decided making a cooked strawberry sauce on the stovetop would be a part of my recipe, I just needed to find a way to incorporate that fresh strawberry flavor.
I did this by chopping more berries, adding sugar, and pureeing them with my immersion blender. Then I combined the cooked strawberry sauce with the fresh strawberry puree and combined it with my custard. The result?
The strawberry puree increased the soft pink color and added that light, fresh flavor of berries picked straight from the garden. With a combination of cooked strawberry sauce and fresh strawberry puree, I hit my mark.
This final version was universally loved not only by me, but also by my husband and our children, who have a combined sixteen years of ice cream eating experience among them. I consider them astute taste testers.
HOW TO STORE HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
When homemade ice cream first comes out of the ice cream maker, it will be the consistency of soft serve ice cream. Feel free to eat it that way, but if you want a firmer consistency, transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container, press a piece of parchment paper over the top, and cover it with a lid. Freeze for at least two hours before serving; the longer the ice cream is in the freezer, the harder it will become.
HOW LONG WILL THE ICE CREAM KEEP?
Homemade ice cream doesn’t have the stabilizers that commercially-made ice creams use, so it won’t maintain its creamy texture quite as long as something from the store. In other words, homemade ice cream will likely crystalize sooner.
Homemade ice cream is best eaten within a day or so, but in my experience, ice cream made with a higher fat content, such as this recipe, will store longer than those with a lower fat content. This recipe will maintain its quality for about a month. It’s still perfectly edible after that, but it might form ice crystals.
CAN FROZEN STRAWBERRIES BE SUBSTITUTED FOR FRESH?
In this recipe, since the strawberries are cooked down or pureed, you can use either fresh or frozen berries. You still want the berries sliced or diced, so I would buy sliced frozen berries rather than whole, if possible. I would also thaw the berries before pureeing them.
NO ICE CREAM MAKER? NO PROBLEM
You can still make great ice cream without an ice cream machine. Rather than pouring the mixture into a machine, pour it into a shallow container such as a 9×13 pan. Place it in the freezer.
Using a stiff whisk or a handheld mixer, mix it every 15 to 20 minutes, until the ice cream gets firm enough use a wooden spoon to stir it and is the consistency of soft serve ice cream. This breaks up the ice crystals, and you’ll probably need to repeat mixing four or five times.
This no-churn ice cream won’t be quite as creamy as one churned in a machine, but it will still be delicious.
WANT TO EXPERIMENT WITH FLAVORS? GO FOR IT
Add herbs like thyme, basil, or bay leaf to the berries. You can also infuse the cream with orange or almond. Anything is possible when it comes to ice cream.