We have been making the most of the heatwave this week, if you can call the sun deigning to appear and not give way to hailstorms for three days straight a ‘heatwave’. Having spent a weekend in Holland where it was so bitterly cold we were forced to buy chips for warmth (or so we justified it), it seemed an absolute coup to come home to brilliant bright sunshine.
But then, as is always the way, you spend the majority of your days seeing that sunshine from buses, from office windows, if you’re lucky, feeling the warmth of it on a tube platform. God, it feels like such a waste. And as you approach freedom at the end of the day, when you have time, if not energy, to cavort and frolick like little sun-seeking bunnies, you have to sit dispiritedly on public transport, watching it disappearing from you, beyond the literal horizon, as you travel home.
When we limpingly made it to the weekend, we found ourselves grasping it with both hands, and not letting go. So come Saturday, when we were having friends over for dinner, I had to make ice cream.
The joy of having learnt to cook intensively over a relatively short period of time is that there are a myriad of quite simple things that I just don’t know, that I imagine most people grew up with and know as a matter of course. In many ways, it’s intensely irritating not to be fluent in kitchen tongue, but when I chance upon them, stutteringly and clunkily, they make everything grin-inducingly easier, and it’s like a little Easter Egg of a kitchen hack.
I didn’t know no churn ice cream was a thing. I’d never really turned my mind to it, but I think I assumed that making ice cream was like making waffles: having the correct equipment was non-negotiable. I knew that proper ice cream required an ice cream maker and a proper custard: heating and tempering and the possibility of scrambling, churning and freezing.
It is difficult to overstate how easy no churn ice cream is: cream whipped for a couple of minutes is mixed with condensed milk and whatever your chosen flavourings, before being shoved in the freezer. It takes five minutes hands on time, and if you make it mid-afternoon, it’ll be ready for supper.
It will melt slightly more quickly than ‘proper’ ice cream, but still retain its proper bite, whilst being so fantastically creamy. I love it.
As I continue with this funny little winding adventure of learning how to bake and cook, I find myself seeking out bigger and better projects. Where once I just wanted to have a crack at a carrot cake, I now turn to croissants and caneles. Which is exciting and charming and pretentious in equal measures, but sometimes those projects inevitably take over entire weekends, and I find myself on a Sunday evening, harried and world-weary, baking off something that I have been proving and folding and laminating for days, and suddenly have no desire whatsoever to eat.
This ice cream is the exact opposite of that. It is the antidote to kitchen fatigue. It is so simple and glorious: it’s the kitchen promised land. It is the land of milk and honey (and sea salt) ice cream.
You could infuse the cream with anything you fancy, but even that is too organised for my liking, if I’m being completely honest. I flavour it with two things I know will be in my cupboards at any given time: honey and sea salt. The honey I use isn’t fancy (although this is fantastic with honeycomb if you happen to have some), the salt a little better, because it should be in fat, crunchy flakes. This is not my first dance with honey and sea salt. I think it is such a gorgeous combination, lighter and brighter and more aromatic than the darker, slightly bitter salted caramel. The honey and seal salt are folded through the mixture, but I take extra of both and lay streaks and sprinkles over the top, so that each scoop ends up with a slick of unadulterated honey, and a cluster of salt flakes.
With friends coming over for dinner, I cooked the simplest fancy meal that I know: chicken and potatoes, sprinkled with salt and roasted with lots of garlic, untouched until the chicken skin is taught and crispy and golden. And whilst it cooked, we sat in the garden and drank cold white wine, soaking up every second of sun that we could. I served it with no-knead bread and a big barely-dressed rocket salad. And then for pudding, this ice cream.
And here is my favourite kitchen secret: no one is ever disappointed by ice cream.
It goes like this:
Honey and Sea Salt No Churn Ice cream
Makes: Half a litre of ice cream
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes [Freezes]: 4 hours
300ml double cream
Half a 397g tin of condensed milk
4 tablspoons of honey
2 teaspoons flaked sea salt (I like Maldon)
(You’ll see that I’m using half a tin of condensed milk, which I know is annoying; the recipe doubles easily, but I have quite a small freezer, so make this quantity and then refrigerate the rest of the condensed milk until I want to use it for something else, but feel free to double up if its easier: the doubled recipe will produce a litre of ice cream)
1. Pour the double cream into a stand mixer or large mixing bowl and beat with a balloon whisk or using electric beaters until the cream reaches soft peaks (when the whisk is lifted out of the cream, it is thick and initially forms icicle like peaks, but these will almost straight away flop gently back onto the whisk.
2. Fold the condensed milk through the thick cream, gently so as not to flatten the cream. Sprinkle a generous pitch of flaked sea salt into the creamy mixture, and fold through 3 tablespoons of the honey.
3. Pour into a Tupperware container and evenly distribute remaining flaked sea salt and honey. Don’t worry about streaks.
4. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
5. Ta Dah!
Icing on the Cake
We ate this in large scoops with this incredibly simple flourless chocolate cake which was delicious on Saturday but so infinitely better on Sunday. This cake is so good that Molly Wizenberg made 20 for her own wedding day. I can see why. Make a day in advance if you can, and then cut into fat triangles. It’s also lovely with roasted rhubarb and milk chocolate brownies, or with honey granola sprinkled on the top.