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No equipment needed: Making ice cream at home is simple

If the season’s heat and the humidity are already making you scream, perhaps it’s time to cool off with summer’s favorite sweet treat — ice cream.

WASHINGTON — If the season’s heat and the humidity are already making you scream, perhaps it’s time to cool off with summer’s favorite sweet treat — ice cream.

But before you head out to the store and grab a carton, explore your cupboards. Chances are, you have all of the ingredients needed to make a delicious, no-churn ice cream.

Leslie Bilderback, former pastry chef and author of “Mug Cakes,” is out with her second book, “No Churn Ice Cream.”

Similar to her first, her latest cookbook simplifies often complicated recipes and processes for making a classic dessert. Most recipes in the book call for just a handful of ingredients, and the fanciest equipment required is a freezer.

“Ice cream, I think, is intimidating. Pastry, in itself, has always been intimidating … it seems very exact and it’s chemistry, and you have to be so precise. And the fact is, you really don’t. You can really kind of wing it and put handfuls and pinches of stuff,” Bilderback says.

She hopes her easy-to-approach technique encourages more people to cook at home and experiment with a variety of ingredients and flavors.

“I feel like people need to make stuff from scratch way more than we do,” she says. “My hope is that people will do what I do and get totally obsessed with it and then spend all day trying to come up with new flavors and stuff.”

So what do you need to make no-churn ice cream? In addition to a freezer, Bilderback says home cooks need a whisk or a hand mixer and a container in which to freeze the ice cream mixture.

The basic ingredients for the recipes are milk, heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk. The sweetened condensed milk allows cooks to skip the stovetop custard process that most traditional ice cream recipes call for.

“It’s thick, it’s very viscous and it’s sweet, so that it gives it that creamy texture,” Bilderback says about sweetened condensed milk.

But just because Bilderback’s ice cream-making process is simple, doesn’t mean the flavors are. Her cookbook contains ice cream recipes for everything from basic vanilla, to lavender, blueberry and blue cheese, Meyer lemon and more.

“I came up in the culinary world in the ‘80s where everyone started using herbs in desserts, so I love to see herbs in desserts; I love to mix salty and sweet,” says Bilderback, who adds that some of her favorite flavors are peach with prosciutto and pepper with pineapple.

“I try to think about not necessarily the traditional ingredients, but the way that they feel in your mouth. Are they salty? Are they spicy? And how do they pair together?”

Recipes for sherbets, sorbets and granitas — all of which make use of summer’s bountiful produce — are also included in the book, as is a chart that offers guidance on how to best prepare fresh fruit for a frozen-dessert fate.

Bilderback says making ice cream is definitely something that can help keep the kids occupied during the summer vacation months. Most recipes contain fewer than five steps and require less than 15 minutes.

“There’s no better way to get people cooking than to make them feel proud of themselves for making something,” she says.

The biggest time requirement is the freezing process, which Bilderback says is four to six hours.

“But if you want to hurry it up, pour [the ice cream mixture] into a brownie pan so you have a thinner layer that freezes faster.”

Of course making ice cream is just the beginning. Once you have the simple recipes down, Bilderback says you can start making desserts that use ice cream as an ingredient, such as ice cream cakes, warm crepes with ice cream and baked Alaska.

“When I put together desserts in a restaurant situation, I’m always looking to balance. So I want to have something hot and cold, something creamy and crunchy. The ice cream gives you that creamy and cold element that goes well with so many other dessert recipes,” Bilderback says.

“The whole idea is to get people looking at food and ice cream in a new and creative way.”

You can find Bilderback’s recipes for no-churn ice cream in the gallery above.

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