Second-Easiest Ice Cream

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Alex and I are moving in a few weeks. If it feels like you’ve heard me say this before, it’s because we’ve moved every two years, like clockwork, since we arrived in Jamaica Plain for the first time eight years ago. Part of me wants to chalk this up to #BostonProblems– it’s not at all uncommon to get priced out of apartments, to have a changing roster of roommates, to switch neighborhoods, etc.– but we know plenty of people who have managed to stay put for longer stretches, so maybe we are just bad at adulting. (More likely: we just can’t decide what we want.) In any case, in a few short weeks, we’ll be moving across town–to the exact building we left two years ago, in fact. I’ve missed that tiny little place ever since we left, and, weirdly enough, I’ve also missed Allston itself. I’ll be glad to get back to the neighborhood that feels most like home to me.

I’ve already started packing up our kitchen stuff, and I was just about to wrap up the bowl of my ice cream maker in newsprint when I realized that I hadn’t actually made ice cream in over a year. This probably has to do with the fact that I relegated the bowl to a kitchen cabinet in order to free up some space in the freezer, which made spur-of-the-moment ice cream making impossible. But still, to let an entire summer go by without homemade ice cream? Completely unacceptable.

What I really wanted was a batch of lemon curd ice cream, but, to be honest, I had no desire to go through all the necessary hoops to make it– even if you use store bought curd, you’re looking at a half-day process. No one who’s trying to pack up her kitchen equipment has that kind of time. But guess who saved the day, with a minimal effort-maximal reward ice cream recipe? My old friend Joy the Baker. (Disclaimer: not my friend in real life, though I did meet her at a book signing and talk her ear off in a bout of nervous energy.) This recipe, from her second book, consists of five ingredients, and the batter doesn’t require any egg-tempering or extra chilling time– you just blend it up and put it right in the ice cream maker. It’s the second-easiest ice cream in the world. (First easiest: one-ingredient banana ice cream. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s totally, blessedly real.)

Here’s another thing you might have heard me say before: I used a local brand of cream cheese in this recipe, which I brought home from work because it was a couple days out of code. Yep, I put my cheesemonger hat back on for a few days this summer, and I have never had so much fun at work in my life. I was back at the market where I first started working with cheese back in 2012, and it felt a lot like going back home. (I guess my whole life has a going-back-home feeling lately.) While a few things have changed at the shop over the last few years, the staff and the customers are pretty much the same, and it felt so good to be part of the gang again. I was so jazzed about the whole thing that I didn’t even mind being at work on Saturdays for a few weeks.

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But anyway, back to the ice cream. The main players here are cream cheese, brown sugar, and half-and-half. I should probably know more about the science of ice cream than I do, but my hunch is that this recipe can get away with such a short ingredient list because the cream cheese bulks up the batter so nicely. I’m also willing to bet that the cream cheese wards off potential ice crystals as the ice cream freezes. I churned a second batch of this a few nights ago in a not-properly-frozen ice cream bowl–usually the kiss of death for homemade ice cream– and somehow, after spending the night in the freezer, it still turned out perfectly. Miraculous.

The recipe also calls for an optional tablespoon of Bourbon. I have made the ice cream both with and without the Bourbon, and it’s delicious either way, but I really love the judicious amount Joy calls for. I’ve made Bourbon ice cream before that was just too boozy for my taste, but here, it’s just right: a little warming, but not bracing. If you have some on hand, I’d recommend adding it.

This ice cream is best served, if at all possible, outdoors. Preferably with a cute dog looking on.

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Happy Summer!

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Ice Cream
from Homemade Decadence

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups cold half-and-half
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Bourbon (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe bowl and cover the ice cream with parchment paper or plastic wrap (directly on the surface of the ice cream). Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours, or overnight.

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