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Nn, M.D.'s Top-Secret Ice Cream Formula (+ variations)

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This is a recipe that I came up with when I was making choux au craquelin and wanted to fill them with a pastry cream.  I had made the pastry cream using the egg yolks but didn’t want to let the egg whites go to waste.  I decided to make the egg whites into an Italian meringue, which I thought would be fairly stable. But rather than folding it in to preserve that stability, I was impatient and whipped the pastry cream into the meringue.  The result was this loose, soupy mixture that I couldn’t get to stay in a cream puff if I tried. So I gave up and, rather than throw it away, stuck it in the freezer to save it for another recipe.  One day I got curious and decided to give it a taste.  That was the single best bowl of ice cream I had ever had.  I knew I had stumbled onto something, so I’ve tried it with many other flavors and it works almost every time.  The texture is kind of somewhere between a gelato and a semifreddo, and for some reason it takes forever to melt. Just remember to abide by this formula and you will always have success:

Pastry cream:

-      8 oz (1 cup) whole milk (or you can use 6 oz milk + 2 oz heavy cream, 6 oz half/half + 2 oz milk...anything but skim)

-      3 extra large egg yolks

-      2 tbsp cornstarch

-      2-4 tbsp butter, sliced

1.    Place butter slices in bowl and set a wire strainer over top.  Set aside

2.    In a medium saucepan, place your milk (+/- cream) and bring to just below a simmer

3.    Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl set over a towel, whisk egg yolks and cornstarch together until smooth

4.    When milk has heated, temper into egg mixture, whisking constantly

5.    On medium-low heat, add the custard to the pan and whisk constantly for 3-4 minutes. Custard will go from loose -> shiny and thick -> matte and set.  Do not stop whisking as long as mixture is on the heat

6.    Once custard is set, scrape out of pan into bowl with strainer.  Push mixture through and scrape remaining custard off the bottom of the strainer.  Stir the custard into the butter constantly until butter disappears.  Set aside.


Meringue (apologies in advance for switching from standard to metric):

-      300 granulated sugar

-      75g water

-      100-115g egg whites (from 3 extra large/jumbo eggs)

1.    Place egg whites in bowl of a clean stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set aside.

2.    Over medium-high heat, place water and sugar in saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.

3.    Turn heat down to medium-low. When mixture hits 115˚C, turn on mixer to medium-high to make egg whites frothy.

4.    When syrup reaches 118˚C, remove from the heat and pour into egg whites between the edge of the bowl and the whisk.  Do so in a steady stream to avoid splashing.

5.    Once syrup has been added, turn mixer to high and whisk until you reach stiff peaks, about 6 minutes


Bringing it together:

1.    Once meringue is stiff, pour in custard over the top. Turn on the mixer with the whisk attachment to high speed and whisk for 1-2 minutes

2.    You’ll know you’ve finished when you pull the whisk out of the mixture and a string of the cream follows it.  If you still see peaks when you pull of the whisk, keep beating until flattened and loose.

3.    Pour mixture into a bowl and place in a freezer to set up for at least 6 hours.  Then, enjoy!


As you can see, it’s a straightforward process that is egg-neutral and has a lot of area for customization.  My only recommendation is that whatever add-ins you choose, make them 6 oz.  That’s just how I did it the first time and every time and the proportion always works. Here's a few variations on the theme that I've done, as well as stupid names I came up for each of them:

-      Salted Chocolate: add 6 oz of bittersweet chocolate to the butter and mix into custard base.  Also add ½ tsp of salt

-      White Winter: Add 2 tsp vanilla extra/paste to milk and bring to just below simmer.  Add 6 oz good-quality white chocolate and 1 tsp white pepper to butter and stir into custard base

-      Glacé Guac: Add 6 oz mashed avocado and zest of a lime to the butter and mix into custard base. Substitute fresh-squeezed lime juice for water in meringue

-      Raspberry Romance: Add 1 oz pulverized freeze-dried raspberry and 5 oz homemade raspberry jam1to the butter and mix into custard base.  Add 1 tbsp rosewater to meringue 3 minutes into whipping

-      Lemon Leisure: Grind 1 tbsp lavender buds with spice grinder/mortar and pestle and steep in milk while bringing to just below a simmer.  Add 6 oz homemade lemon curd2to the butter and mix into custard base

-      Citrus Sunrise: Grind 2 tsp fresh cardamom in mortar and pestle and steep in milk while bringing to just below a simmer.  Substitute fresh squeezed grapefruit juice for water in meringue. Once custard and meringue are mixed, fold in 6 oz candied grapefruit peel3, chopped

-      Country Cornbread: Use 4 tbsp butter for custard base and add ½ tsp of salt.  For meringue sugar syrup use: 154g honey, 125g sugar, 34g water. Once custard and meringue are mixed, fold in 6 oz gluten free cornbread4, cubed

-      The Diplomat: add 6 oz dulce de leche and 1 tbsp of soy sauce to custard base, substitute 3-4 tbsp of brown butter

-      Waterme-ricana: Add 1 tbsp liquid smoke and ½ tsp cinnamon to custard base. Use watermelon juice for meringue liquid and add 6 oz chopped grilled watermelon after combining custard and meringue

-      Chocolate Chunk: Substitute 30g cocoa butter for the butter in the custard base and add vanilla bean paste to steep.  Use 6 oz coarse chopped bittersweet chocolate

-      Cocoa-Sesame Swirl (pictured below) is the most complex flavor to date.  I take the ice cream base and split it in half, one half being sesame-strong, the other half being chocolate-dominant:


  • To make the sesame half, add 2.85 oz of tahini and 0.15 oz untoasted sesame oil to the custard base, and substitute 35g cocoa butter instead of regular butter. A few grinds of fresh sea salt is optional. Heat the mixture in a double boiler to melt the cocoa butter.  You will add one half of your pastry cream base to this.
  • To make the chocolate half, make a black sesame praliné with 1.50 oz of black sesame seeds and 1.50 oz of sugar (praliné refers to the process of taking a caramel-nut bark, praline, and grinding it until a paste forms). You should get about 2.50 oz of paste, to which you will add an additional 0.50 oz of cocoa powder and 35g cocoa butter as well as a few grinds of sea salt, not option. Heat the mixture in a double boiler to melt the cocoa butter.  Add the remaining half of the custard base to this mixture.
  • Make two separate meringues (this is more accurate and time consuming than making 1 meringue and dividing it in half. But I have 2 stand mixers so :P) and and mix in your custards to each batch in the usual way.  I added a little black gel food coloring to the black sesame half.  Add dollops to a bowl and swirl with 2-3 figure-8's.





1.    Raspberry jam: Take 12 oz frozen raspberries, 2 ½ cups sugar, juice of ½ lemon, and 2 tbsp cinnamon and place in medium saucepan with high walls.  Bring to boil on medium-high and then reduce heat to keep mixture at steady boil, around medium heat.  Using instant-read thermometer, heat mixture to 215˚F , which should take about 15 minutes. Check gelling by dropping some jam onto chilled plate and look for jam to set up rather than run.  Optional: sieve jam to remove seeds.

2.    Foolproof lemon curd recipe can be found here

3.    Candied grapefruit peel: This recipe is not exact at all.  Take grapefruit peels and clean all grapefruit flesh and membranes away from pith. Chop into strips and place into medium saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a roiling boil and boil for 10 minutes. Empty water and repeat 2 additional times.  After 3rdboil, measure water needed to cover peels and add the same amount of sugar (to create a simple syrup). Bring mix to boil over medium-high heat, then back head down to keep consistent boil for 45 minutes. Peels should be opaque and look like gems.  Drain syrup and lay peel down on wire rack.  Sprinkle granulated sugar on both sides and allow to air-dry overnight, best at 24 hours.  Store in an airtight container.

4.    Gluten-free corn-cake-bread: Based on a genoise sponge: grind coarse cornmeal in food processor and pass through fine mesh sieve to get 125g of fine cornmeal.  Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Whip 4 room temperature extra large/jumbo eggs (~230-250g) with 125g granulated sugar and 10g honey on high speed until you reach the ribbon stage.  Fold in fine cornmeal and 1tsp salt, then 15g melted and cooled butter.  Make sure not to be too aggressive so as not to lose volume. Pour batter into 9-inch cake tin lined on the bottom with parchment.  Bake for 25 minutes at center rack, remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Run palette knife around cake edge, invert, and allow to cool completely.

5.    Easy dulce de leche: put can of sweetened condensed milk in slow cooker and cover with water; place on high for 8-10 hours

Edited by Nn, M.D. (log)
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  • 1 year later...

Hey, just made your recipe and it is great! It is outstanding for a home ice cream, beats most of the ice cream i can easily get in my city. Maybe a little too sweet for me but i ll adjust it next time. If you made any more advancements since your last edit i would like to hear it :) . Oh, and the sesame chocolate combination is simply genius.

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Posted (edited)

Hey, thanks for trying it out! I'm glad you liked it! I actually just made a huge batch of the salted chocolate flavor this past weekend and I have some thoughts:

  • Regarding the sweetness, I have tried to lower the sugar content in the meringue to around 200g, but have found that the meringue did not have the same pillowy set at the lower sugar level.  The original meringue recipe called for 300g, so I felt like 250g was a good compromise. But if you want to try a lower sugar level, be my guest. I might suggest if you were going to use less sugar that you go with a Swiss meringue instead of an Italian meringue.  Without the additional water from a sugar syrup, the Swiss meringue may be a way to preserve the pillowy meringue and use less sugar.
  • One minor edit I would like to make to the original recipe is that I now exclusively use half-and-half, and no longer add butter at the end to the custard. I have found that H/H gives me the best balance between richness and smoothness, where all milk would be smooth but not rich, and majority cream would be rich but not smooth.  H/H has enough fat in it that I have found adding butter is not necessary.
  • Also a technical change, I no longer aggressively add the meringue to the custard as I did in the written recipe.  I have realized that I like the minimal amount of lift I get from having the meringue folded in in about 2-3 additions, so I have been more gentle with bringing the mixture together. If you like that denser gelato-esque texture, then continue to combine the custard and meringue as before. If you want something a little lighter, try folding in the meringue!
Edited by Nn, M.D. (log)
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