This Fluffy No-Churn Ice Cream Pie Is the Perfect Summer Treat
During my recipe testing for homemade Klondike bars last summer, I made countless iterations of a no-churn ice cream based on Swiss meringue. Its fluffy, cloud-like consistency and clean, neutral flavor provided the perfect foundation for the pure vanilla filling found in a Klondike bar.
My earliest efforts were mere combinations of Swiss meringue and whipped cream, which gave the “ice cream” a wonderful richness and fresh dairy flavor, along the lines of DQ soft serve, but firm enough to slice. Problem was, however delicious, these versions were too creamy for a Klondike bar, which has a firm and pleasantly icy bite, and it was a touch too soft to hold the sharp corners that make each square so satisfying.
Eventually, I discovered that adding a splash of milk could provide the ice cream with the texture I needed, but I never stopped thinking about the “failure” that came so close. While it had a wonderfully light and creamy texture, the Klondike aspirations at its heart made it too firm for scooping. Bad news for a proper ice cream, but brilliant for an ice cream pie!
Like the fluffy quarts of supermarket ice cream that can miraculously survive the journey home from the store, this ice cream is ultra airy, so it melts with preternatural slowness—another quality that’s ideal for slices of pie, particularly in warm weather.
If you’ve ever made Swiss meringue, whether to top a pie or for a buttercream, the overall process will be familiar; the only difference will be a bit of whipped cream folded in at the end. And if you’ve gone so far as to try my homemade Klondike bars, you’ll be in familiar territory, as well.
Prepare the No-Bake Crust
The first step is to prepare a cookie-crumb crust. Because I can’t resist the combination of chocolate and vanilla, I like to use homemade Oreos crushed into crumbs (wafers only). Store-bought Oreos will, of course, work equally well.
With a little melted butter, they come together in a crust that will be nice and crunchy once frozen.
If Oreos aren’t your jam, let personal preference guide your choice. The crust will taste great with store-bought or homemade Biscoff, as well as commercial or made-from-scratch graham crackers (there’s a recipe in my cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts), or even crispy gingerbread cookies in winter months. Whatever the style, gluten-free cookies will do just fine here, as well.
Prepare the No-Churn Filling
To make the “ice cream” filling, prepare a water bath by filling a wide pot with a few inches of water, with a thick ring of crumpled foil placed in the bottom.
The ring acts as a booster seat, so that when I place my stand mixer bowl over the water, it will sit high, touching neither the water nor the pot itself. This allows steam to flow freely around the bowl, gently warming the eggs with indirect heat.
When the bowl touches the water, the bottom of the pot, or even the sides (thus forming a lid to the pot), the heat will be too strong and direct, leading to scrambled whites. If you’re using a stand mixer that comes with a footed bowl, skip this setup and use a glass or ceramic bowl instead of the stand mixer bowl (in which case, it’s fine for the bowl to touch the sides of the pot).
Bring the water to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer; the idea is to generate lots of steam, rather than to let the water boil hard. Meanwhile, combine the egg whites with plain or toasted sugar, salt and lemon juice or cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer (along with the salt, those last two function as seasoning rather than structural elements, a touch of acidity to bring balance to the sweet fluff).
While stirring and scraping constantly, warm the egg whites and sugar over the steaming water until they reach approximately 172°F (77°C). In a stainless steel stand mixer bowl, this should take only about five minutes; a slower timeline simply indicates a lack of steam, so adjust the heat as needed to move things along.
When the meringue reaches the proper temperature, transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium-high speed until it’s fluffy, thick, stiff, and incredibly light.
The timing of this phase will vary depending on the power of the mixer itself, but it generally takes from five to eight minutes, giving the meringue ample time to cool.
Once the meringue is ready, it’s time to whip the cream and vanilla to stiff peaks as well. This can be done by hand (or with a hand mixer) in a separate bowl, or the meringue can be scraped into another container so the stand mixer bowl and whisk can be re-used for the task (no need to wash either, bits of meringue will not interfere with whipping the cream).
However you go about it, fold the whipped cream and meringue together with a flexible spatula or with a wide, open balloon whisk. It can be a touch tricky to assess the white-on-white mixture, but work patiently to ensure they’re homogenous so the ice cream is evenly textured. At this stage, try a bit of the “ice cream” and doctor it with additional salt and vanilla (or other extracts) as desired, bearing in mind its sweetness will be less noticeable once frozen.
Finally, and this is a completely optional step, fold in a handful of rainbow sprinkles.
It’s a celebratory touch that makes the pie feel fit for a party, but if that’s not your jam it’s strictly a matter of aesthetics, so feel free to leave them out (or swap in chocolate sprinkles instead).
If you have my cookbook, however, homemade sprinkles can also provide a pop of flavor in the pie, such as bright pink strawberry sprinkles or flecks of minty green.
Scrape the filling into the prepared shell, then cover it loosely but thoroughly with plastic and freeze until it reaches an internal temperature around 0°F. Due to the thickness of the pie, this can take quite some time—eight hours at the least.
That means it’s nearly impossible to make and serve this pie in one day, but, by the same token, it’s a fantastic make-ahead dessert, whether it’s prepared the night before or the week before an event.
Slice the pie with a large chef’s knife, warmed in hot water, then wipe the blade clean and rewarm between each slice. It’s a bit time consuming, to be sure, but it will ensure beautifully clean slices.
Because the no-churn ice cream is mounded into a mile-high presentation, thin slices can go a long way, making it the sort of pie that’s fit for a crowd. You’ll have no trouble cutting out 12 pieces, but with care it can easily serve up to 16 (especially at the end of a heavy meal, when appetites for dessert may be slightly repressed).
Thanks to its light texture and delicate flavor (no egg yolks for any heavy custard notes), it’s a refreshing end to any summer meal. So if you have a soft spot for the clean and refreshing flavor of the ice cream in a Klondike bar, or like the idea of a frozen dessert that combines the best elements of whipped cream and meringue, this frozen treat will be a perfectly festive dessert for any crowd.
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