Although the calendar says it’s only May, it feels more like July this week. My kids are begging to go to the pool every day and I’m craving ice cream. Strawberry ice cream to be specific. Strawberries are in full season in all their sweet glory and what better way to stave off the heat than to indulge in icy cream and fresh berries.

I have often made strawberry ice cream using heavy cream, berries, sugar and not much else. Although these desserts have been creamy and sweet, they were a bit lacking. Without eggs, ice cream just doesn’t have the full body and character I’m looking for in my dessert. I have hunted for years for the perfect strawberry ice cream recipe, but most use between 6 and 9 egg yolks. Now I love egg custards (and ice cream made with eggs is essentially just frozen custard), but the more eggs included in a custard, the richer the flavor. Although this can often be a very good thing — such as with vanilla, pecan or chocolate ice creams — the richness of too many eggs in custard can detract from the natural sweetness of any fruit you add to it, flattening the flavors. Plus eggs are high in cholesterol and fat, so if I can, I try to avoid them in abundance. What I wanted was a lighter strawberry ice cream with the depth of flavor eggs provide, without overshadowing the strawberries and casting them out of the limelight (or raising my LDL levels).

I recently read a NY Times article that used a pudding recipe for ice cream. The problem is that it uses 8 egg yolks (yes, 8!). I remembered that my pudding recipe is thick and creamy and only uses a couple of eggs, which seemed much more reasonable. I decided to tweak it a little, however, using strawberries instead of chocolate. I also added one extra egg yolk to help bind the ice cream as I was worried the strawberries — which naturally have a lot of water in them — would make the custard runny. Heavy cream also seemed a better choice than the whole milk I use in my pudding as this is ice cream we’re making, not ice milk. My final alteration was to include some lemon juice and zest to help brighten the strawberry flavors. Finally I plopped everything into the beautiful ice cream maker my husband’s aunt bought us a few years ago (thank you Aunt Susie!) with excellent results. The final product had a deep strawberry taste, a rich and creamy texture, and a more complex flavor than the plain cream strawberry ice cream I’ve made for years. It also allowed the strawberries to star, unlike some custard ice creams I’ve tried. And best of all, it helped cool us off during this heat wave.

strawberry ice cream

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

Makes 4 – 8 servings

3 cups of fresh strawberries (cleaned, hulled and chopped)
½ cup plus 3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Zest from one medium lemon
3 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp corn starch
Dash of salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Puree 2 cups of the strawberries with 3 Tbsp sugar and the lemon juice. Cut up the third cup of berries, mix them with the 4th tablespoon of sugar, and set aside.

2. Heat the heavy cream on medium-low until it starts to steam with small bubbles around the edge. Turn off the heat.
3. Whisk egg yolks with ½ cup sugar in a bowl until the mixture is a light yellow color.
4. Add the lemon zest, corn starch, and salt to the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly, making sure there are no lumps.
5. Add about a half cup of the warmed cream to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously to temper the eggs.
6. Add the egg mixture to the cream and incorporate thoroughly.
7. Cook on medium-low just until the mixture starts to bubble. Be sure to frequently stir or the mixture will start to burn at the bottom. I used a whisk, but a spatula would also work.
8. When the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and add the strawberry puree.
9. Stir in the vanilla.
10. Chill in an ice bath.
11. Cover with plastic wrap, being sure to let it sit directly on top of the pudding to avoid a skin forming.
12. Refrigerate until fully cooled.
13. Place mixture in your ice cream maker, along with the last cup of berries you set aside in Step 1, and then let it do its thing for about twenty minutes.
14. Place in a container and place in the freezer. Stir every hour or so until firm so it evenly freezes.
15. Serve.

1. If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can still make homemade ice cream. David Lebovitz shows you how to make ice cream without a machine.

2. This recipe would also be great using peaches, nectarines, plums, or any other type of berry.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream 16 June,2008Denise Santoro Lincoln

  • Hello Denise,

    I have a lot of questions here about your ingredients and method. While I agree that everyone should be allowed their own variations on a theme, I must speak up about your final instructions:

    “10. Cover with plastic wrap, being sure to let it sit directly on top of the pudding to avoid a skin forming.
    11. Refrigerate until cooled and then add the remaining strawberries. If you’re in a hurry, you can place your bowl in an ice water bath.”

    Cooking egg yolks until nappe = coats back of spoon = @160-180F means that one must absolutely chill dairy custard through and through before being stored covered. Meaning that one must stir bowl of custard while sitting/floating in an ice water bath, until cold through and through, before covering to skin with plastic wrap.

    While you may never fatally hurt anyone, there’s a good chance of getting someone sick if such a custard is not chilled properly before being sealed shut and placed in the refrigerator, especially a home unit because these machines run warmer than commercial fridges.

    Ice creams made with creme anglaise (as your method mostly reflects) are bound with the proteins in egg yolks and should not need the back up stabilizer of cornstarch. Cornstarch, also, only fully binds a custard once it has come to boil, which is generally too hot for creme anglaise. Butter is also a quizzical addition as, unless it is added in time enough to add to the overall emulsification of the custard, it wants to separate and freeze in little pieces in ice cream machines.

    For some more explanation about egg yolk based custard ice cream making, I wrote a post on a class I taught on the subject here.

  • Denise Lincoln

    Thanks for your thoughts. The cornstarch was used because I added fewer eggs than normally used in an ice cream recipe. Per my article, I wanted a pronounced strawberry flavor and so didn’t want to add more than a few eggs. The cornstarch allowed me to do this (please note that there are only three eggs in this recipe, not the normal 6 or more that most ice cream recipes recommend). I felt I needed an extra binder to make it thick and creamy without detracting from the fruit flavors and it worked well.

    I have always covered my custards with plastic wrap to avoid a skin forming and always refrigerate until completely cooled (often overnight). My instruction to use an ice bath was in addition to refrigerating. You’re right in that the custard should be cooled before topping with the plastic wrap. I’ll add that to the instructions.

    As for the butter, it was part of my pudding recipe so I kept it in, although in retrospect it didn’t necessarily add much to the end result and so it could be easily skipped. Although it did not separate in the custard — it melted through the custard when it was hot — it also didn’t add much to the end result.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  • beverly

    Two comments – Maybe I’m just blind!

    1. Your recipe calls for 3 c. strawberries but the instructions only indicate where to use 2 c.

    2. What are you suppose to do with the 2 tbs butter????

    I made the recipe using 3c berries (were you said to use 2). I left out the butter. Came out good; a bit too lemony; I won’t use the zest of a whole lemon again.

  • Denise Lincoln

    Hi Beverly — Good catch! I added the last cup of strawberries during step 13 (when I placed the ice cream in the ice cream maker) as I wanted some fresher berries added at the end for extra juiciness. I hadn’t realized I left that addition out. As for the butter, I added it in step 8, after the custard was mostly finished, because I had added it to my pudding recipe previously (and I used that recipe for the foundation of this one). I am of the opinion, however, that the butter doesn’t actually add much to the final product and so think I’ll remove it from now on.

    I’m glad you liked the ice cream. I love the extra lemony flavor, but that’s simply my own taste preference (I have a tendency to put lemon in many recipes simply because I love the flavor). Definitely leave it out next time if it doesn’t work for you.

    Thanks for writing!

  • beverly

    Thanks for your reply! And actually everyone who ate the ice cream also liked the lemon flavor – but I thought it a bit too much… To each his own. I will add the last cup of strawberries later!

  • Bryan

    instead of lemon you could try dash o’ vinegars, wine, champagne!

  • Barbara Heans

    I really appreciated finding your recipe, along with all the comments about it. I liked the article you wrote about it, explaining the process you took to find this recipe and your reasons for each ingredient. I have tried strawberry ice cream before and been disappointed that it turned out not very creamy. You have thought about all the things that I was looking for in a recipe. I am anxious to try it out. I was also impressed by how you read the other comments and accepted the suggestions.
    Have you ever tried a liqueur, for example Triple Sec, instead of the lemon?

  • Denise Lincoln

    Hi Barbara — I’ve never used alcohol in ice cream, but am intrigued by the idea. I’m not sure, however, how well a liqueur would freeze in the cream as alcohol often doesn’t freeze well (or at all). Let me know how it works if you try it.

    And thanks for your nice comments. I appreciate them 🙂 Also, I hope you like the recipe once you try it.


Denise Santoro Lincoln

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise’s Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.

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