My summer lemon-blueberry obsession continues with this Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream I am introducing to celebrate the all-important National Ice Cream Day! WHOOHOO!!!!
This ice cream is perfectly creamy, full of lemon flavor, sweetened softly by the blueberry swirl. It’s magical. That said, if you just want a straight up lemon ice cream, this is your go-to recipe! Instead of the blueberry swirl, you could mix in a couple tablespoons of poppyseeds for a lemon poppyseed ice cream.
I love making ice cream. It’s a pretty quick treat to whip up, although you do want to budget enough time for chilling and freezing. Let’s break it down:
Prep your ingredients
Most importantly, separate your eggs. (Save the whites for an omelet or another sensible pastry product like the marshmallow crème frosting in my Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Frosting, meringues, a chiffon cake, an angel food cake…) It’s easiest to separate eggs while they are refrigerator cold, and since you will be cooking the eggs to make the custard, there’s no need for them to warm up to room temperature.
Zest your lemons (you’ll need three large ones) and make sure you squeezed enough lemon juice.
Whisk the yolks with half the sugar
I usually get this started before I heat up the liquid ingredients to get a head start on it. This can be a bit of a workout, but it is an essential step to a creamy ice cream! You want to whisk the yolk/sugar mixture until it is thick, pale yellow in color and forms a ribbon when dripped on itself. (Nerd alert: We use part of the sugar here because it helps strengthen the proteins in the yolks to hold small air pockets that result in a creamy ice cream.) If you’re feeling lazy, you can always let the mixer do the whisking.
Heat the liquids
To work in really good lemon flavor, pour the remaining sugar into a pot, dump the lemon zest on top, and use your fingertips to press the zest into the sugar. This helps release the oils (which have tons of flavor) into the sugar. Then pour in the liquid ingredients and heat to a simmer.
Temper the yolks
You need to whisk the heated liquid mixture into your beaten yolk/sugar mixture. To do this, it is imperative that you continuously whisk the yolk/sugar mixture from the time that the first drop of the heated liquid ingredients come into contact with the yolk/sugar mixture. (Or else you’ll end up with scrambled eggs!) This step is probably easiest with another set of hands to hold the bowl of the thick yolk/sugar mixture. If no one else is around (no one ever is when I make ice cream), place your yolk/sugar mixture bowl on a rubber mat or wrap a wet dishtowel around the base of the bowl so that it does not move while you whisk. (Swaddle that baby!)
Heat to 185°F
Once you got the hot milk mixture added to the yolk/sugar mixture, return the whole she-bang to the pot, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula until the temperature reaches 185° F. Yes, many recipes tell you that you should heat until a line holds on the back of the spoon. However, the only way to be certain that the custard is fully cooked is to take its temperature. It usually only takes a minute or two to reach the desired temperature. I highly recommend this thermometer from ThermoWorks. I literally use it to take the temperature of anything I make, from ice cream to breads to tempering chocolate.
Strain, flavor and chill
It’s always a good idea to strain the mixture just in case a little of the egg started to scramble. You will also catch the zest for easy removal. It’s best to do this over an ice bath so that the mixture cools down quickly (usually takes about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes) so you can get it into the refrigerator. Stir the vanilla and the lemon juice. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap directly touching the surface and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. (I usually let it sit overnight and churn it in the morning.)
While you could go right ahead and churn it in your ice cream machine once it is at room temperature, it’s best to let it chill in the refrigerator so that the flavors develop further. I also find that, with at-home ice cream makers, I end up with a better result churning a refrigerator cold ice cream base as opposed to a room temperature ice cream base. (I have used both the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment and this Cuisinart ice cream maker with tremendously great results.
Heat all the ingredients together, stirring with a wood spoon, crushing the berries at they cook. Let it boil, stirring constantly, for a couple of minutes to dehydrate the mixture a bit. It will be a deep purple color and slightly thicken. Allow to cool completely and refrigerate.
Churn, swirl and freeze
Mix the ice cream base well, as the lemon juice may have separated from the rest of the base. Follow the manufacturer’s directions of your ice cream maker to churn the ice cream. Layer the ice cream in a container with the blueberry filling and give it a quick swirl with a metal spatula or a knife. The ice cream will likely be the consistency of soft-serve. Once you freeze it for at least 4 hours, it will firm up and scoop out beautifully.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream
Can I use store bought lemon juice?
I do not recommend it. For maximum lemon flavor, you should use lemon zest. Juice those lemons and any additional ones to get the required amount of lemon juice. Fresh juice makes for a fresher flavor.
How do I store the base while it chills in the refrigerator?
Cover it with plastic wrap directly on top of it. The reason for this is that the enzymes in the milk and cream will create a skin on top (like pudding) if exposed to any air.
Do I need to use vodka in the blueberry swirl?
No. The purpose of the vodka is to help keep the blueberry swirl from freezing solid. It will just be slightly more frozen without the vodka.
Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream
Lemon Ice Cream Base:
- 550 grams whole milk (2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons)
- 255 grams heavy cream (1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon)
- 200 grams sugar (divided (1 cup))
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3 Tablespoons lemon zest (3 large lemons)
- 178 grams lemon juice (¾ cup)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 66 grams sugar (⅓ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- small pinch ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons vodka (optional)
- Fill a large bowl half way with ice. Pour cold water over the ice so that the bowl is no more than ⅔ high. Place a clean bowl on top of the water bath. Place a strainer over the empty bowl. Set aside
- Pour half the sugar (you can eyeball half) into a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Add the lemon zest and press it into the sugar with your fingertips. Add the milk and cream and whisk over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves. Heat to a simmer.
- While the liquid heats up, vigorously whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar. You want to whisk it until the mixture turns pale yellow, becomes thick, and forms a ribbon when dripped on itself. (You can use an electric mixer with the whisk attachment if you are feeling lazy. It will take approximately 5 minutes of constant whisking by hand.)
- Once the liquid mixture comes to a simmer, turn the heat off and let it sit for a minute or two. With the bowl containing the egg/sugar mixture secure on the counter (if no one is around to hold it, place it on a rubber mat or wet a dishtowel and wrap it around the base of the bowl), slowly pour the heated liquid mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Once fully incorporated, pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan. Over a medium-low heat, stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until it reaches 185° F or a line holds when you drag your finger across the back of the wooden spoon. (It should only take a minute or two to reach the correct temperature.)
- Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the cooked mixture through the strainer into the empty bowl sitting in the ice water bath. Lift strainer and discard the zest. Stir in the vanilla and lemon juice. Continue stirring every few minutes as it sits in the ice bath until the mixture has completely cooled, about 10 minutes.
- Pour into a container. Cover with plastic wrap directly over (touching) the mixture. Cover and place in refrigerator for 4-24 hours.
- Combine all the blueberry swirl ingedients into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. The mixture should be deep puple and slightly thicken. Remove from heat and transfer to a heatproof container. Allow to cool to room temperature. Mix in vodka, if using. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Follow your ice cream manufacturer’s directions to churn the ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer container, layering it with the blueberry swirl. Cover with a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly on the surface. Cover container and freeze.
- For best flavor and results, use only fresh lemons.
- You can use fresh or frozen blueberries. (Frozen tend to be sweeter and more flavorful.)