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Make your own ice cream this Memorial Day weekend

MILES PARKS, HOST:

It's Memorial Day weekend, which is the unofficial start to summer. And what better way to kick off the season than with something cool?

ERIN JEANNE MCDOWELL: I think one of the things I love about ice cream is it's never a bad time for it, you know? I mean, even when it's really cold outside, I still kind of am craving ice cream sometimes. So then you add the heat into it, and it's just, like, ice cream should be a standard. It should be an expectation of our day, almost, to get through the day.

PARKS: That's Erin Jeanne McDowell. She's an award-winning chef who's written a number of cookbooks, including "The Fearless Baker." She says the only thing better than ice cream is homemade ice cream.

MCDOWELL: Ice cream made at home is so fresh, and the flavors really, really pop through. So for me, it's the ability to make, with one base, to turn it into something like strawberry or just as easily into chocolate or just as easily into mint chip or just as easily into something with tons of inclusions like cookie dough or cookie chunks or butter pecan. I mean, there are just so many possibilities, and you can definitely make it to suit your own tastes, which makes it a really fun thing to make at home.

PARKS: McDowell says making ice cream at home is easier than you might think. The simplest kind of make at home is a no-churn ice cream, which doesn't require any fancy equipment. All you need is a mixing bowl, a spatula, a whisk and a can opener.

MCDOWELL: It's basically sweetened condensed milk and whipped cream. And by whipping the cream, we sort of imitate that same aeration that would normally happen when we churn an ice cream. So you can, with just two simple ingredients, basically make a very delicious ice cream. And it doesn't involve as much rest and all that churning. Like, so it gets you from zero to ice cream a lot faster.

PARKS: But if you did want something a little fancier without the hassle of dealing with high-end equipment, she says hand-churned is the way to go.

MCDOWELL: This is such a fun thing to do at parties. It's a great way to kind of get the whole family involved because everyone sort of needs to take a turn because someone's arm is going to give out eventually. These are just hand-cranked machines. They're pretty inexpensive. You can buy them at a lot of kitchen supply stores. And what you want to do is you're going to kind of fill that outer rim of that hand churner with ice, and you're just going to churn it by cranking it. And the best part is, you know, you really earn that ice cream when you hand-churn it.

PARKS: And hand-churned ice cream is pretty easy to flavor.

MCDOWELL: It's commonly done by infusing the cream before we start churning. So if you're going to use vanilla bean, for example, you might infuse the vanilla bean into the cream when you heat it up to dissolve the sugar. Similarly, other ingredients that are going to dissolve a little bit under that heat application - things like chocolate, things like citrus zest - those things can all be added kind of in the early stages so that it can really infuse into the cream. When we go to churn, all that flavor is already inside.

PARKS: And if you're vegan, do not fret. We've got you covered.

MCDOWELL: To make a sorbet, we need to make a fruit puree. So we'll cook the fruit with a little bit of sugar to get it to a nice soft consistency and blend it up. You can strain it to remove any seeds or pulp, and then we're just going to add simple syrup. It's just a very dense sugar syrup that we add to the fruit puree, and that's all you need to make a sorbet. But I also have to suggest that you try that no-churn ice cream method with sweetened condensed coconut milk, which is something that's available in most stores, and a whipped coconut topping. If you love coconut flavor, it's my favorite way to make a coconut ice cream, and it just happens to be dairy free.

PARKS: If you're still intimidated, McDowell says, just don't overthink it.

MCDOWELL: So my best piece of advice to make ice cream less overwhelming is just to plan ahead. You know, make your ice cream base one day, and let it chill overnight, and then wake up and get ready to churn ice cream the next day. And if you can plan ahead like that, it actually is going to be such a super simple process.

PARKS: That was Erin Jeanne McDowell. She's an award-winning food stylist and cookbook author. Her upcoming cookbook is called "Savory Baking."

(SOUNDBITE OF DRAKE SONG, "FROM TIME (FEAT. JHENE AIKO)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.