Vanilla Ice Cream Pie Recipe
Made from a combination of billowy Swiss meringue and fluffy whipped cream, the no-churn ice cream filling for this frozen pie is as light as a cloud. It has a fluffy texture and pure vanilla flavor similar to the ice cream in a Klondike bar (another recipe you can make from scratch), but one that’s easily customizable using other types of extract, like lemon, orange, or mint. Try it in a chocolate cookie crumb crust, or use lightly spiced speculoos cookies like Biscoff instead. A handful of rainbow sprinkles add a festive, but optional, touch.
Why It Works
- Swiss meringue provides a thick and stable base for a no-churn ice cream that’s fluffy and light.
- Lemon juice or cream of tartar provide acidity to the meringue, keeping its sweetness in check.
- For the Crust:
- 7 ounces cookie crumbs, homemade or store-bought, traditional or gluten-free, see note (about 1 2/3 cup; 195g)
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, melted (about 1/2 cup; 113g)
- Pinch of salt
- For the Filling:
- 6 ounces egg whites (from about 6 large eggs; 170g)
- 8 ounces plain or lightly toasted sugar (about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 225g)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight, or more to taste
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon; 15g), or 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 16 ounces heavy cream (about 2 cups; 455g)
- 1/2 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 tablespoon; 15g), or other extracts to taste
- Rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, to taste
For the Crust: Combine the cookie crumbs with melted butter and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl, folding with a flexible spatula until the crumbs are fully moistened. Scrape into a 9-inch pie plate, then compress into an even layer with a flat-bottomed drinking glass or measuring cup, or by hand. Keep pressing until the crumbs are in a compact, even layer across the bottom and sides of the pan. Refrigerate until needed. (The crust can be made and held for a day or two if wrapped in plastic.)
For the Filling: Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a simmer for a steady supply of steam. Crumple a long strip of foil into a thick ring and place ring into the water; this will act as a “booster seat” later in the process to keep the bowl from touching the water or the pot directly.
Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, and lemon juice or cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place bowl over the water bath so it sits on the foil ring (the bowl should not touch the water or the bottom or sides of the pot). Cook, stirring and scraping continuously with a flexible spatula, until egg white mixture reaches 172°F (77°C). This should take about 8 to 10 minutes in a stainless steel stand mixer bowl; if it takes substantially longer, it simply means the heat is too low. If the mixture cooks too fast, or scrambles despite constant stirring, this indicates that the water has come to a boil, or that the water or pot is able to touch the bowl.
When the mixture reaches 172°F, transfer bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at high speed until meringue is glossy, stiff, and thick, about 5 minutes, although the timing will vary depending on the power of a given stand mixer.
Once meringue is thick and stiff, whip the heavy cream and vanilla until thick and stiff, as well. This can be done by hand in a separate bowl, or in the original stand mixer bowl if the meringue is transferred to another container (no need to wash the bowl or whisk.)
With an open balloon whisk or flexible spatula, gently combine the whipped cream and meringue, working carefully but thoroughly to ensure the mixture is well combined, but not deflated. Taste and season with additional salt and/or extract as needed. If you like, gently fold in chocolate or rainbow sprinkles to taste (about 1/3 cup if using the long, skinny “jimmy” style), working briefly to avoid overmixing the “ice cream.”
Scrape the mixture into the prepared crust and form it into a mound with the spatula, sculpting swoops and swirls as desired. Wrap thoroughly but loosely in plastic, to avoid crushing the ice cream, and freeze 8 to 12 hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the ice cream registers 0°F (-18°C). Carefully wrapped to avoid odor absorption in the freezer, the pie can be held for up to one week.
To serve, garnish the pie with additional sprinkles and slice into wedges with a chef’s knife, warmed in hot water, wiping the blade clean between each slice. Thanks to its exceptionally light and airy texture, the no-churn ice cream filling is slow to melt, so it holds up better than ice cream outside the freezer, making it less messy to serve than one might expect.