Six years ago this August I was sitting on the Great Wall of China. It’s a significant memory to me: climbing and climbing, leaving the sweltering humidity behind and slowly making my way toward blue sky and high towers. Adam was with me, along with two of his Chinese students, Fran and Jack*. We spent the day there, walking and climbing, sitting and staring. I remember taking a break on crumbled steps, my mind’s eye sharp and clear. Breathing hard and enchanted by my first journey in the mountains, I was reminded of all the lives I was sitting on: lives given to the endless project of the boundless Wall. Yet here we were, crawling all over the stone, taking pretty pictures for our scrapbooks. My unconscious was shaken with how easily beauty and sorrow dance together. What odd partners they are, and how terrible or joyous when they switch off leading.
Our drive home was silent; we were crazy-tired and soaked with sweat. The subject of dinner came up; we were hungry, too, and while we debated where to stop Fran mentioned in passing the three things she hated most to eat: coffee, dairy, and chocolate. I was shocked, and all my musings and soon-to-be journal entries flitted away as I thought of life without the better part of my diet. We laughed at our varied food cultures, and I told her when she came to visit I would change her mind.
She never came to us, but I think of her often, climbing the tremendous Wall near me, a faithful friend and guide from our first hello. I am certain this ice cream would have convinced her to think differently about her three least favorite foods – a deep coffee flavor that is tamed slightly by the cream, and chocolate at it’s purest form: crunchy, bitter cacao nibs subtly mellowed by the sweet milk.
Dear Fran, this is for you. If there is ever a time to eat together, I hope this would persuade you otherwise about my beloved treats. But even if not, I would thank you for your sincere friendship and unassuming kindness that brought beauty and insight to our climb.

*Fran and Jack refused to let us call them by their Chinese names, so I only knew them by their chosen American names. 

no-churn coffee ice cream with cacao nibs
adapted from everyday food

My favorite way to eat this no-churn ice cream is about 3-4 hours into freezing – it’s still a little soft, and just melts in your mouth. I sneak bits out of my fridge at this point. However, if you want  it more firm, freeze it the full 6 hours or overnight. I used cold press in my ice cream, but if you don’t have that on hand, strong coffee will work just fine. Use any roast that you enjoy.

1 can [14 ounces] sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup strong cold coffee or cold press
2 cups cold heavy cream
1/3 cup cacao nibs

In a medium bowl, stir together condensed milk, vanilla, coffee and cacao nibs.
With a standing mixer, whip cream on medium high until soft peaks form. Whisk one third of whipped cream into coffee mixture. Fold remaining whipped cream into coffee mixture until incorporated. Pour into a regular sized loaf pan, and freeze until firm, 6 hours [or, covered, up to 1 week].
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23 Responses to no-churn coffee ice cream with cacao nibs

  1. you know when it’s 1000 degrees out and you want a less-laborious ice cream–this is it.

  2. london bakes says:

    I’m not a great coffee fan either but I think this could probably turn me too. I love the idea of homemade ice creams but there’s no room in my tiny kitchen for an ice cream maker so I’m really excited to see a delicious looking ice cream that involves minimal effort. Beautiful, as ever.

  3. Dilovely says:

    YUM! That sounds like my ideal way to have coffee.

  4. Kaitlin says:

    Fantastic post! I love recipes inspired by friends. Very sweet of you :)

  5. What a beautiful memory to match such a beautiful post….I absolutely love your poetry attached to every post. You are an inspiration….stunning photography as well! xo

  6. Aww, I love the inspiration for this gorgeous ice cream!

  7. Sacha says:

    The ice cream looks fantastic. I only drink tea. My coffee consumption comes exclusively in the form of ice cream and desserts, which I love! But as good as the ice cream sounds, that story was what drew me in. Just lovely.

  8. yay- you’re here! what a lovely story…this looks like it will be fun for hte kids to help with too.

  9. I can’t wait to try all this no churn ice cream out when I get home this summer. My dad is going to love love love this coffee one.

  10. How cool is this recipe! And what a scrumptious recipe. I am definitely making this soon – I love all things coffee.

  11. You’re back! I’ve missed your gorgeous recipes :-)

    I’ve yet to make one of your no churn ice creams as I’m obsessed with my ice cream maker, but I really want to give one a go as they all look so delicious. Plus anything with condensed milk in gets my vote.

    I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love the flavour in ice creams, granita and other desserts so this looks right up my street, plus the crunch of the cacao nibs would be utterly wonderful. Love.

  12. EagleGreen says:

    Hi! First time I’ve visited you/your blog, and WOW! What a gift. Thank you so much. Now, I have to do a hard-climbing, sweaty trek to work off the calories! It’s worth it–I’ll make it again!

  13. Anonymous says:

    You need a pintrest button! Just made the ice cream and it tasted good pre-frozen. We’ll see how it turns out in about 6 hours! :)

  14. Anonymous says:

    Im going to make this for my mom she loves coffee so does my dad for this recipe do you have to use cacao nibs for it to work

  15. wow. it’s really a good contribution to us guys not good at icecream, you know i did some cakes before but the taste it’s not good, then i quit, so if you have interesting, you can load to coco chanel online

    visit my new make up, give me your advice, Thanks!

  16. [...] no-churn ice cream (Would you believe that I’ve never made homemade ice cream? It’s one of my favorite [...]

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