Blackbird’s Dana Cree Takes Ice Cream to the Next Level


While we still get a bit of a childhood thrill whenever we hear the gleeful jingle of the Good Humor truck, let’s face it—not all ice cream is created equal. And if we’re going to blow an entire days allotment of fat and calories, we’d much prefer spend it on treats that are a cut above. That’s why we turned to talented pastry chef Dana Cree, from the acclaimed Chicago eatery, Blackbird, known for her beyond-the-churner approach to frozen sweets. “We make an ice cream base, pour it into sous vide bags, and boil it for two hours to caramelize the milk. It’s kinda like making dulce de leche,” Cree says. “If we use cows milk we call it Kulfi, like the Indian caramelized popsicle. And if we use goat’s milk we call it Cajeta, like the goats milk caramel from Latin America. It’s really, really delicious.” 

Don’t have a fancy immersion circulator at your disposal? Cree was kind enough to share three recipes with us, for totally DIY (but still thoroughly impressive) ice creams, which you’ll absolutely have to try before the summer ends. And if you’re game for an in-person demo, be sure to join Cree for Free-Styling with Ice Cream Desserts during Taste Talks Chicago, where she and other like-minded chefs will show you some wild ways to take your sweets to the next level!

For tickets, visit here.


Vanilla and Honey Custard Style Ice Cream

1 vanilla bean

125g sugar (1/2 cup)

125g honey  (1/2 cup)

250g cream (1 cup)

500g milk (2 cups)

125g yolks (6 yolks) 

1. Place the cream and milk in a medium sized pot. Place the sugar and honey in the pot as well, stirring to combine. With a small knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and use the tip of your knife to scrape the small black seeds from the pot. Add all the seeds, and the pod to the pot with the milk. 

2. Place the pot on a stovetop burner over medium high heat. Cook, whisking occasionally to help dissolve the sugar and discourage scorching. 

3. When the milk comes to a boil, remove from heat and remove the vanilla pod from the dairy. 

4. Place the yolks into a medium sized bowl, and add about half a cup of the hot cream to the egg yolks, whisking quickly to blend the two before the hot milk curdles the egg yolks. 

5. Add the tempered egg yolks back into the pot of hot milk, and whisk together until even. 

6. Place the pot over medium low heat, and cook until the custard thickens scraping the bottom of the pot with a rubber spatula to avoid curdling. 

7. When you notice the custard start to thicken, remove the pot from heat and immediately transfer into a metal bowl. Place the bowl in an ice bath : a larger bowl filled with ice water, and stir the hot custard occasionally until it cools down. 

8. When the ice cream base is cool, strain the ice cream base through a fine mesh sieve, and transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator overnight. 

9. After the ice cream base has rested overnight, place it in the bowl of an ice cream maker and spin according to the manufacturers instructions. 


Lemon Frozen Yogurt

250g sugar (1 cup)

500g greek yogurt (2 cups)

125g cream (1/2 cup)

125g lemon juice (1/2 cup)

zest of 2 lemons 

1. Place the sugar, cream, and lemon zest in a small pot, and place it on a burner turned to medium high heat. Cook the cream, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar granules, until the cream comes to a boil. 

2. When the cream comes to a boil, remove the pot from the stove and transfer the hot cream into a small metal bowl. Place the bowl of hot cream into a larger bowl filled with ice water. Stir the hot cream occasionally, until it is chilled thoroughly. Alternately, you can let this hot cream cool in your refrigerator for an extended period of time.

3. When the cream is cooled, place the greek yogurt and lemon juice in a medium bowl and use a whisk to combine them until smooth. Place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl, and strain the lemon cream into the lemon yogurt, removing all flecks of lemon zest. 

4. Whisk the cream into the yogurt evenly, and when you are finished, transfer the frozen yogurt into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers instructions. 


Raspberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

250g raspberry puree (1 cup)

150g buttermilk (1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp)

2.5g citric acid (1/2 teaspoon)

375g sugar (1 ½ cup)

375g milk (1 ½ cup)

125g cream (1/2 cup)

20g cornstarch (2 tbsp) 

1. Place the raspberry puree, buttermilk, and citric acid in a bowl, and whisk until even. Set aside in the refrigerator. 

2. Place the sugar, milk, cream, and cornstarch in a medium pot and whisk until evenly combined. 

3. Place the pot over a stove top burner set to medium high heat. Cook, whisking frequently to dissolve sugars and avoid scorching. 

4. When the dairy comes to a boil, set a timer for 1 minute, and cook, stirring gently with a spatula until the 60 seconds are up. 

5. Strain the hot dairy into a medium metal bowl. Place the bowl in an ice bath and cool completely. When cool, add the reserved raspberry puree-buttermilk mixture. Do make sure your dairy is entirely cool, any residual heat when mixing with the acidic berry puree will curdle your ice cream. 

6. Place the raspberry ice cream in the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturers instructions. 


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