No-Churn Banana Pudding Ice Cream

 Last week, I posted some seriously good homemade vanilla wafers. They’re an everyday kind of cookie that isn’t full of “stuff” and doesn’t involve a ton of work or even a chill, but always hit the spot. They’re absolute perfection by themselves with a big cup of tea (I’m currently obsessed with this one). 

But since I posted those sweet little wafers last week, I have been absolutely surrounded by baked goods–Winning Hearts and Minds Cake, Carrot Cake Blondies, a chocolate-peanut butter cake, some huge ice cream sandwiches at The Meatball Shop, yesterday’s Katharine Hepburn Brownies

Let’s just say that I have eaten a lot of sugar and the vanilla wafers have been unfairly neglected. Until now. 

Here, they are paired with their BFF, bananas, and folded into ultra-creamy no-churn vanilla ice cream. The wafers get soft like the cookie crumbles in classic cookies & cream ice cream. The ice cream is super smooth and creamy, thanks to the magic no-churn formula of sweetened condensed milk and freshly whipped cream. And all of it is perfumed with more vanilla and mashed ripe bananas. 

   It’s like the best banana pudding you’ve ever had. But scoopable. And if you want to pile it into a waffle cone and top it with a spoonful of lightly-sweetened whipped cream, well, you should. It would be amazing.

No-Churn Banana Pudding Ice Cream is perfect for any parties or cook-outs you have coming up this spring and summer! It would be adorable in ice cream sandwiches, or as an ice cream cake <—definitely doing that!

But, of course, it’s just as good in a bowl when you’re on the couch watching Netflix 😊

Looking for more no-churn ice cream? Check out my No-Churn Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream!

No-Churn Banana Pudding Ice Cream
makes about 8 cups

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream, cold
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup crushed vanilla wafers (homemade or store-bought)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer (or a whisk) to whip heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold whipped cream into sweetened condensed milk mixture just until combined. Fold in mashed bananas, followed by crushed vanilla wafers.

Transfer ice cream into a 9×5″ loaf pan, or other 8 cup vessel. Press plastic wrap onto the surface of the ice cream. Cover plastic wrap with aluminum foil. Freeze ice cream for 6 hours or overnight, until completely frozen. Scoop and enjoy!

Katharine Hepburn Brownies {Grain-Free}

 It always surprises people when they find out I went to film school.

I mean, I get why. I’ve never actually worked in the film industry, and I spend literally all my time baking, photographing, writing about, and serving food. It’s my whole life. Even while I spent six years learning about film production, I was mostly thinking about what I was going to make for dinner when I finally got back to my Upper West Side apartment. I watched equal amounts of Martin Scorsese films and The Barefoot Contessa. On the chance that someone’s shoot needed a craft services person, I was their girl. Getting class credit for roasting chickens and making salads? I was in heaven!

While my interest in film production was essentially gone by the time I graduated, my love for great movies has stayed strong (as has my love for cooking and baking, obviously). I still live for all things Scorsese, DeNiro, and DiCaprio, but when I need comfort, I go for anything with Katharine Hepburn. 

I am a diehard fan of her work–my personal favorites are Woman of the Year and The Philadelphia Story. I also love that she was a woman with a lot of opinions (something we have in common). She wore pants at a time when it was unacceptable for women to do so. She loved fiercely–the way she spoke about Spencer Tracy, her friends and family…💗💗💗😭 And, of course, she had opinions about food, namely brownies.

Ms. Hepburn was once gifted some brownies by her neighbors, and seeing that they were cakey instead of fudgy, she sent them her personal recipe instead of a thank you note! The recipe soon appeared in The New York Times and has since made its way around the Internet. And for good reason: these brownies are dense and fudgy, extra chocolaty, and studded with chopped nuts. 

Being a woman with a lot of opinions myself, I just had to mess with Katharine Hepburn’s recipe…but not too much. I added a touch of light brown sugar to the melted chocolate and butter base, and added some vanilla to round out the flavor. Being the good Texan girl I am, I swapped the walnuts for pecans. But the biggest change I made? I replaced the 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour with cocoa powder, making these brownies completely grain-free! I love when a recipe can feed my friends with allergies and specific diets.

The results speak for themselves. These brownies are super rich and full of chocolate flavor, and not even the slightest bit cakey. Fudgy brownie lovers won’t be able to get enough! And while I know Ms. Hepburn loved her own recipe, I think she’d approve of my version, too.

Want more brownies? Check out my Cocoa Brownies!

Katharine Hepburn Brownies {Grain-Free}
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
makes one 8×8″ pan

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder (natural or dutch process)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8×8″ rimmed square baking pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment. Set aside.

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together until smooth. Let cool slightly before transferring to a large mixing bowl.

Whisk in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by eggs and vanilla. Mix in cocoa powder and salt. Fold in chopped nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Tap full pan five times on the countertop to release air bubbles. Bake 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let brownies cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, before slicing and serving.

Carrot Cake Blondies

 These last six weeks have been absolute insanity. I moved, my mom and little sister visited, I had a pie party, and I worked my tail off. On top of all that, I am sick for the first time in three years (a major perk of working with kids is that you become immune to everything).

But Easter is this weekend. And I love Easter. All the significance of Holy Week. Cute little kids hunting for eggs. The pastels and seersucker. And, of course, the food. I love a fancy Easter brunch, and I looooove carrot cake. 

But I am not feeling 100% and have plenty to do this weekend without cooking for a major holiday, too. While I would love to make a traditional carrot cake, I just don’t see myself finding the time to bake and frost it. But Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without carrot cake.

Enter these Carrot Cake Blondies. They have all the spices and flavors of the classic cake, but don’t take nearly the time and energy. The bar base is a no-mixer-required recipe that can be whipped up as quickly as you can grate carrots! I like mine chock full of walnuts and raisins, but if nuts and dried fruit aren’t for you, feel free to leave them out. The blondies are still great without all the “stuff.” 

And then, there’s the frosting. You simply can’t have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting! (That goes when the cake is actually blondies, too.) Here, there’s nearly as much frosting as blondie in every single bite! The recipe makes enough for a very thick layer, but you may use a thinner layer, or leave it off entirely if frosting isn’t your thing.*

*If frosting isn’t your thing, this might not be the right blog for you 😁

Carrot Cake Blondies are the perfect treat for your Easter weekend. They are absolutely every bit as good as classic carrot cake, and half the work, so you’ll have plenty of time to celebrate outside of your kitchen. Plus, it’s a lot easier to hunt for eggs with a blondie in your hand than it is with a slice of cake and a fork!

Happy Easter! 

 Carrot Cake Blondies
makes one 8×8″ pan, 9-12 blondies

Blondies:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely shredded carrots,* packed (5-6 medium carrots)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1/2 cup raisins, optional

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces full-fat brick-style cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8×8″ square pan with butter and line with parchment. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and light brown sugar. Whisk in egg yolk, followed by vanilla and shredded carrots. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in walnuts and raisins.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Tap full pan on counter five times to release air bubbles. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Lift blondies out of the pan and let cool completely on the rack.

Make the frosting. In a mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments. Add vanilla and salt, and beat on high for two full minutes until very fluffy. Spread on cooled blondies.

Refrigerate frosted blondies for 15-30 minutes before slicing.

Blondies keep at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for three.

Note:

Do not use store-bought shredded carrots. They tend to be dry, and will make these blondies dry as a result.

Winning Hearts and Minds Cake {Grain-Free}

 My little sister, Eliot (“E3”), came in town last week. While I’ve been busy trying to make my life happen in New York for the last eight or so years, she’s graduated from college, moved to Austin, worked as an engineer, become a yoga teacher, and applied and gotten into her top two choices for graduate school. One of them is Ivy League.

Sorry Eliot, had to brag…more. 

Out of all my immediate family, she has definitely visited me the most. Eliot’s probably been here fifteen times since I left Texas. As you can imagine, that means that we’ve been to every tourist attraction, hit a couple of Broadway shows, eaten at all the fancy restaurants, walked the Highline, and played a multi-hour game of mini-golf on Randall’s Island.

Tip: don’t challenge the captain of the high school golf team to a game of mini-golf. You will lose. You will lose hard

As Eliot’s come to see me so many times now, there’s not much touring left on her list. The entirety of what she wanted to do while she was here? Get some coffee at Sahadi’s, grab some Gorilla Coffee for our dad, and eat at MOB, a vegan restaurant in one of my old neighborhoods. And we did all of those things…but that didn’t take up much of our three days together, so we got creative instead. 

  We did a lot of weird stuff. She came to work with me twice (bless my amazing boss for giving me the kind of job where I can do that!). She tutored a nine year-old on fractions. We did cartwheels on the playground with said nine year-old. We swung on swings. We went thrifting and tried on vintage pearl snaps. We went to an impromptu St. Patrick’s Day dinner hosted by my friend, Claire. We ate barbecue with pretty much everyone I know. Heck, we even had a little dinner party. 

But in all that, we baked too. I had two cake orders while she was here: one carrot, and one of these Winning Hearts and Minds Cakes. Eliot isn’t much for carrot cake (she eats it mostly for the cream cheese frosting), but the girl loooooves chocolate. She was so enamored of the fudgy chocolate cake we delivered that I put it on the menu for our little dinner party. Paired with a double recipe of Everyday Cassoulet and a salad, it was a hit. 

 This cake is not even really a cake. Technically, it’s a torte. It’s completely grain-free, and made almost entirely of bittersweet chocolate, European butter, sugar, and eggs. It’s super rich and fudgy, best served in small slices with a spoonful of ice cream (E3’s recommendation) or whipped cream. The chocolate drizzle is optional, but I think it brings this already divine little cake over the top. It’s perfect for dinner parties, birthdays, holidays…Molly Wizenberg even served it at her wedding.

No matter when or why you make this cake, it’s sure to please. And if you get to make it (twice!) with your favorite person in the world, all the better. 

 Winning Hearts and Minds Cake {Grain-Free}
slightly adapted from Orangette
makes one 9-inch round cake

Cake:
7 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate*, chopped
7 ounces unsalted European-style butter*, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Chocolate Drizzle:
2 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

For Serving:
lightly-sweetened whipped cream (optional)
vanilla or coffee ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. Line the bottom with parchment, and grease with butter. Set aside.

In a double boiler or the microwave, melt dark chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Whisk in sugar. Allow to cool slightly.

Whisk in one egg at a time, combining completely after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Whisk in cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center jiggles just slightly when the pan is jostled. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.

Line a plate with aluminum foil. Turn cake onto lined plate. Place a serving plate top-down onto the bottom of the cake. Holding on tightly to both plates (but not so tightly as to crush the cake), flip the cake to be right side-up on the un-lined plate. Let cool completely at room temperature.

Make the chocolate drizzle. In a double boiler or the microwave, melt chocolate and coconut oil together until smooth. Using a squeeze bottle or a fork, drizzle over the top of the cooled cake. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes to set.

Serve cake in small slices, cold or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Cake will keep at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for three.

Notes:

1. You may use any good-quality bittersweet chocolate you like. I have used Guittard on many occasions, but am currently partial to Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% Dark Chocolate.
2. I use Kerrygold, Finlandia, or Lurpak, but use whichever European-style unsalted butter you prefer.

Vanilla Wafers

 Sometimes you just need something easy. Something that will satisfy your sweet tooth, but also doesn’t have 43 ingredients or involve a 90 minute chill. Something that turns out every single time without you having to think too hard. Something that will go well with Nutella or ice cream or pudding or coffee. Something that you can pull out of the cabinet when company shows up, and look like Ina freaking Garten because *of course* you have these on-hand all the time.

Well, this is that recipe. 

These vanilla wafers are so quick and easy, and they are ten zillion times better than the boxed variety. And I should know–these were the first recipe I “mastered” almost three years ago. I made them over and over again for months! I can practically bake them in my sleep.

The dough comes together in ten minutes flat, and doesn’t involve any special ingredients. If you feel like you have no food in the house, you probably still have all the ingredients to make these wafers. These cookies came to mind last week because I had one egg, one stick of butter, and not much of anything else. Less than 90 minutes later, I had made the world’s simplest dough, rolled it, and baked 152 tiny little cookies. 

 The most work-heavy part is probably the rolling–scooping dough 1/2 teaspoon at a time can get a little tedious–but that really doesn’t take more than a few minutes. I use my half-sheet pans for making these, and that allows me to bake 54 on a single pan! If you place one on each rack, that means all the cookies will be done in two batches. Easy peasy. 

And oh, are they good. For someone who prefers soft and chewy cookies, I sure do love these crispy, crunchy wafers. They’re buttery and full of vanilla flavor, and there’s a divine caramel undertone thanks to the brown sugar.

I love to make these Vanilla Wafers into tiny ice cream sandwiches, dunk them in coffee and, obviously, throw them into banana pudding. But of course, they’re wonderful just on their own. 

 Vanilla Wafers
adapted from Serious Eats
makes about 13 dozen very small cookies

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed*
1 large egg, room temperature
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in granulated and light brown sugars, followed by egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, combining completely after each addition.

Scoop dough by the 1/2 teaspoon, roll into balls*, and set 1-inch apart on prepared baking pans. Bake 8-9 minutes, or until browned at the edges and no longer raw-looking. Let cool five minutes on the pans before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Wafers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week.

Notes:

1. If you do not have or do not want to use light brown sugar, granulated sugar may be substituted.
2. Dough should be sticky, but still rollable.