Sweet Corn Is The Underrated Ingredient That Belongs In Ice Cream

Seasonal activities are so often defined by specific foods — in summer, perhaps more than any other, we gather to grill corn at barbecues and stroll down streets with scoops of ice cream on cones. But for the ultimate celebration of sunny weather, it's time you try combining these timeless traditions: On a hot day, nothing beats sweet corn ice cream – though, of course, it's good any time of year as well.

If you are not convinced that corn has a place in your dessert, it may be helpful to know that corn is a fruit. Of the different corn varieties, sweet corn has a naturally high sugar content and low quantity of starch, which accounts for its relative sweetness.

Several classic American dishes highlight this quality as a side to savory meals, such as slices of cornbread drizzled with melted honey butter or warm bowls of thick creamed corn, but this ingredient also shines as the star of a post-dinner treat. When combined with milk and sugar to make ice cream, the delicately fruity flavors of corn come out and complement the buttery notes of the dairy for a rich yet refreshing seasonal specialty.

Tips for making sweet corn ice cream

True fans of this summertime produce protagonist know that the best way to boil corn on the cob involves milk since this helps bring out its sweetness and makes the kernels extra tender. It may not be a surprise, then, that the process for making sweet corn ice cream starts similarly. The base recipe calls for two kinds of dairy: milk and heavy cream.

However, if you are looking for a vegan alternative, you're in luck — this particular flavor pairs perfectly with coconut milk. In fact, in some cultures, including parts of the Caribbean like Trinidad and Jamaica, corn is traditionally boiled in coconut milk for various savory dishes. This combo is also ideal for dessert. The nuttiness of the coconut lends complexity without overpowering the corn. To emphasize this and add texture, you can also top your scoop with toasted coconut flakes.

Whichever type of milk you use, the secret to bringing out the subtle flavor of corn is to incorporate every part of the plant during the cooking and steeping process. As the mixture heats, stir in the corn husks, cob, and even the silk strands. Leave these in while the liquid refrigerates overnight, then use a strainer to remove them before spinning the ice cream. You can make ice cream using only a stand mixer, so you don't need any fancy equipment, but you do need to allow it to freeze for several hours before serving.

How to serve sweet corn ice cream

Sweet corn ice cream is simply perfect on its own, but it also makes a great companion for other desserts — especially fruit-forward ones. As they say, what grows together goes together — so if you need inspiration, think about other kinds of fresh produce that peak during the summer season like corn. With their vivid colors and slightly sweet, slightly tart flavors, berries and stone fruits are perfect for pairing with corn. Try serving a scoop of your ice cream atop blueberry pie or alongside a cherry crumble.

Alternatively, you can also experiment with incorporating other flavors and textures directly into your sweet corn ice cream. This mild base works well with a wide variety of mix-ins that can be added at different points throughout the process. As you start with cooking the base, you can throw in a few sprigs of fresh herbs like basil or mint to steep in the warm milk, infusing it with earthy, complex tasting notes.

After churning the ice cream, swirl in fresh fruit purees like blackberry or peach for a pop of color and extra sweetness. Or, if you love a little something crunchy, top your scoops with chopped dark chocolate or even crunchy cornflakes for another layer of corn flavor plus textural contrast.