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Milkshakes 101

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- Amanda

This past Christmas, “Santa” brought my 3-1/2-year-old twins a battery-operated blender (apparently fashioned by his elves at Amazon.com). Bright yellow with a plastic “blade,” it whirred along excitedly when I added some dried beans to the container – whap! whap! whap! And for a few days this entertained my kids with occasional bursts of loud fun (and beans ending up in the strangest places.)

About a week ago, I decided it was time to take the dried-bean training wheels off the blender and put it to work in the kitchen: it was time for milkshakes! We set the blender on the floor. I pulled out some salted caramel ice cream I had in the freezer, some milk and some breakable Illy espresso cups I’d had for years thinking they’d be perfect for when we had children (until I actually had children, saw how often their cups plunged to the floor, and decided to let the cups sit in the cabinet for a few more years).

Together Walker, Addie and I scooped the ice cream, poured the milk, put on the lid, and then turned on the little plastic blender-that-could. It chugged and struggled and whirred and in a few moments the lumps of ice cream began to slowly unmoor from the sides of the container. Without a blade, the “blade” swished the ice cream until it broke down and the blender filled up with slushy foam. It never occurred to me that you could make a milkshake without intensely blending the ingredients. But it turns out that all you really need to do is emulsify the milk and ice cream until they achieve a texture that’s not quite milky and not quite solid but “ploppy” as I explained to my kids. We watched the mixture spin and checked the ploppiness factor and when it was just right, poured the milkshake into the thimble-sized cups. My kids brought the cups to their lips and didn’t pause until they were emptied.

The milkshakes have since become a nightly ritual (which means, for me, a 7 pm milkshake aperitif has replaced the Lillet or scotch -- but things could be worse). When we ran out of caramel ice cream we made vanilla shakes, flavored with a few spoonfuls of chestnut spread. And when we ran out of that we whipped up a banana and nutmeg frappe (with milk and ice rather than ice cream). Walker and Addie have begun to discuss the ingredients and wonder about the process. And how lucky for them that a world of lassis, smoothies and floats still lies ahead.


There is no need for a recipe for milkshakes. All you do is add 1 large scoop of ice cream per person. Drop the scoops into the blender and add enough milk to almost cover the scoops. Turn on the blender -– bbrrrrrrrrr! Done!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Recipe adapted from Nicole Kaplan at Eleven Madison Park in New York City; it originally appeared in the New York Times on October 8, 2006 in an article by Christine Muhlke.

Makes about 1 quart

  • 3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups cream, preferably organic
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus more for serving


1. Place 3/4 cup sugar and the corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Do not stir. Cook over medium-high heat to a dark caramel, swirling as it begins to brown to distribute the sugar. Deglaze with the cream; then slowly add the milk. The caramel will harden. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring, just until the caramel has dissolved.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, yolks and fleur de sel. Whisk a little caramel cream into the egg mixture to temper, pour the egg mixture into the remaining caramel cream and mix. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. Cool completely, preferably overnight, then freeze in an ice-cream maker.

3. Sprinkle with fleur de sel before serving.

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