Time for ice cream! (solving the homemade ice cream problem)

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The nice people at Foodie sent out Williams Sonoma gift certificates to the bloggers featured in their startup. I used mine to buy a new ice cream maker. I had an older model that required that you load up the bucket with ice and salt, but I wanted one that was more convenient.
The Cuisinart model I bought is awesome. In addition to ice cream, I’ve used it several times to make sorbet from summer fruit. I can’t wait to try some unusual ice cream combos.
Before I tackle unusual ice cream flavors, though, I wanted to make sure I got chocolate and vanilla right so that I always had a delicious, rich base recipe to work from. I wanted the recipe to use almond milk, as that’s the dairy-free milk that I’m most likely to have on hand, and I wanted it to use only use ingredients that are available from my regular supermarket (which eliminated the recipe from Veganomiconbecause of its reliance on silken tofu.)
Also, I wanted to solve the “homemade ice cream problem.” If you’ve ever made ice cream at home, you know what I’m talking about – you make a batch, enjoy some right away, put the rest into the freezer, and when you go to scoop out more, it’s as hard as a block of ice.
Some research let me to David Lebovitz’s awesome blog, where I was remindedthat the problem is caused by a lack of air; commercial ice cream makers whip twice as much air into ice cream than typical home ice cream makers. A commercial grade machine is just a tiny bit out of my budget, so I had to figure out something else. I started by adding things to a base of almond milk, sugar, and vanilla. I thought corn starch might do the trick, as it gives the ice cream a custardy texture. It does create a great texture, but I still got ice cream that was too hard after it had been in the freezer. Next, I tried adding fat in the form of coconut cream (scooped from the top of a can of coconut milk). Again, I got a great texture, but an ice block later. Finally, I tried adding alcohol for its antifreeze properties, carefully adding it at the end according to my machine’s instructions. The resulting ice cream was kind of gross. The nearly frozen ice cream in the machine melted and never froze back up properly, and later the ice cream was full of big ice crystals.
I came to the conclusion that the only way to deal with hard ice cream, in my kitchen at least, is to freeze it in a way that doesn’t require scooping later. Ice cream sandwiches are a blast, but if you don’t want to buy or make cookies, you can also make ice cream pops. (Pops are especially great made with sorbet.) For ice cream sandwiches, just about any cookie will do. I think the simpler ones are better, like plain chocolate ones. I tried store-bought gluten-free cookies for my first attempt and they were great too.
The routine goes like this: A day ahead, put the bowl of the ice cream maker in the freezer. Make the custard and refrigerate. Just before making the ice cream, put the serving bowls in the freezer. Scoop the ice cream into the cold serving bowls and put them back into the freezer. Make the ice cream sandwiches or pops. Trade the sammies or pops for the bowls of ice cream in the freezer. Eat!
I made three versions of vanilla before I got one I really liked. The final secret to the best one was using the highest quality vanilla I could find. I think this Madagascar vanilla extract is sublime. I even like it better than using a whole vanilla bean. Once I got the vanilla down, it took two tries to get the best chocolate recipe. The trick here is not to skimp on the sugar, and to use both cocoa powder and unsweetened baking chocolate for a complex chocolate flavor.I’m entering this in Cook.Eat.Delicious – Desserts, this month hosted by Culinary Vibes, and all about chocolate.

Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream
As soon as you buy coconut milk, put it in the refrigerator.  Corn starch and arrowroot starch give equal results so use what you have on hand. This does taste like coconut and almond in addition to vanilla.
1 (13.5-ounce can) coconut milk, refrigerated for several hours
About 3 cups almond milk, divided use
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2-1/2 teaspoons corn starch or arrowroot starch
1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract
Carefully open can of coconut milk and scoop the solids off the top into a large measuring cup. Reserve the liquid for another use (like making curry or bread). Add enough almond milk to the coconut milk solids to make 3 cups. Transfer the coconut and almond milk to a heavy saucepan. Whisk in the sugar and salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until you see a little steam coming from the top of the milk, but don’t bring to a boil.
Whisk together the corn starch or arrowroot starch with an extra 1/2 cup of almond milk. Add to the saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, cool to about room temperature, and refrigerate.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.
Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream
As soon as you buy coconut milk, put it in the refrigerator.  Corn starch and arrowroot starch give equal results so use what you have on hand. Unlike the vanilla recipe, you don’t really notice the almond and coconut flavors here, just chocolate.
1 (13.5-ounce can) coconut milk, refrigerated for several hours
About 3 cups almond milk, divided use
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
Pinch of salt
2-1/2 teaspoons corn starch or arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Carefully open can of coconut milk and scoop the solids off the top into a large measuring cup. Reserve the liquid for another use (like making curry or bread). Add enough almond milk to the coconut milk solids to make 3 cups. Transfer the coconut and almond milk to a heavy saucepan. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, and salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until you see a little steam coming from the top of the milk, but don’t bring to a boil. Whisk vigorously to blend in the melted chocolate.
Whisk together the corn starch or arrowroot starch with an extra 1/2 cup of almond milk. Add to the saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, cool to about room temperature, and refrigerate.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

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2 Responses

  1. great recipe… thanks for linking :)

    • Thanks! I can’t wait to see all the chocolate creations everyone comes up with this month.

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