day 6: i scream for ice cream

A wonderful way to play with our food is to turn fruit into ice cream or sorbet. 

I’ve been experimenting with non-dairy frozen desserts made with fruit. I have a VitaMix (which everyone should own, by the way) and that means whatever I put in there can be pulverized down to a liquid. Apples, bananas, cucumbers, berries, whatever I want can be mixed in with non-dairy beverages. 

While I have made my own almond milk (easy with the VitaMix but messy), I use the boxed, unsweetened versions for ice cream. The richest is coconut milk or cream. Soy will be the next creamiest along with cashew milk. Rice is the sweetest. Almond is a nice mix of not too sweet and still a bit creamy. I like to mix several different milks. 

I add in a bit of salt, sometimes vanilla (or experiment with flavorings like mint), and sometimes additional sweetener, such as coconut sugar. If I’ve used a lot of fruit and the rice milk, I don’t need the additional sweetener. It’s okay to add whatever you like -- milk, non-dairy milk, sugar, maple syrup, no extra sweetener -- and part of the fun is experimenting. The one I made with frozen organic blueberries from Trader Joes, bananas, and coconut milk turned out great. Maybe I’ll go for a grapefruit sorbet next. 

Many ice creams are made with egg and require heating first. If you’d like to do that, there a million recipes online. I want easy and quick, which means as few ingredients as possible.  Here are a bunch of vegan recipes, some requiring multiple steps and most being pretty darn quick and easy. Even if you don’t follow the recipes, they may inspire you to come up with your own unique treat. 

Some recipes don’t even require an ice cream maker. For instance, take one cup frozen strawberries, 3 ripe frozen bananas, and 2 tablespoons of a nut milk. Blend -- and eat! If you don’t have a VitaMix (really, they’re lovely and so worth the investment), any blender will do. A small hand-held stick blender is easy to use and quick to clean. 

I have an ice cream maker (somewhat like this one from Amazon) that works quickly and easily. The bowl lives in the freezer, and when I’m ready to make ice cream, I attach the top, plug it in, and for 15 or 20 minutes it mixes until it is frozen enough to scoop out. I like the texture of the ice cream, which is why I go this route even though I have the VitaMix for blending frozen ingredients. 

The trick to making a great fruit ice cream is to use a lot of fruit. For instance, this peach ice cream recipe from glutenfreegoddess.com calls for 4 cups of peeled peaches. Add some vanilla, 1/2 cup sweetener, 2 teaspoons coconut oil, and a 14 ounce can of coconut milk. The recipe says to heat half the peaches, add in the coconut oil and milk, and melt in the sugar before throwing it all in a blender. The other half of the peaches are chopped into smaller chunks and added to the mixture before putting it all in an ice cream maker. I think the cooking might intensify the flavors a bit, but if I were making this, I’d skip the heat and, well, you know, mix it up in the VitaMix. 

Without sugar, the ice cream will not be very sweet. I’ve been adding pecans, cacao nibs, and honey or rice syrup on top to make it crunchy and sweet. You might want to add some whipped cream and more fruit on top, too. 

Remember that some fruit will get sweeter as they ripen. That includes bananas, kiwi, apples, mangoes and pears. Other fruits get softer, but not sweeter. I totally did not know that until I read it on the internet: http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/315/Fruit-Ripening. I so hope it’s the absolute truth since I’m relaying it to you here.