Wednesday, July 2, 2014

delicious dairy free & low sugar vanilla bean ice cream

I can't remember a Fourth of July when we didn't have freshly churned vanilla ice cream topped with just picked strawberries from our garden. Our version was made without eggs yolks and had a slightly icy consistency. We used an old wooden hand crank machine, the kind that you had to use lots of ice and rock salt to make. (A little food science - the rock salt lowers the melting temperature of the ice, therefore chilling the ice cream not only faster but at a lower temperature.) My mom would sit on the machine while either my brother or I would crank, and dad would add more ice and salt as needed. The entire process seemed to take hours but it was worth it! I have very sweet memories of these holidays we used as excuses to dust off the ice cream machine. 
photo from here

Since going dairy free several years ago, I have missed ice cream. Especially handmade ice cream. Here is a great low sugar adaptation, with an infused richness from vanilla bean pods and just a little honey to make it the perfect amount of sweet. Top scoops of this delicious cold treat with fresh cut strawberries, a fruit compote, or homemade hot fudge sauce and you will be the hit of your holiday party!

For this recipe, I do recommend using whole vanilla bean. The flavor derived from steeping the coconut milk from real beans is unsurpassed by any extracts you can use. Vanilla beans are available at some grocery stores (I've found them at Whole Foods), as well as specialty stores like Sur la Table. They can be expensive, yes, but trust me - the flavor of this ice cream makes the extra cost worth it! Plus, you can use the leftover pod to make vanilla sugar, or grind them up to make a delicious flavoring for virtually any recipe calling for vanilla/extract. If you can't find vanilla bean, use 2 tablespoons of good quality vanilla extract instead. 
photo from here

Recipe for Dairy Free Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
(Yield 1 quart)
* hands on time is minimal with this recipe but it takes time for the base to chill and to harden once frozen in the ice cream machine. I recommend starting this at least one day before you plan to enjoy *

- 16 oz coconut milk (2 cups), full fat & without added preservatives if possible
- 6 oz almond milk (3/4 cup), or your preferred non dairy milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 oz raw honey (about 1/4 cup), local if possible
- 1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract
- pinch sea salt or kosher salt

1. Place coconut milk and almond milk in a small to medium sized saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

2. While milks are heating, split and scrape 1 vanilla bean. Here's a great step by step from The Kitchn.

3. Once milks have come to a simmer, turn off the heat and add the vanilla bean seeds and pod pieces to the sauce pan. Stir gently with a whisk to separate seeds. Cover saucepan with lid and let steep for at least 20 minutes. You can do this step a day ahead and let the vanilla steep in the milks overnight, just put the saucepan in the fridge and keep covered. The longer the bean and seeds have to infuse the milks, the better. 

4. While vanilla bean is steeping in the milks, separate 4 eggs and place yolks in a smallish bowl (I put mine in a 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup) and stir gently with a whisk. Save the whites for your morning omelette.

5. Remove the vanilla pod pieces from the milks and rinse gently to remove the milk. Save these pieces and, once dry, place in a container of sugar to make vanilla sugar or grind in a spice/coffee grinder to make ground vanilla.

6. Return the saucepan containing the now vanilla-infused milks to the stove and heat to a simmer over medium heat. Once reheated, pour about a quarter cup of warm milk into the bowl of egg yolks, stirring constantly so the yolks don't scramble. Stir well to combine and then return yolk/milk mixture back to saucepan with the remaining milk.

7. With heat set to medium, stir milk/yolk mixture with a whisk constantly until mixture thickens slightly and would coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not overcook or eggs will scramble and the mixture might curdle. (If this happens, don't fret. Just put the entire mixture into a blender and blend until uniform. Be careful putting a warm mixture into a blender, however. Make sure to remove the center portion of the blender lid and cover with a kitchen towel before turning on.)

8. Off heat, add honey, vanilla, and salt to the cooked egg/milk mixture. Stir well. Set pan over bowl of ice water to let cool to room temperature before placing in refrigerator to cool completely. You can place the ice cream base in another container or just cover the saucepan with a lid. Let chill at least 4 hours, or overnight.

9. Remove base from fridge and freeze in an ice cream machine, per their instructions. Generally, ice cream machines call for churning at least 20-30 minutes. I churn mine about 25 minutes.

10. Remove ice cream from machine and place in a freezer container. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. You can enjoy straight from the machine if you like a soft serve consistency.

Serve with fresh fruit, compote, hot fudge, or your favorite topping!

Wishing all a very happy and safe Fourth!


Marisa, The Radical Cupcake

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