Ice cream, love it or leave it? During the hottest days of the year, you may be wanting it but not wanting the milk, cream, high sugar and carb count, or the preservatives, additives, and fillers found in most conventional ice creams. Most dairy free frozen desserts contain refined vegetable oils and a lot of sugar, and many contain soy, a common allergen and genetically modified food. Some have an unpleasant aftertaste as well.
A dream come true
Imagine velvety smooth, creamy and delicious chocolate ice cream without dairy products, soy, gluten, artificial flavorings, unnatural preservatives, additives, or fillers and with a fraction of the sugar found in most commercial and home-made frozen dessert. It’s not just a dream. It’s a reality.
The best non-dairy milk for frozen desserts
The best ingredient I’ve found to use as the base for non-dairy frozen desserts is unsweetened coconut milk. Not the watered down kind sold in aseptic cartons but the full fat or lite kind sold in cans. Full fat makes the creamiest, smoothest and richest non-dairy ice cream (I call it Ice Dream) but in some recipes I use lite coconut milk, particularly when I’m adding high fat ingredients, such as avocado, nut butter, or a bar of bittersweet dark chocolate, as I do in the recipe below. In these instances, the rich additions pair well with lite coconut milk, providing a rich and creamy taste and texture without adding an excessive amount of fat calories. If you don’t have lite coconut milk on hand, you can mix full fat coconut milk with an equal amount of water to yield your own lite milk.
Does it taste strongly of coconut?
Although you might expect a strong coconut flavor, many people who try this and other frozen dessert recipes from my Ice Dream Cookbook find the flavor quite mild. The flavors more likely to have a strong coconutty taste are vanilla and variations on vanilla with mix ins. With cocoa and dark chocolate flavors as well as flavors such as Peanut (or Almond) Butter & Jelly, Date Rum Pecan, Strawberry, Dried Apricot Pistachio, and many others, the coconut flavor is barely noticable.
Improve the texture of your homemade frozen desserts
I use unflavored gelatin or agar agar powder (not the flakes) to improve the texture, the loft (airiness), and keeping quality of the frozen dessert. In the absence of eggs and heavy whipping cream, these products thicken and stabilize the custard and reduces the formation of ice crystals during storage. The difference between using and not using one of these products is dramatic. Although you still need to remove the frozen dessert from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving to allow it to temper (or soften) at room temp so you can scoop it, I find that I can keep a homemade frozen dessert for up to four months. If you add two tablespoons of rum or other liquor or liqueur to the custard, you’ll find you can scoop it even sooner because the alcohol acts like antifreeze, making it freeze at a higher temperature.
How do you keep the sugar content down?
In the recipe below as well as in other Ice Dream recipes in my book, you’ll find a mix of both honey and stevia. This keeps the total sugar content of the recipe in check, reducing it by 30 to 50%. Using only stevia would not give the dessert the same flavor, texture, or mouthfeel so I suggest using some honey (or maple syrup) in the recipe. Maple syrup contains about 30% fewere calories than honey so if you use it, you may need to use more maple syrup than if you were to use honey. Be sure to use pure stevia extract powder or clear stevia extract liquid and to measure carefully. Clear stevia extract liquid is the easiest to mix in and add in incremental amounts.
Photo credit right: Rachel Albert ©Copyright 2010/photo upper right: Reed Hamel ©Copyright 2008
For more great frozen dessert recipes as well as recipes for sauces and other accompaniments, check out The Ice Dream Cookbook: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Alternatives with Gluten-Free Cookies, Compotes & Sauces (Planetary Press, 2008), available online here and here. Note: If you purchase two or more copies of this, of The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook, or one of each, you’ll receive $5 off the cover price of each book.
To watch me make the recipe, click on the video here
Dark Chocolate Ice Dream
Hands-on: 30 minutes/Churning: 20 to 25 minutes/Yield: 4 1/2 to 5 cups; 8 servings
Bittersweet dark chocolate adds a rich flavor and silky smooth texture that you don’t get with unsweetened cocoa powder. To counter the higher fat content of the chocolate bar, I use lite (reduced fat) coconut milk. The result: a velvety rich chocolate flavor so smooth that your guests will never suspect that you used coconut milk for the base.
Photo right: Heather C., one of my online cooking students in 2012.
I like to serve this with a fruit sauce. Try Peach, Apricot or Nectarine Sauce or Blueberry Sauce. Caramel Sauce would also taste great (see The Ice Dream Cookbook for sauce recipes or click here for Honey Caramel. For a chocolatey crunch, garnish with roasted cocoa nibs (cacao nibs) or mix them in near the end of churning.
1/3 cup cool or cold filtered water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin or 3/4 teaspoon agar agar powder (not the flakes)
1/4 cup honey; additional 1 to 3 tablespoons as needed
1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder (one with no fillers or starches made by Nu Naturals or Wisdom Natural Brands) or 1 teaspoon clear stevia extract liquid (Nu Naturals, Kal, or Wisdom Natural Brands)
1/8 teaspoon finely ground, unrefined sea salt
3 cups unsweetened, preservative-free lite (reduced fat) coconut milk, divided
4 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate (70 to 73% cocoa content), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or alcohol-free vanilla flavoring
2 tablespoons light or dark rum, optional
- Add 1/3 cup water to a small saucepan. Slowly sprinkle with gelatin or agar agar powder. Let stand for 2 minutes until it softens and dry spots disappear. Warm over medium-low heat, without stirring, until gelatin or agar agar dissolves. Scrape the mixture into a blender, Vita-Mix, or food processor. Cover and blend until smooth. Add the honey, stevia, and sea salt. Blend.
- Bring 1 cup of coconut milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until smooth. Add this to the gelatin mixture. Blend until smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups coconut milk and vanilla. Blend. For a sweeter taste, add an additional 1/8 teaspoon stevia and/or 1 tablespoon honey. Blend, taste, and repeat if needed.
- Pour into one or more wide mouth jars. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before churning or chill with an ice bath until cold to the touch.
- Scrape the chilled custard into the canister of your ice cream maker. Add the optional rum. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Serve immediately or spoon into several 8- to 16-ounce freezer-safe containers. Cover and freeze for 3 or more hours for a firmer texture.
- Soften solidly frozen dessert by placing it in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes or on the counter for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
* Maple Dark Chocolate Ice Dream: Replace honey above with 1/4 cup + 2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup above.
* Cocoa Nib Crunch Ice Dream: Add 1/2 cup cocoa nibs (aka cacao nibs) when Ice Dream reaches the soft-serve stage. Run the machine for 1 or 2 more minutes.
* Dark Chocolate Espresso Ice Dream: Replace bittersweet chocolate with an espresso-flavored bittersweet dark chocolate bar or in step #1, add 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder. If desired, add 1/2 cup cocoa nibs during the last 2 minutes of churning.
* Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Dream: Replace bittersweet chocolate with an orange-flavored bittersweet dark chocolate bar or add 1 teaspoon pure orange extract or natural orange flavoring in step #2.
* Dark Chocolate Mint Ice Dream: Replace bittersweet chocolate with a mint-flavored bittersweet dark chocolate bar or, in step #2, add 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract or alcohol-free peppermint flavoring. Taste, and add an additional 1/4 teaspoon peppermint flavoring if needed.
For more great frozen dessert recipes as well as recipes for sauces and other accompaniments, check out The Ice Dream Cookbook: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Alternatives with Gluten-Free Cookies, Compotes & Sauces (Planetary Press, 2008), available online here and here.
Note: If you purchase two or more copies of this, of The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook, or one of each, you’ll receive $5 off the cover price of each book.