Jun 26, 2010

Nondairy Vanilla Ice Cream with Raspberry Swirl

I've been experimenting with some diet changes lately, including eating less dairy. But I love making ice cream in the summer. So I wondered if it would be possible to make a non-dairy ice cream that would satisfy in not just flavor, but also texture. Lately, I've gotten hooked on Almond Dream Bites — a non-dairy almond milk ice cream chunk covered in a thin chocolate coating. They come in a pint container and make excellent little bite-sized treats to keep in the freezer. The mild almond and vanilla flavor pairs really well with the dark chocolate coating. On hot Texas summer days, these are addictive. I like that I can grab one or two of them for a small treat instead of commiting to a whole bowl of ice cream.

So I decided to try this recipe from The Vegan Scoop, using almond milk, soy creamer and arrowroot. Arrowroot is a natural, flavorless starch used as a thickener — an alternative to cornstarch. It's often used in gluten-free baking. But note that it should be added at the end of your cooking, as too much heating will cause it to lose it's thickening ability. The name comes from the plant's historical use in treating poison arrow wounds because it would remove the poison. So it's also handy if you get into a battle of arrows.

I found some beautiful organic raspberries on sale and thought they would make a great sauce to swirl into the ice cream. I used David Lebovitz's recipe for raspberry swirl, which includes a little vodka. This keeps the syrup from freezing hard in your ice cream.

So how did it turn out? I was really surprised by how smooth and creamy the texture turned out to be. It doesn't seem to freeze quite as hard as regular dairy ice cream, so it's scoopable straight from the freezer. The almond milk lends a faintly almond flavor, which I liked with the raspberry. You could use rice milk or soy milk, though, for a more neutral background. The raspberries give it a nice zingy contrast in the ice cream and create beautiful pink swirls. I've also noticed that after eating a spoonful here and there over a couple of days — and removing it from the freezer and then refreezing it a few times, which would cause ice crystals to form in a dairy ice cream — this one has maintained it's original texture without forming any crystals. A bonus!

Overall, this was a really satisfying ice cream on it's own, not just as a substitute food. I'd like to continue experimenting with coconut milk and other flavor bases, but this will be a tasty baseline to compare to.

Nondairy vanilla almond ice cream
1/4 cup + 3/4 cup almond milk (or soy or rice milk)
2 tablespoons arrowroot

2 cups soy creamer
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla

Combine 1/4 cup almond milk with the arrowroot. Whisk together. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup almond milk, sugar, and soy creamer. Stir together over low heat. Bring up to a boil, stirring occasionally.

As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat. Immediately add the arrowroot mixture and stir together. You'll notice the mixture thickens as it cools. Stir in the vanilla.

Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. (To speed this up, you can place your pan in a bowl of ice water to cool it down.)

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before freezing in an ice cream maker.

Remove the frozen ice cream from the ice cream maker into a freezer-proof container — until it's a third or half full. Drizzle in raspberry swirl (recipe below) with a spoon and use a chopstick or the handle end of the spoon to very gently swirl it in without combining it completely. You want a distinct swirl of raspberry. Layer in more ice cream and more raspberry, alternately, and swirl together, until container is full.

Makes approximately one quart.

Raspberry Swirl
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed, if frozen)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plain or Vanilla-infused vodka

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Mash the raspberries into the sugar and vodka with a fork. Stir well to combine. Use as is, or to remove seeds, press through a sieve with a spoon into a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Ice cream adapted from The Vegan Scoop by Wheeler del Toro.

Raspberry swirl adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

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