Monday, July 23, 2012

Dairy-Free Ice Cream -- Mint Chocolate Chip

So, I finally got an ice cream maker - even though it's July and we're a couple of months early, it's being considered an early birthday gift from my mom.  My motivation?  Dairy-free ice cream is freaking expensive and, most of the time, not that good.  I think I can do better.

Now before I get into this, let it be known that this is not my first adventure into DIY dairy-free ice cream (to be honest, it's my third).  The first one was a tofu-based chocolate ice cream.  Super-tasty but rock-hard.  The second was jam ice cream (via Hannah Kaminsky's discontinued vegan ice cream e-book - I think it's in her print book now).  It was OK, tasted great, but still pretty hard, and rather icy.  It's more like a slightly creamy sorbet.

These things are all fine, but they don't compare to my favourite ice cream - mint chocolate chip.  The only minty dairy-free offering I've tried is the So Delicious Mint Marble Fudge ice cream.  Not bad, but it goes all nasty and watery when it melts.  Not too tasty in its liquid state, plus it tends to leave me feeling a bit oogy.

So, I think I can do better.  I've experimented, I've researched, and I think I've come up with a darn good dairy-free ice cream.  It's creamy, tasty, and churns up beautifully in just 20 minutes in my little Kitchenaid.  It hasn't completely finished freezing but I am confident it will remain scoopable without partial thawing or microwaving (and I'm guilty of both of those ones).  I have a feeling I'll be using this base frequently in the future.

So anyway, here's what I did.

In a pot, whisk together:
  • 1 can of coconut milk (organic, just to avoid any nasty add-ins)
  • 1 coconut milk can of soy milk
  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 3/8 cup sugar (that's 6 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp aroma-free coconut oil (like Omega Nutrition)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (why do so many dairy-free ice creams leave this out?)
  • 1 tbsp lecithin granules (attempt to grind it up fine - still tweaking this part)
  • 1/8 tsp xanthan gum

Whisk everything but the xanthan gum together in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly (if you can't devote a good 10 minutes to this, don't make it).  Bring it to a boil and let it bubble up for about a minute - I didn't time this but it took about a minute for it to boil up to the top of the pot, at which point I cursed at it and whipped it off the burner, which brings us to the next step.  Remove from heat.  Whisk it for another couple of minutes just to keep the starch from going weird on you as it settles down.

Next, add the xanthan gum.  This is weird stuff, but it makes the ice cream taste a lot creamier than it is.  Sprinkle it in slowly while you whisk, or it'll clump up on you.

Now, I suppose at this point you could stir in some vanilla and chill it as-is, but I think as a vanilla ice cream, this would be pretty boring.  So keep adding...  I added this:
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp peppermint extract - you know what, just add this to taste.  It takes a lot.
  • a few drops green food colouring, if you like.
Now, I didn't measure my peppermint extract.  I just added 1/2-capfuls until it tasted like melted peppermint ice cream... then I added a little more.  Cold mutes flavours and I wanted this to be nice and minty.  Now, let the mixture cool, whisking periodically, until it's cool enough to pour into your chilling vessel of choice (I use an old quart jar that I think once had homemade pickles in it).  Pop it in the fridge for a good 4 hours - I deliberately made my base at night so it could sit overnight.  Make sure your ice cream bowl is well on its way to being frozen too - again, overnight can't hurt.  Just to make sure things go super-well, I've got a button on my freezer called "Superfreeze," which makes everything extra-extra-cold.  I let that run for an hour before it was ice cream time, then I set up and churned away.  You know how your ice cream maker works, so I won't get into it, just do it like it says in the book.  While that's churning...

1/3 cup chocolate chips go into a medium freezer bag.  Seal them in and drop the bag into a bowl of hot water; whatever comes from the tap is fine.  Let it sit, squishing now and then, until the chocolate is all melted.  Work it into one corner of the bag and let it sit in the water until we need it.

Once the ice cream is ready (mine took about 20 minutes), get your container of choice and put a thin layer of ice cream in the bottom - maybe 1/4 to 1/2 inch.  Snip the corner off the freezer bag and pipe a thin drizzle of chocolate over the surface of the ice cream.  Smooth in another layer and repeat, and repeat, until all of the ice cream is in the container.  Pop on your lid and toss it in the freezer.  Wait a few hours, if you can.  A half hour at least, for the chocolate to get good and solid.  Then just dig in.

Mine is still solidifying (it's been an hour now), and I'm resisting it for a couple more hours.  OK well I snuck a taste a little while ago and around the edges the ice cream is nice and solid but still scoopable.  After lunch, I'll post an update and let you know how it hardened.  For now, we wait...

Update - 3 hours later
Well, even around the edges where it's good and firm, this ice cream is still scoopable.  The texture is wonderfully creamy and the flavour.. well... I haven't found anything nearly this tasty since I had to give up dairy.  Yep, I'm happy.

The 6-year-old's opinion: "It's really yummy, and not too minty, and the little wiry chocolate bits are fun.  This is the best ice cream you ever put chocolate in." 


Update - 2 years later 
March 31, 2014
I haven't had the ambition to post here for a while but I wanted to update this recipe. I've amended it to the changes I've made - more starch and the addition of lecithin. Really improved the texture. I also put my jar of unfrozen base into the freezer, stirring every 20 minutes, until it got to be about 36 degrees F and freezing slightly around the edges. Anyway with these changes, the base came out much, much thicker - more like melted ice cream.