To be lactose-intolerant in the summertime used to mean skipping the dessert highlight of the season: ice cream. Thanks to inventive chefs, however, dairy-free ice cream recipes have proliferated in recent years. Now everyone can come to the ice cream social as long as it includes a tub full of one of these alternatives.
The easiest ways to satisfy a dairy-free ice cream craving is by pureeing frozen bananas. You can puree the bananas alone, or add a spoonful of cocoa powder, peanut butter, or Nutella to flavor the mixture. The ice cream will be ready to eat as is, but can be enhanced by a variety of mix-ins, including nuts, toasted coconut, chocolate chips, and cooked sweetened berries.
Mexican food expert Rick Bayless has a recipe for avocado ice cream that is almost as simple, and a great end to a spicy barbecue. Just puree avocados, water, sugar, lime juice and tequila in a food processor and freeze in an ice-cream maker. The tequila prevents the ice cream from forming ice crystals, keeping it smooth.
Another option is ice cream made with raw cashew nuts. The basic recipe involves soaking the nuts overnight to plump them up, and then pureeing them with either soy milk or almond milk and a liquid sweetener such as honey or corn syrup. Because raw cashews have a neutral flavor, cashew-based ice cream can be flavored any way you like. Add cocoa powder, espresso powder, sweetened cooked strawberries, mint extract and chocolate chips, rum extract and raisins plumped up with rum. Or use maple syrup as your sweetener and add maple extract and chopped toasted walnuts.
My favorite dairy-free ice cream is made with coconut milk. Not only do I like the flavor of coconut, but I love the creamy consistency that you get with the full-fat version (avoid light coconut milk, which will produce a less lavish, more icy product). When you open a can of coconut milk, you will immediately notice the strict separation of the fat from the liquid. To prevent this separation from occurring in your ice cream, blend the mixture to emulsify before freezing it. A little bit of cornstarch further improves and stabilizes the texture. The alcohol in the vanilla blocks ice crystals from forming.
Making ice cream takes just a few minutes of hands-on work, but does require some planning. I use an inexpensive electric ice-cream machine with an insert that must sit in the freezer for at least 6 hours before it is ready to churn ice cream. But even if you have a more expensive model that has a built-in compressor, you must still give your ice cream base time to chill for 4 hours in the refrigerator before use. In addition, it will need a couple of hours for it to firm up in the freezer after churning.
COCONUT CHIP ICE CREAM
For a more intense coconut flavor, add 1⁄4 teaspoon coconut extract along with the vanilla. For chocolate ice cream, whisk in 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder with the corn syrup. For strawberry ice cream, puree 2 cups of stemmed strawberries in the blender before adding the coconut milk mixture.
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3⁄4 cup corn syrup
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (dairy-free if desired), chopped
1. In a small bowl, whisk together 1⁄4 cup of coconut milk liquid and the cornstarch. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining coconut milk, corn syrup and salt until well combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a simmer. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and continue to cook, stirring, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Do not let it come to a boil.
2. Transfer the mixture to blender, cover very tightly, and blend for 30 seconds. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
3. Whisk the vanilla extract into the mixture. Transfer to an ice-cream maker and churn according to manufacture’s instructions. Fold in the chocolate. Scrape into an airtight container and freeze until firm enough to scoop, about 3 hours, before serving. Makes 1 quart ice cream.