It's 9°F/-13°C outside now, with a wind chill of -3°F/-19°C, and a snowstorm's coming tonight. Perfect weather for ice cream!

In my last ice cream post, I described making a decent soy-based chocolate vegan ice cream. There are various approaches when it comes to vegan ice cream bases, and I wanted to try some of the others. How to Make Great Vegan Ice Cream makes a convincing argument that coconut cream-and-milk makes the creamiest base for vegan ice cream, so I found some coconut cream at my local H-Mart and tried out Max Falkowitz's Foolproof Vegan Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream recipe to bring to a weekly dinner night among friends.

nut-based vegan vanilla "ice cream"As I mentioned in that last post, coconut products don't agree with my vegan sweetie, so I made a second vegan vanilla ice cream to bring, this time exploring the world of nut bases. Primal Palate's Vanilla Cashew Ice Cream recipe uses almond milk and soaked-and-pureed cashews for a base. It uses maple syrup as a sweetener, and golden raisins as... well, I don't know. It doesn't use enough of them to affect the flavor or the texture. ::shrugs:: If I made it again, I'd skip 'em.

At the aforementioned dinner night, I arrived just as the people already there were finishing dinner, so I opened my container of coconut-based ice cream, set out an ice cream scoop, and grabbed myself some dinner. By the time I was finished, the coconut-based ice cream was no more. Reports confirmed my impression from the licks I'd gotten off the churning paddle: it indeed creamy, with a detectable but not cloying coconut undertone. People loved it. One person asked for the recipe. Since it was consumed so quickly I don't have a photograph for you, but I'll definitely be making this one again, it's just a matter of choosing a flavor.

Next I opened up the nut-based ice cream. The texture wasn't creamy or even scoopable, but grainy and crumbly. The few of us who tried it agreed that it had a pleasant, subtle nutty flavor, so how much you enjoy it probably depends on how important you consider a creamy texture to your frozen dessert experience. It's important to me, so I wouldn't make this again for myself, though of course I'd make it again for others who don't mind the texture. I wonder whether a consumer-grade food processor just can't make a smooth cream out of whole nuts no matter how long you keep it going. If I find any coconut-free vegan ice cream recipes based on nut butter (without bananas, which I personally dislike) I'd try them, but nut-based ice creams may need a binding agent in addition to a smoother base in order to get a good texture.
How has it been five months since I last posted about my experiments in frozen desserts?

apple calvados sorbetLast fall I was casting about for some frozen dessert ideas that would be both seasonal and edible by my vegan sweetie. It turns out there's a page of delectable-looking autumnal sorbets out there. Though I'll also want to try making the Cardamom Pear Sorbet, I went with Calvados and Apple Sorbet this time. The recipe is simple, and the flavor was crisp and refreshing (in an autumnal sort of way :) ) with both apple and Calvados flavors coming through along with the lemon juice and zest called for by the recipe. The texture was too hard and icy to be scoopable, so it was a step backward texture-wise from the raspberry sorbet I'd made following America's Test Kitchen's carefully calibrated instructions. ATK's tips suggest that adding corn syrup and/or more sugar would have produced a softer texture.

chocolate soy vegan "ice cream"Next I wanted to delve into the world of vegan "ice cream." Many vegan ice cream recipes call for a base of coconut milk and/or cream, which unfortunately doesn't agree with aforementioned sweetie. I found this chocolate vegan ice cream recipe and between the top photo on that page and the soy base, I was sold. Also, using tofu to make ice cream sounded intriguing. I didn't care for the "diet-friendly" aspects of the recipe, so I used regular instead of light soymilk and sugar instead of stevia. Also, because apparently I just can't leave a recipe alone once I start tinkering with it, I used Dutch-process cocoa powder instead of regular cocoa powder to intensify the chocolate flavor. The result turned out with a rich chocolate flavor and an acceptable—if not as creamy as dairy—texture. I'd make it again.

At Thanksgiving I solicited requests from my family for a Christmas-time ice cream and got one for chocolate hazelnut ice cream. Most recipes for this start with Nutella, but this one starting with whole hazelnuts promised it was better. Plus, bins of whole, in-the-shell hazelnuts had appeared at my local grocery store. Here's where I have to admit that I'd never cooked with hazelnuts before and assumed the recipe would tell me whether and when to shell them. Luckily my folks were visiting and clued me in before I pressed the button on a food processor full of hazelnuts still in their shells. That was close! I started shelling and soon found that I now had well under the pound of hazelnuts called for. Do you know how long it takes to shell enough hazelnuts to produce a pound?

The recipe instructs, "In a food processor, grind hazelnuts until they form a paste, about 5 minutes. Hazelnuts will first grind into tiny crumbs, then clump into an oily ball, then break down into an oily paste." The small food processor I was borrowing didn't have an on/off switch, just a pulse button, and I was probably afraid of burning it out by running it too long continuously (I was borrowing one because my previous one met its demise when I overtaxed it). So I don't know if the pulses added up to 5 minutes, but I did it for what felt like a long time and never came up with anything like a "paste," just an oily clump of tiny crumbs. Though I would later press the base through a strainer, many of the crumbs were too tiny to strain out and ended up affecting the texture. The resulting ice cream was rich with chocolate and hazelnut flavor, but what would have been a smooth texture was compromised by the ubiquitous tiny hazelnut crumbs.

This recipe never asked me to get in-the-shell hazelnuts. I'd figured they must be like chestnuts, available for a short time of the year, not available packaged in an equivalent form. Wrong. So I don't blame the recipe for that or my near-miss in the shelling department. But the difficulty of transforming hazelnuts into a smooth paste would keep me from trying this recipe again. For the love of everything that is cold, creamy, and delicious, next time I'd just start with Nutella.

rosemary walnut ice creamThat brings us to my latest batch. Having made ice creams and sorbets for other people for so long, I wanted to get back to trying something I thought I would really like. Thinking back to my early experiments with thyme and lavender, I tried this recipe for rosemary walnut ice cream. Its use of cornstarch seemed a little unusual, but especially compared with the previous ice cream experiment, it was refreshingly straightforward. The result is creamy with a pleasant rosemary flavor and crunch of walnut pieces. I'd certainly make this again.

Updated to add: I forgot to mention the maple-fig ice cream I made for a friend for Halloween! I skipped the toasted pine nut garnish. I don't really go for figs, so I didn't try the ice cream, but I solicited reviews from its partakers. From the recipient:
I thought it tasted great! I love maple syrup/sugar and thought that worked really well with the figs. I thought the sauce was really good, but worked best in moderation. Too much sauce was overwhelming, like too much sugar or something. Texture was great- it was definitely a softer ice cream, but some of that may have been how much my freezer door was open around Halloween. There were some seeds, especially in the sauce, but that's not a big factor for me. If anything, I kind of like seeds, especially if they add flavor. Because it was softer, it was pretty easy to scoop, but I guess it didn't make for a nice tidy discrete little ball of ice cream- might have been difficult to get in a cone, I guess is what I'm trying to say, if that kind of thing matters at all. It didn't bother me much since I was usually just attacking it with a spoon. I think the ice cream could have stood for more fig. The maple can be too sweet, almost cloying and figs are sweet-ish already, so I'd go more fig, maybe a little less maple, were you to make it again. Please?
And from another taster:
I liked everything about the maple fig. Wasn't as big a fan of the sauce, but the ice cream was good on its own. I'm not really sure what I didn't care for about the sauce. It wasn't horrible. Just a bit much on the ice cream?


So that was a success!
I started out this month with a lime ice cream, my first ice cream using citrus juice, so I was interested to see how to combine the ingredients without curdling the milk. I reduced the amount of sugar by about a quarter; I haven't eaten enough of this batch to have decided whether I'd repeat that reduction in the future. I would make sure I had something other than a hand-held juicer for this one. The result was face-puckeringly tart. I recommend pairing it with graham crackers, but even then I could eat only a little of it.

homemade ほうじ茶 ice creamHōjicha soft-serve was a favorite of mine in Japan, and of course it isn't available where I am now, so it was on my to-make list. Some of the online recipes I found involved incorporating a strong infusion of hōjicha in hot water, while others blended "hojicha powder"—which I'd never seen before—into the base. I figured I could make "hojicha powder" from tea leaves using the spice grinder I'd bought for making pink peppercorn ice cream, and for good measure I added both the ground tea leaves and an infusion of whole leaves to my standard custard base (2 cups each whole milk and heavy cream, 1 cups sugar, 5 egg yolks), substituting a cup of the infusion for one of the cups of whole milk, IIRC. I didn't measure the tea leaves I used in either form. As you can see in the photo, the ground tea leaves didn't all dissolve into the custard, so the texture isn't as smooth as it could be, but the flavor's very nice.

The next two I made were gifts, for which inexpensive, disposable ice cream containers come in really handy. I made dulce de leche ice cream for a local friend who has taken of my cats while I was out of town. This was the first Philadelphia style (eggless) ice cream I've made, and I liked the simplicity of it. The texture was smooth and creamy, the flavor sweet and caramel-y. I would make this again, and I might experiment with adding something like cardamom (inspired by Basundi) for more complexity.

homemade raspberry sorbetI'd been holding off on this post because I haven't yet given the raspberry sorbet (subscription-only link, sorry) I made to its recipients. But, having missed their housewarming party, I finally figured it'll be okay if they see this before they receive it. This was another first in the frozen-desserts-I've-made department in the lack of dairy, which was deliberate due to lactose intolerance. One of the keys to this recipe is the use of pectin as a stabilizer, and I'm happy with the resulting texture. (As a semi-vegetarian, I'm pleased America's Test Kitchen found pectin superior to gelatin for making sorbet.) I've never been a big fan of raspberries, and it turns out I don't love them even when I've strained out their seeds and added sugar. So I'm not disappointed to have made this as a gift, and I'm especially not disappointed that the dulce de leche ice cream uses more than one but less than two cans of dulce de leche, meaning I have leftover dulce de leche.
Since my last ice cream post, I've made two batches: pink peppercorn ice cream and chocolate ice cream. I'd never cooked with—or, to my memory, eaten—pink peppercorns before. It turned out pleasantly spicy/floral, though for some reason I can't explain I think it would be better paired with something like the chocolate tarts suggested by epicurious. ("Pink peppercorns" are dried berries from a rose plant, not a true peppercorn.) The spice grinder I bought for this purpose produced a fine grind, most of which I strained out, but the remaining pepper grounds didn't pose a problem for the texture of the ice cream. If anything I'd use more pepper next time. I do have some leftover pink peppercorns, and I'd be interested to hear if and how you've used them to good effect.

The chocolate ice cream, using [livejournal.com profile] xuth's recipes, was quite rich. I normally like it with a more moderate intensity. The concentration of the recipe posed a logistical problem for me as I was making it—there wasn't enough volume in the custard base to cover the bulb of my candy thermometer as I was tempering it. The coats-the-back-of-a-spoon test is virtually impossible for me to interpret, so I alternated heating the base and tilting the saucepan so that it covered the thermometer's bulb on that side of the pan. It seems to have worked, but a base with more milk or cream would have solved that problem as well as yielding a less intense result.
infusing thyme in creamSince my last mention of making ice cream, I've made a couple of experimental batches. The first was thyme–goat cheese ice cream. I used the same custard base as for the vanilla ice cream (2 cups each whole milk and heavy cream, 1 cups sugar, 5 egg yolks) but I steeped a bunch of whole fresh thyme in the warm milk/cream mixture for a couple of hours before adding the eggs and re-heating to thicken. Then I strained the mixture into a bowl containing four ounces of crumbled goat cheese and did the usual chilling routine. The verdict: I love the thyme, but the goat cheese didn't melt as much as I would've hoped, so I got unpleasantly solid frozen chunks of goat cheese throughout. Next time I'd either skip the goat cheese or use goat milk, as suggested by [personal profile] jesse_the_k.

Last week I made a batch of lavender ice cream. Same custard base as before, but this time I steeped three tablespoons of dried culinary lavender in the milk/cream mixture. Actual lavender is kind of a weird flavor—I could definitely taste the relation to rosemary. It isn't just floral, it's herbal. I didn't add any food coloring to this batch, so it turned out gray-ish. Which I can't say is terribly attractive. My usual instinct is to avoid adding food coloring, but if I were to make this again I'd probably make an exception. Overall I think this ice cream could use some kind of partner—a topping, a mix-in, an accompaniment of some kind. As I don't like this batch as much as the vanilla or thyme–goat cheese batches, though, I'm unlikely to experiment much with it in the near future beyond pairing it with a shortbread cookie or something.
radhardened: (panda butterstick)
Weird things, given that I'm an American of German and Polish ancestry who grew up in the mid-Atlantic U.S.:

The first time I ate matzah ball soup was in Las Vegas. (2002, Backstage Deli at Luxor)

The first time I ate a pierogi was in Japan. (2005, Poland pavilion at the World's Fair in Aichi Prefecture)

Both were quite good.

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