Ice cream is sort of the same way. You need the right mix to get the right consistency. There's a a continuum of frozen confection consistencies starting with ice cubes and continuing through shaved ice, granitas, Popsicles, sorbets, sherbets, frozen yogurt, and ending somewhere around the gelato/super-premium ice cream realm.
I've had people ask my why my ice cream is so smooth where other home made ice creams they've eaten that were made by other friends are more icy and seem "thin."
Well, that's because you need enough fat and sugar. If you eliminate or cut down on those, the texture is different. Think of the difference between biting into a block of ice and biting into a Popsicle. And the difference between sorbet and ice cream. It's all about the fat (usually butterfat from dairy products) and the sugar. Salt and alcohol can play minor roles, as well.
So when I challenged myself to make a dairy-free "ice cream," I knew it would be a challenge. Without butterfat, I knew I needed to add fat of some sort, or add something to thicken the mixture to get the same effect.
But then I heaped even more challenge on by eliminating soy and eggs, both of which could have been useful in getting that needed texture.
My first attempt was very tasty, but closer to a sorbet or sherbet, with a somewhat crumbly texture.
I knew I needed to find some way to thicken the base mixture, and I tried all sorts of crazy things in attempts two through too-many. Some weren't too bad. Some were disasters. Somewhere in the middle of the madness, I decided to add a banana to the mix, which did help to thicken it. But the resulting product tasted like banana. I wanted chocolate. Not choco-nana.
I was getting closer to what I wanted with each try, but I was pretty far from my ultimate goal. And I was starting to feel more like a mad scientist than a cook. That's fine if I'm playing with my molecular gastronomy toys. But I just wanted a frozen ice-cream-like dessert.
So, I went to the store and wandered around a bit. I found an almond-based yogurt that looked promising, but there was only one tiny container of the plain yogurt and it was ridiculously expensive. And I had no idea what it would taste like.
I wandered some more. Tapioca? Gelatin? Well, maybe. Then I spotted the puddings. My "cheater" ice cream recipe uses French vanilla instant pudding to create a custard-like ice cream base. But what's in instant pudding?
I read the label. No milk listed. No soy or eggs listed. Hmmmm. No wheat or gluten. So I grabbed a pack and headed home and made a phone call to the company. The only un-named ingredients on the label were the flavorings, but they assured me that if the flavors included allergens of any kind, they'd be listed specifically.
They confirmed that soy, milk, eggs, and gluten were not included ingredients, but that the pudding was not made in its own facility. So if your allergies or sensitivities are so severe that you need to worry about cross-contamination in a manufacturing facility, you might want to look for other instant pudding products that are made in their own "whatever-free" facilities.
The texture of the final "ice cream" was a lot closer to regular ice cream, despite the fact that I didn't work any extra fat into the mixture. The thickening effect of the pudding mix gave it the same thick feeling that dairy fat provides and it was super-chocolatey. Super-super chocolatey. Dark and rich and fudgy.
Pretty awesome, really. *pats self on back*
I'm calling this one a big success.
As best I can tell, all the ingredients I used are free of dairy, soy, eggs, and gluten, but if you have allergies or sensitivities, check for yourself. The Silk product clearly states that it's free of all these allergens. I called the Jell-O allergy line and confirmed that the instant pudding I used was free of dairy, soy, eggs, and gluten, but they noted that it is not manufactured in its own facility, so there is a chance of cross contamination, so keep that in mind. The Pinnacle vodka listed "artificial flavors" and did not list milk. You can eliminate this entirely, use vanilla extract instead, or choose another alcohol that you like. If you wanted to highlight the almond flavor, 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract would be good.
Tastes Like Chocolate Sorbet
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Pinnacle Whipped Vodka*
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. (If the mixture needs to be fully chilled before churning, heed that direction, or this could end up a little too icy.)
Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.
*Or you can use a plain vodka or other flavor that you think would be compatible with the chocolate.
Tastes Like Chocolate Ice Cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package Jell-O chocolate fudge instant pudding mix
2 1/2 cups Silk Pure Almond Dark Chocolate Almond Milk
1 tablespoon Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
Combine the sugar, salt, and pudding mix in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add the almond milk and stir or whisk until the sugar is melted and the mix is smooth, with no lumps. It will thicken a bit. Add the vodka and stir in.
Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. If your ice cream maker requires that the mixture is fully-chilled before churning, refrigerate, as required. An hour should be sufficient, since the almond milk was already cold.
If the mixture has thickened more during refrigeration, whisk it before churning.
After churning, transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.
Want more "-free" recipes?
Check out what the other Sunday Supper participants made this week!
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