Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dairy-Free Coconut Almond "Ice Cream"

Let me be perfectly clear. I'm not a huge fan of coconut. I don't run screaming when I see it, but given the choice between coconut and most other flavors, coconut's not going to be the winner.

On the other hand, I don't mind cooking with it - for other people. And I'm fine with tasting it to make sure the flavors are balanced. Just don't expect me to devour a large slice of coconut cake. Not gonna happen.

When my friends at 37 Cooks hooked up with Tropical Traditions (and if you don't know, they describe themselves as "America's source for coconut oil"), I thought it would be a great opportunity to have another go at making ice cream without any dairy products.

I chose a coconut cream concentrate, also known as cocoa butter. This isn't the same thick cream you'd find on top of a can of coconut milk - it includes bits of the coconut meat, so there's some texture to it.

Since I've been playing around with ice cream so much this summer, and since I've been trying to come up with a dairy-free ice cream, I decided to give coconut a chance in ice cream. The result was good, but not as creamy as some of the super-rich ice creams I've been making.

Right out of the ice cream maker, this had a really nice texture. Once it froze solid, it got a little more sorbet-like. Which isn't a bad thing at all - just a change. This is definitely a dessert you'd want to let sit before scooping to let it soften just a bit to get back to that softer, less icy state.

In retrospect, I'm thinking that this would have been better with the addition of a little alcohol, which would have made it less apt to form ice crystals. Rum would be good, for that tropical drink flavor. Plain rum, or even a flavored one would be good.

For less assertive flavor, but keeping the antifreeze quality, vodka would be a good choice. Maybe even one of the flavored vodkas. There are so many to choose from these days, but a pineapple-flavored vodka would be interesting, right?

If you want to play around with adding vodka to a recipe like this, start with one ounce and work your way up until you get to a flavor and consistency (when frozen) that you like. I've added up to 1/4 cup of whisky to a quart-size recipe for regular ice cream, and it worked just fine.

Did you know that you can re-freeze ice cream? So, if you really wanted to experiment, you could add one ounce of rum or vodka, then freeze your ice cream. Check the texture and if you're not pleased, let it thaw and add another ounce. Try again.

If you add too much, it might not freeze at all, but of you add in small increments, you'll find where that sweet spot is, where it's got the right texture and flavor for your taste.

Dairy-Free Coconut-Almond "Ice Cream"

2 cups vanilla almond milk (cold)
1 cup coconut cream concentrate
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend-blend-blend. The idea is to get the coconut cream to blend as well as possible with the other ingredients. You probably won't get it completely smooth, but you want the tiniest bits possible - it should look like an emulsified mixture.

Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. Serve (soft-serve) from the machine, or freeze for a firmer consistency.

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