BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Still Coconuts for So Delicious

Summer may be winding down, as evidenced by countless back-to-school sales if nothing else, but ice cream season never ends. Even when I’m not churning my own, there’s always a backup “emergency” pint or two in the freezer, standing by for any unexpected guests… Or cravings. So Delicious frequently occupies that frost-covered spot, hidden behind stiff bags of frozen peas and berries to protect such bounty from hungry scavengers. No matter how many times a new pint is purchased, another one is sure to follow, quick to replace that sweet stash with something different. Each time that switch must be made, the longest part of the shopping trip is inevitably spent poring over the different options. It seems as though So Delicious keeps tucking new flavors into those sub-zero cases on every repeat visit, and choosing between the enticing combinations can be trickier than finding a fast-moving checkout line. When they offered to make the tough decisions for me and send a bundle of new offerings, it was a done deal before I could finish hammering out an ecstatic response on my keyboard.

Cashing in on the universally known fact that everything tastes better on a stick, releasing their latest Coconut Milk No Sugar Added Fudge Bars was sheer brilliance. Perfect little individual portions that satisfy that need for a tiny indulgence at the end of the day, these treats seem like they were made with me in mind. Sweetened with stevia and packing a jaw-dropping 8 grams of fiber into each miniature pop, forget about needing to rationalize that extra serving of dessert- These feel downright virtuous. Luckily, they don’t taste it. Strong initial coconut flavor gives way to a gentle, delicate taste of cocoa. Not the deep, rounded flavor of decadent chocolate that we all know So Delicious is capable of, but that’s the price to be paid for such lightness. It’s a grownup version of the childhood classic, although kids would undoubtedly partake with glee if given the chance.

Coconut Milk Passionate Mango Ice Cream is a bit of a departure from the standard set of flavors you might find at the store, which is a shame, since it was a tropical delight from the first lick. Bright, clean, citrus-y mango blended perfectly with the passion fruit, allowing each one an equal role in the overall production. Not only refreshing but also invigorating, it’s the kind of flavor that could brighten up a grey day. The coconut milk base is practically invisible in this particular pint, easily fooling unsuspecting eaters who may not like the popular drupe or seek out dairy-free alternatives in the first place.

Saving what I hoped to be the best for last, Coconut Milk Cookie Dough Ice Cream had a big title to live up to. Coconut haters beware: This one is unafraid to shout its origins from the rooftops and make its presence known. Happily, for those who appreciate the coconut for all it brings to the table, that flavor melds nicely with the plentiful chunks of soft cookie batter strewn throughout. Brown sugar is the main flavor of the dough, accented by a decent touch of salt, which is pretty accurate for most cookie doughs I’ve tasted raw baked and then eaten like a well-behaved, patient baker. Crunchy chocolate shrapnel strewn about the body of the creamy concoction adds much-needed textural contrast, and provides greater depth than the vanilla base alone could muster. Each bite is different and exciting, which makes it the most addictive pint to dig into.

Ice cream is best when shared, no matter how delicious it is alone, so I’m thrilled to make the experience sweeter by offering coupons for a free pint to two lucky readers. If that sounds like a good deal to you too, leave a comment about which flavor you’d buy should you win. The coupons are only valid in the US, so only residents or current visitors are able to enter this one, and please leave only one comment per person. You have until Friday, August 24th at midnight EST to add your comment to the pool, and winners will be contacted shortly thereafter.

Get your scoops primed and ready, because colder weather doesn’t mean a break in the ice cream action here!

UPDATE: The contest is now closed, and the two winners are…

Allie and Gabby! Congrats ladies, you’ll be hearing from me soon and enjoying your very own pint of coconut ice cream before you know it!


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The Right Tool for the Job: Ice Cream Machines

Questions keep on pouring into my digital inbox about all things ice cream, but surprisingly, rarely about the recipes themselves. 9 messages out of 10 are from ice cream-churning virgins, first dipping a toe into the great pool of frozen treats. It’s the very machines that turn liquid into creamy confections that are the cause of most confusion, since there are so many models on the market these days and little guidance for the inexperienced shopper. The one most critical tool to have on your side is the ice cream maker, and that can be an intimidating and pricy investment- But it doesn’t have to be. As excerpted from my latest cookbook, Vegan a la Mode

Once a prohibitively expensive luxury item, both unwieldy to use and incapable of churning out any decent amount of ice cream, it’s a whole new world of frozen dessert technology out there now. Making ice cream at home has never been easier or more accessible, with countless options to delight your inner gadget geek. Originally limited to different sizes of hand-cranked wooden buckets, you can now find machines that will mix the base, chill themselves, churn the ice cream, do your taxes, and all under 30 minutes. Okay, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration (it may take closer to 45 minutes), but frozen dessert technology has come a long way. Prices rise precipitously with each additional feature, so be prepared to pay for the luxury of a self-contained unit that can freeze simply with the flip of a switch.

For starters, let’s get one thing straight: I do not recommend hand-cranked machines. They may have an irresistible nostalgic quality, and the illusion of creating a more DIY experience, but trust me here, the novelty will wear off after the first batch, if not during the first batch. These archaic machines take much longer to freeze a quart of liquid base, can be terribly messy if they require salted ice as the chilling medium, and are downright exhausting. Plan to skip your workout if you’re churning ice cream by hand; the amount of labor that goes into such a process is no joke. If this hasn’t yet dissuaded you, bear in mind that at the point when it becomes thicker and even harder to crank, you must actually increase your vigor, to ensure that the finished ice cream has the smallest ice crystals possible, and thus smoothest, richest mouth-feel.

One of the most basic, affordable, and thus popular models is the simple freezer bowl design, which, just as the name suggests, has a separate insulated bowl that must sit in the freezer for a minimum of 24 hours before each batch. It’s essentially a giant ice pack shaped like a bowl, which rotates around a stationary but removable paddle. The downside is that you must plan your ice cream forays well in advance; a partially frozen bowl hastily pulled from the deep freeze will yield only slush. The big upside, however, is that $40 – $50 can get you one of these babies, brand spanking new. I would argue that these modest appliances are ideal for just about everyone, from newbie ice cream creators to those with intermediate experience. This is what I employed for many years, until the base fell on the ground one time too many and cracked beyond repair. Treat your machine nicely and it should last your whole lifetime.

If you have a stand mixer, there is likely an ice cream attachment created for your particular brand that can be purchased separately. A fine option, these are also of the freezer-bowl variety, but have the added benefit of making use of your existing appliance, saving space and hassle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of multi-taskers, but there’s also something to be said for specialized equipment that does one thing, and one thing very well. These types are fine options, but are actually a bit more expensive than the stand-alone sort, ringing up at about $70 – $100. Additionally, when trialing the attachment designed for my KitchenAid® stand mixer, I found that the resulting ice cream was slightly icier than average.

Panicked when I had to replace my trusty freezer bowl machine, I turned to the generosity of my grandmother. It occurred to me that my grandpa had made sorbet every Thanksgiving, but since his passing, that contraption hadn’t seen the light of day. Luck was on my side, because my grandma was thrilled that I would take that bulky thing off her hands, which had simply been collecting dust for nearly a decade, and also because it turned out to be a self-freezing unit. I shouldn’t have expected anything less from my grandpa, a self-confessed gadget lover. Fond of having the top-of-the-line tools before anyone else on the block, though the machine was perhaps twenty years old, it was still a state-of-the-art ice cream churn. This variety of machine has in-set bowls that typically can’t be removed, which makes for trickier clean up, but freeze down from room-temperature to a state of readiness in about five minutes. You can generally churn consecutive batches to your heart’s content, with a 10 – 15 minute pause in between. A good substitute for this outdated brand now would be the Cuisinart® ICE-50BC Supreme Ice Cream Maker, which has largely the same design and functionality. For hardcore frozen dessert divas, these are your only option, but they will set you back quite a few pretty pennies. Most start at about $250, and can escalate all the way to $1,000 and beyond, depending on the brand and capacity. For some, the investment is absolutely worthwhile, but most can get by just fine without such a fancy tool.

Of course, there are also many methods for making ice cream without any specialized equipment altogether… But that’s another post.


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Around the World in 80 Plates: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is it: The final stop on our edible adventure. It’s been quite a journey, tasting our way through nearly a dozen unique cuisines, and racking up just as many recipes as souvenirs.  Converting a different palate of flavors into a vegan plated dessert every week has proven more difficult than I initially envisioned, but it’s impossible to imagine having approached the challenge any other way. To think, that I would have once considered adding savory dishes into the mix! I guess that’s just not what comes most naturally to my sweet-toothed disposition. So, for a grand finale to cap off a feast of world travel, we’ve arrived at last in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

While I’d like to say that I’m well acquainted with the culture and the fine nuances in the indigenous edibles, the truth is that I spent about 15 minutes just trying to pronounce “Uruguay” correctly. Sure, it doesn’t seem so complicated, but for some reason I could just not wrap my tongue around all of those consecutive vowels. Luckily, it turns out that one of the most popular desserts there is much easier to swallow.

Postre chajá, a layered affair involving sponge cake, peaches, whipped cream, and meringue is actually named after a type of bird. Somehow the fluffy dessert made its inventor think of this feathered creature, however inexplicably, and the name has remained intact since. Though the combination of flavors and textures immediately grabbed me, inspiration for my final dessert didn’t come until the last minute. Rather than simply creating an elegant, bite-sized version of the original, it suddenly became clear that I had all the components here for a baked Alaska to remember.

Tender rounds of vanilla cake are topped with a dome of creamy peach ice cream. The whole stack is smothered in my foamy eggless meringue, doused in high-octane spirits, and promptly set ablaze. Admittedly, I hit a snag at this stage and had to resort to the trusty kitchen torch for a more even browning, but the little cakes can easily be tossed into a fast oven should the meringue need a bit more of a crisp. The quickly melting interior is revealed after slicing each snowy peak in half, and the plate is completed with slices of soft peaches and a simple fresh peach sauce. In fact, the sauce is so simple that I didn’t measure a thing. Two whole, ripe peaches went into the blender along with agave to taste, and just enough non-dairy milk to puree. It’s a fittingly sweet note to end this series on.

The final episode of Around the World in 80 Plates airs this Wednesday at 10/9c on Bravo. Who will win, and what will they cook? Don’t miss the culmination of this whirlwind trip across the globe!

Postre Chajá Baked Alaska

Vanilla Cake
Peach Melba Ice Cream, Minus Raspberry Ripple (Vegan a la Mode, page 164)
Meringue (Vegan Desserts, page 191)

80-Proof or Greater Rum, Brandy, or Vodka
Sliced Fresh Peaches
Lightly Sweetened Peach Puree, if Desired

To put the baked Alaska together, freeze the freshly churned and still soft peach ice cream into silicon hemisphere molds. Let them set up solidly in the freeze; at least 4 hours. Meanwhile, slice out rounds of cake with 2 3/4-inch circular cookie cutters. Line the pieces up on a small tray, and chill thoroughly in the fridge.

When you’re ready to serve, top each round of cake with a hemisphere of ice cream, and smooth a generous coating of meringue all over. Make sure that you seal the edge where the cake meets the plate, to prevent heat from getting in and melting the ice cream too soon. Sprinkle each meringue-covered dessert with alcohol, and use a long match to set each on fire. Once the flames burn out, quickly slice the towers in half, and plate each half with a few fresh peach slices and a smear of peach puree, if desired. Eat immediately!

Makes about 6 Servings

For participating in this competition, Bravo has compensated me for my time, but all recipes and opinions are solely my own.


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Around the World in 80 Plates: Buenos Aires, Argentina

These past few weeks of constant culinary travel really did wear me out, so I can only imagine how the chefs actually making the trek must feel! After a much needed one week intermission, we’re back on the road again, pounding the pavement in search of new edible inspiration. Today, our path brings us to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Buenos Aires, alive with bright colors and lively music through all hours of the day, immediately brings to mind tango dances and beautiful beaches, but desserts? Not so much. Luckily, there does seem to be a universal craving just beneath the surface, and everyone from school children to their grandparents can agree that dulce de leche is pretty much the unofficial sweet spread of this capital city, and beyond. Whereas peanut butter or nutella might be commonplace on breakfast toast in the US, you’re much more likely to find a sticky jar of caramelized milk jam on the table here. It truly shines, of course, when it comes time for dessert, and that often means wedged between two delicate shortbread cookies in the form of alfajores. Though found in many parts of South America, there’s a good amount of variation between cultures, with some containing no gooey dulce de leche filling at all. Argentinians win the honor of calling Alfajores their own, by my own estimation, since they firmly hold the title as the world’s largest consumer of those addictive sugary sandwiches.

[Glass platter provided by Steelite]

Still in the grip of a killer heat wave back at home, all I can think about are chilled, frozen, or otherwise cooling treats, so ice cream is still front and center on my mind. Whipping up a dulce de leche-flavored creamy concoction with the help of my coconut milk-based Dulce de Coco from Vegan Desserts, the rest of the plated dessert came together effortlessly. The plated version pictured above includes a fluffy crown of whipped coconut creme and long ribbons of toasted coconut flakes, calling to mind the optional dip in coconut flakes that some alfajores take, and harmonizing beautifully with the subtle coconut essence of the ice cream. No need to get so fancy if the heat becomes too much to bear; Just slap a scoop of the ice cream between two cookies, roll in coconut flakes like the original, and you’re good to go.

Check out Around the World in 80 Plates, this Wednesday 10/9c on Bravo, to see if the remaining chefs also indulge in dulce de leche, or stick to the savories in Buenos Aires.

Ice Cream Alfajores

Dulce de Coco Ice Cream:

1 Cup Dulce de Coco (Vegan Desserts, page 213)
2 1/3 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Shortbread Cookies:

5 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/8 Teaspoon Almond Extract
3/4 Cup Cornstarch
1/2 Cup + 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 – 3 Tablespoons Full-Fat Coconut Milk

Garnish:

Additional Dulce de Coco
Whipped Coconut Creme
Lightly Toasted Coconut Chips
Mint Leaves and Nasturtium Blossoms or Other Edible Flowers (Optional)

Beginning with the ice cream, be sure to have the dulce de coco prepared and fully cooled in advance. Whisk it into the non-dairy milk in a medium saucepan, and vigorously beat in the cornstarch as well, ensuring that all lumps of starch are broken up and incorporated. Set the pan over medium heat on the stove, and whisk occasionally, until it comes to a full, rolling boil. Turn off the heat before stirring in the vanilla and salt. Let cool to room temperature before thoroughly chilling the mixture in the fridge, for at least 3 hours. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When finished spinning, smooth the still soft, freshly churned into silicon hemisphere molds for a plated presentation, or simply transfer to an air-tight container. Store in the freeze to set up solidly; at least 5 hours, to be certain that it won’t immediately melt on the plate.

Meanwhile, to make the cookies, preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Set aside.

In your stand mixer, beat the margarine briefly to soften, and then cream it together with the sugar. Beat thoroughly until homogeneous, and then add in the zest and both extracts. Mix to incorporate.

Separately, whisk together all of the remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl. Incorporate them into the stand mixer with the speed on low in two additions. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl as needed, to ensure that everything is being mixed in smoothly. Finally, drizzle in the coconut milk 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together when pressed. It should be a fairly firm, almost crumbly dough, so don’t go crazy with the added liquid. If it’s too sticky, it won’t roll out properly.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and use a rolling pin to flatten it out to about 1/8th of an inch in thickness. Cut out rounds with a 2 3/4- or 3-inch fluted cookie cutter, and transfer the shapes to your prepared baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies no longer look moist, but not so long that they look browned. The finished cookies should remain very pale.

Cool completely on wire racks, and chill further before applying the ice cream.

To make a simple ice cream sandwich, just take one shortbread cookie, plop a scoop of the ice cream on top, and finish it off with one more cookie. You can wrap them individually and store them in the freezer, to be doled out as desired.

For the plated presentation, start by piping out a few decorative dollops of coconut whipped cream on top of one cookie, and artfully sticking a handful of the toasted coconut chips into it. Place a second cookie on the plate, and pop out one hemisphere of solidly frozen ice cream. Stack the ice cream puck on the plain cookie, and carefully balance the decorated cookie on top. If it threatens to slide off, lightly melt the top of the ice cream dome with a hot knife or metal spatula, just enough to flatten out the peak slightly. Finally, garnish the plate with additional dulce de coco, mint leaves, and nasturtiums if desired.

Makes 6 Plated Desserts, with Extras for Nibbling

Printable Recipe

For participating in this competition, Bravo has compensated me for my time, but all recipes and opinions are solely my own.


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A Frozen Fourth of July

Our Independence Day, the most patriotic of national holidays here in the US, typically fails to stir up much enthusiasm from me. The backyard barbecues are a welcome excuse to grill some easy entrees and catch up with old friends, but that could happen on any summer day, too. Plus, that red, white, and blue color scheme is a bit uninspiring… Most of the time. Inexplicably and without warning, it just hit me the right way this time around. Without plans or any party to attend, I still couldn’t resist the bait- I went all out to make a festive fourth of July dessert. In fact, now I want to throw my own little fete because of this impromptu project…

This cake is the key to turning the holiday into a real celebration. Fluffy billows of snow-white whipped coconut creme obscure a sweet surprise within. Though plainly ordinary from the outside, just remove a slice and watch guests’ faces light up…

To cool off a sweltering summer day in the sun, ice cream cake is just what the doctor ordered. Trust me on this one, it’s the only prescription suitable to combat exhaustion, hunger, heat, and dessert cravings all at once. Red velvet cake, one of my unexpectedly most popular recipes, has been given new life as the base of this icy layered treat. Revised and tweaked to perfection, it now practically glows with a crimson-red hue, all from a little can of cooked beets. For anyone who complained about an overtly lemon flavor, that issue is now a thing of the past. All you can taste is cake, sweet, moist, lightly cocoa-flavored cake.

Blue Moon Ice Cream lends a subtly fruity, mysterious yet comfortingly familiar flavor to the assembly. The real inspiration for this whole frozen dessert, it’s rare to find such a bright blue food, and so I seized the opportunity as soon as I could. Never mind dusty blue corn chips or purplish-blue potatoes- This ice cream is really blue!

If you didn’t plan ahead and pre-order a copy of Vegan a la Mode, then you’re in luck- Sarah of The Sweet Life is generously hosting a giveaway, which she put together without any prompting and paid for out of her own pocket. There’s still time to get in on the action and see this recipe for yourself, so don’t delay and enter the contest now!

Putting together this ice cream cake is much easier than it looks. Simply prepare the red velvet cake according to the instructions, but transfer the batter into a 9-inch round springform pan lined with a round of parchment paper on the bottom and lightly greased. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center pulls out clean, with perhaps a few moist crumbs clinging to it (but absolutely no wet batter.) Let cool completely, and chill before proceeding. Meanwhile, prepare the Blue Moon Ice Cream from Vegan a la Mode (page 8) according to those directions, and after churning, transfer the still soft ice cream to the same springform pan, smoothing it over the baked cake evenly, leveling out the top with a spatula. Let the whole thing harden in the freezer overnight before attempting to unmold.

Once firmly frozen, remove the sides from the pan, peel the parchment off the bottom of the cake, and transfer the two layers to a serving platter, cake plate, or cake stand (remember that you’ll have to fit it back into the freezer though, so double-check that there will be enough space to accommodate your dish!) Frost with coconut whipped creme, and top with edible star glitter, if desired. Store in the freezer until ready to serve, and then…

Celebrate!

Have a Happy Fourth of July!


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Around the World in 80 Plates: Barcelona, Spain

Pack your bags and don’t forget your sunscreen- For the next leg of our global cooking conquest, we’re headed to Spain! Barcelona, Spain, to be precise, where dishes sparkle with bright, bold, and fearless flavors. Making paella may be the extent of my experience with this vast, richly varied cuisine, but it’s from that generous hammered metal pan that I drew inspiration for this week’s well-traveled recipe. Rice and vegetables needn’t apply, however, because this is a job for saffron alone. The signature spice that breathes life into this savory simmered rice is just as well suited to savory tastes as it is sweet.

Ice creams still churning endlessly on my mind, a glorious, golden saffron scoop was an irresistible concept. An ideal treat for such the perpetually warm climate of Spain, or the increasingly sweltering summer days ahead for most of us at home, a fuss-free and refreshing recipe was the only way to go. Fine delicacies such as saffron need little to make any dish pop, but I couldn’t help but gild the lily further with a smattering of crunchy cashews. Lending their roasted, slightly salty flavor to the party, their gentle nutty taste is the perfect compliment.

Be sure to watch Bravo this Wednesday at 10/9c when Around the World in 80 Plates hits Barcelona!


Saffron Cashew Ice Cream

2 2/3 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Teaspoon Saffron
3/4 Cup Roasted and Lightly Salted Cashews, Divided (1/4 cup blend in base, 1/2 chopped)
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Light Agave Nectar
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot
2 Teaspoons Cornstarch
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For starters, combine the non-dairy milk and saffron and let sit for 8 – 12 hours, or overnight to infuse.

Once the saffron has turned the “milk” a golden-yellow color after a nice, long soak, pour that liquid into the canister of your blender. Add 1/4 cup of the cashews along with the sugar, agave, arrowroot, and cornstarch. Roughly chop the remainder of the nuts and set them aside for later.

Blend on high speed until the nuts are completely pulverized and the whole mixture is completely smooth. This may take as long as 8 – 10 minutes if you’re not using a high-powered model, so be patient. Pass the mixture through a fine strainer to filter out any remaining cashew pieces. Transfer the smooth base into a medium saucepan and begin to cook over moderate heat. Whisk periodically until it reaches a rapid bubble. Turn off the heat and add in the and vanilla. Cool and then let it sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours, until thoroughly chilled.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the final 5 minutes of churning, introduce the remaining chopped cashews directly to the machine while it continues to spin, evenly distributing the pieces throughout the soft ice cream. Transfer to an air-tight container and store in the freezer for at least 3 hours, to fully solidify, before serving.

Makes About 1 Quart

Printable Recipe

For participating in this competition, Bravo has compensated me for my time, but all recipes and opinions are solely my own.


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The Drunken Grape

It’s reasonable to expect a scorching summer ahead, at the rate the temperature is rising already. When was the last time you could even dream of donning shorts and flip flops come mid-April? It may be a sign of worse things to come, but right now, this sudden taste of the tropics is a welcome wake-up call from winter. Best of all, it’s now perfectly reasonable to bust out that ice cream maker and get churning, no further excuses necessary.

Rum raisin would have to be on the short list of classic parlor flavors, an essential scoop that must make every menu worth its salt. Sure, raisins can be a polarizing ingredient in desserts, but when soaked in spirits and thoroughly intoxicated on a heady mix of rum and sugar, what’s not to love? A mere replication of this tried-and-true formula wasn’t enough to satiate my appetite for experiment though, and my mind turned to other candies and successful raisin dessert mash-ups.

Ultimately an amalgamation of both the classic rum raisin ice cream and yogurt-covered raisins, the resulting marriage of tart, sweet, and slightly boozy makes me wonder why no one makes the traditional candies infused with spirits in the first place. Do yourself a favor and lose the the waxy coatings in favor of a smooth and creamy coat of thickened vegan yogurt- You’ll end up with not only a healthier treat, but a much more satisfying and grown-up option as well. This particular recipe may have been cut from the final line up in Vegan a la Mode, but there’s yet another rendition on this drunken raisin dessert, with a more chocolaty twist…

Rum Raisin Frozen Yogurt

3 Cups (1 24-Ounce Container) Plain Soy or Coconut Yogurt
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2/3 Cup Raisins
3 Tablespoons Dark Rum
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth and fill with soy yogurt. Wrap the edges of the cheesecloth over the yogurt until fully covered, and place strainer or colander over a pot deep enough to catch the liquid and keep the yogurt from sitting in the moisture. Cover pot with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. You should end up with about 2 1/2 cups of thick yogurt.

In a medium bowl, combine the strained yogurt, sugar, raisins, rum, vanilla, and salt. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Yes, this one does take a good measure of patience, but allowing the flavors to meld and develop before churning will create a more complex and harmonious final product. Plus, by effectively soaking the raisins for a good couple of hours, this will prevent them from turning into rock-hard icicles once they hit the freezer.

The following morning (don’t worry, there’s no shame in admitting you wanted to sneak a scoop for breakfast!) freeze mixture in an ice cream machine based on the manufacturer’s instructions. For a soft-serve consistency, serve immediately after freezing. For a firmer consistency more like standard ice cream, pack into an airtight container and let chill in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

Makes About 1 Quart

Printable Recipe


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When You Feel Like a Nut

One sip of almond milk, so many years ago, was all it took to convert me to a believer; I haven’t looked back to soy ever since. Smoother, creamier, and without the distinctive bean-y undertones soy is apt to impart, the choice for both baking and drinking was clear. The biggest downside to the switch was in nutrition; quite simply, no nut can compete with legumes on the protein front. Finally, the gap is beginning to close, thanks to another brilliant innovation by So Delicious. Almond Plus almond milk has the best of both worlds, and doesn’t taste like a compromise in the least bit.

Perfectly smooth, this silky elixir has a velvety thickness that goes down easily, whether it’s topping cold cereal or drank straight from the carton. Either the Original or Vanilla flavors are irresistible as stand-alone drinks, and I’m not often inclined to down a plain glass of “milk.” Unsweetened blends seamlessly into savory dishes, and has become a fast favorite for creamy sauces, such as the classic alfredo. Perfectly suited for baking and dessert making as well, it’s quickly become my go-to “milk” for making ice cream. Luckily, for those lacking the patience or equipment, So Delicious has you covered with a brand new line of almond milk ice creams all their own.

Diving first into the basics, the Chocolate and Vanilla make a dazzling first impression. Unlike their other recent creation, coconut milk ice cream, the base is a silent player here, allowing the star ingredients to shine in their respective pints. Soft and easy to scoop straight from the freezer, the chocolate does err a bit more on the sweet side, but I can see it having huge appeal with children especially. Impressively complex in flavor, it’s much more than mere cocoa; such richness belies a truly modest nutrition panel. Vanilla actually tastes like vanilla, and not just an anonymous “plain” option. In fact, it tastes more like homemade ice cream than anything I’ve tried out of a commercially packed cardboard pint, which is about the highest compliment I can bestow.

Even with such high expectations, it only gets better from there.  Cherry Amaretto is not one I would pick up on my own accord, but one taste forced me to change my tune, because I would definitely buy it from here on out. Cherry-flavored desserts often rub me the wrong way, with artificial flavors carrying most of the weight in  a truly unnatural, over-concentrated sort of way. Such a sin is not one committed here, as the chunks of real cherry are impossible to miss. A light cherry essence is found throughout, accented by the barest hint of amaretto flavor, which rounds out the dessert nicely.  Those big chunks of sweet cherries and delightfully chewy, rather than icy, like so many poorly planned fruit additions. A sophisticated yet still playful combination, it’s clearly designed for a more mature audience, by would undoubtedly be enjoyed by the younger set as well.

Butter Pecan stole my heart with just its name. More than merely butter-y, it’s in fact butterscotch-y, with deep caramel notes mingling seamlessly with the floral vanilla flavor. Tons of sizable pecan pieces add a satisfying crunch, and assert themselves properly to justify the name. A subtle hit of salt serves to intensify this complex ice cream, accentuating all of its best features. For the next Thanksgiving dinner, I’m highly tempted to simply pack this ice cream into a flaky crust and call it pecan pie!

Picking a favorite flavor out of this incredible selection is almost as difficult as picking a favorite child, but I can’t deny that the Mocha Almond Fudge would undoubtedly rank very high on my list. More than mere coffee and cocoa, there’s a whole lot going on in each spoonful. A gooey fudge ripple marbles throughout the pint, adding a blast of chocolate decadence every now and then, like built-in hot fudge sauce. Huge, plentiful chunks of fresh and lightly roasted almonds keep things exciting, although the smooth coffee backdrop would hardly be dull all by itself. I have a feeling that even coffee-haters may love this ice cream- It’s just that good.

Many other of So Delicious’ classic ice cream flavors will also be available in almond milk format, and let’s not forget about the novelty treats, too. Naturally, I wolfed down the whole box of Mocha Almond Fudge Bars in record time, but the Vanilla Bars were not long for this world, either. Something about that crisp, fast-melting chocolate coating makes this already killer ice cream even more irresistible. Biting into that frozen cloak of cocoa, it yields with a satisfying snap, revealing the contrasting creaminess within. It’s the kind of addictive treat I can’t keep on hand regularly if I hope to maintain a diet that includes edibles other than ice cream.

Though I was terribly spoiled by a sneak-peek shipment of these items, most should already be available in specialty markets such as Whole Foods across the US by now. When I’m ready to give the ice cream maker a much deserved break, I know just where to turn for delicious frozen desserts. To share the almond love a bit, So Delicious provided 2 freebie coupons for any of their products, so that means that two lucky readers will get to pick out something sweet, on the house! Just leave a comment that includes a valid email address, and tell me what your favorite flavor of ice cream is. The giveaway will close to new entries on Friday (the 13th!) at midnight, EST. Check back in this space to see the winners.

UPDATE: As chosen by the random number generator, the winners are…

#17, Roopa!

and

#31, Allie!

Congrats, and to everyone else, don’t go far- I’ve got another giveaway coming up very soon…


40 Comments

Leftovers

The dust is finally beginning to settle after the final grueling round of edits for Vegan a la Mode, and I can breathe more easily once again. It may actually be done. Such a crazy thought, to consider that my third cookbook is on it’s way, possibly being printed as we speak. It sure didn’t happen overnight though; like most of my grand concepts, this one has been churning for a couple years now, before I even knew I wanted to do a book devoted solely to frozen treats. The gentle hum of the ice cream maker was my siren song, and I couldn’t stop dreaming up creamy concoctions even if I tried. It was a natural segue to turn those recipes into a book, where they could all live happily together. But like any process that drags on through months and months, evolving with the changing seasons and weathering different patterns of inspiration, there had to be some difficult cuts to make at the end of the line. As per usual, I had too many ideas, too many words, and not nearly enough pages to stretch my writerly legs.

Perfectly tasty ice creams had to be set aside to make the book work as a whole, and this Maple Nut Royale was one of them. Sandwiched between a maple-pecan number and a handful of other peanut-based confections, it simply made sense to pare back. It took the news with grace, but I could tell it was quite disappointed it wouldn’t see the pages of a published book after all. Leftover but still perfectly good, this creamy, nutty ice cream seemed like the perfect little teaser to share here instead. One of the earlier recipes I churned up, circa 2009, the photo may not be my best work, but I like to think that the deliciousness still shows all the same.

Maple-Nut Royale Ice Cream

3/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2/3 Cup Maple Syrup
2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk*
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Pecans

*Almond milk is recommended to further the nutty theme, but any sort of non-dairy beverage, other than rice milk, will do.

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the pecans, in a medium saucepan until smooth. You can bring things together more easily in a blender, but it should smooth out with a sturdy whisk and just a bit of elbow grease, too. Set the saucepan over medium heat on the stove, and continue to whisk gently, scraping the bottom and sides as you go, to prevent the mixture from sticking and burning.

Cook until the liquid comes to a boil and has thickened significantly; bubbles should break slowly but regularly on the surface. Turn off the heat, and let cool to room temperature before chilling thoroughly in the fridge. Allow at least 2 – 3 hours for the mixture to come down to a cooler temperature.

Once chilled, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the final 5 minutes of churning, add in the chopped pecans, and allow the moving paddle to incorporate them into the soft ice cream. Transfer to an air-tight container, and stash in the freezer for at least 3 hours to further harden before scooping and serving.

Makes About 1 Quart

Printable Recipe


34 Comments

Blissfully Delicious

For such a highly-regarded and lauded brand, you’d think it would be a snap to launch new flavors to an existing, successful line of products, to have them gobbled up by an eagerly waiting and hungry fan base. Well, at least half of that statement is true… Coconut Bliss ice creams have always been an easy sell, boasting organic, fair trade, and generally wholesome ingredients, but finding those frozen pints can be another matter entirely. Just as four exciting new flavors were scheduled to launch, disaster struck, and a coconut shortage meant that there wasn’t much Bliss to go around. After waiting for nearly a year and only being able to secure one of those new offerings, I decided to focus on the existing, available flavors instead of only those latest additions. Surely, there was still plenty of delicious ice cream to discover beyond those freshest flavors! Especially considering my latest cookbook venture, it seemed only fair that I get a good taste of the commercially available competition, after all.

Caramel Ginger Cookie, the one new ice cream offering I managed to get my hands on, promises great things even with a merely casual glance. An abundance of cookie pieces are swirled into each easily scooped spoonful, with a thin ribbon of caramel not far behind. Though the base is unmistakably coconut flavored, the addition was not unwelcome here, adding depth and complexity to the light vanilla essence. Rather than providing a crunch, the cookie pieces had softened to an almost cake-like consistency through their trip to the deep freeze, but the rich molasses flavor and gentle warming spices still brought a delightful contrast to the ice cream overall. If only that gooey stripe of caramel was slightly darker, tasting just slightly more burnt, it would be practically perfect.

Failing to find the Mocha Maca Crunch I so desperately craved, I turned instead to another favorite combination, found in the Mint Chip Galactica. Tiny shards of delicate chocolate flakes are strewn throughout the snowy white pint, looking for all the world like a negative photo of a galaxy of chocolate stars, instantly explaining the creative title. Cool, refreshing mint flavor carries this ice cream, tasting like fresh mint leaves without veering into more grassy notes or toothpaste territory. Bright and curiously light considering the rich coconut base, it strikes me as the perfect snack to beat the heat on a summer’s day. The chocolate stracciatella is key to the success of this ice cream, lending a subtle bitter edge that makes the combination all the more satisfying. Sweetened just enough to balance out the pint, it’s like my childhood mint chocolate chip, but all grown up.

Finally, I needed a full-fledged chocolate experience, so I dove into the Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge ice cream with abandon. Sweetened once again with a light hand, this is a strong, slightly bitter chocolate offering for mature palates. Not exactly a full-bodied, rounded chocolate flavor but a really intense cocoa instead, it still covers up the coconut flavor more thoroughly than the previous two pints, making it a more attractive option to those not so crazy about coconuts. Small pieces of hazelnut are hidden within, adding good crunch but seeming to lack in that deep, toasted flavor I craved. However, hands down, the fudge swirl makes this flavor worth a second scoop, adding a delightful gooey texture, and an extra punch of flavor every now and then. Perhaps it’s not one for the kids, but who says you would want to part with even a spoonful in the first place?

Far richer than most vegan ice creams found in the mainstream marketplace, tasting Coconut Bliss for the first time is like discovering super-premium ice cream when you’re accustomed to bulk economy quarts. Though notably pricier than many other options out there, a smaller scoop is likely sufficient to satisfy even the most voracious sweet tooth, so it all evens out with careful portioning. That is, if you can resist the strong temptation to indulge in just a bit more Bliss.

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