Presented with a challenge verging on an outright dare, it’s hard to ignore even the craziest, most curious idea. A recent request for an ice cream base that could be completed with interchangeable flavored syrups, however, took a bit more prodding and begging than usual. Though intrigued, I found myself less than enthused to explore that ambiguous concept. Non-committal to a fault, it’s near impossible for me to pin down a single “correct” method of solving any problem, so to suggest a sole base that could accommodate every flavor that gets thrown at it sounded preposterous. Every recipe is different, as I found especially true while developing Vegan a la Mode, a yet surely there could be some loophole that could allow equal success when the basic composition didn’t change. The one variable in the equation is the actual taste of the liquid sweetener, after all.
First things first, no ordinary simple syrup need apply for this job; only highly concentrated and intense solutions will fit the bill. Since they’re further diluted when mixed with non-dairy milk, it’s a good thing if they verge on too strong when sampled solo. As for the actual flavor, with ready access to culinary extracts and oils, your imagination is limit. Ideal for days far removed from any harvest when quality fruits are hard to come by, such a flexible approach finally turns ice cream into an accessible, all-seasons treat.
Need a bit of color to satisfy your hunger for eye candy? The clear liquid sugar is easily dressed up with any variety of natural food colorings or whole foods-based alternatives. Swap out some of the water for beet or carrot juice; blend the cooked and cooled mixture with a handful of fresh spinach until smooth; add a pinch of turmeric or ground annatto at any point in the process. There’s no excuse for bland treats, either in taste or appearance!
Ultimately, what came out of this sweet challenge is more of a formula- guidelines, if you will- than a hard and fast recipe. Feel free to continue exploring, adapting to taste, and inventing your own unique solutions. For the richest, creamiest texture, opt for full-fat canned coconut milk to complement your syrups, but take into account how that added flavor may (or may not) pair with the other flavors invited to the party.
Syrup-Based Ice Cream
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/2 Teaspoon Essential Oil, Candy Flavoring Oil, or 2 – 3 Tablespoons Baking Extract of Choice
Basic Ice Cream Formula:
2 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
3/4 Cup Super-Saturated Simple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
The procedure here really couldn’t be any easier. First, to make the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir briefly to combine. Set over medium heat and cook just until the sugar crystals have all dissolved. Remove the pan from the stove, add your flavor and color of choice, and let cool completely before storing in an air-tight bottle or using in your ice cream
Moving right along to the ice cream, in a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and whisk thoroughly to break up any lumps of starch. Once smooth, set over medium heat. Stir periodically and allow the mixture to come up to a full boil, at which point the liquid should have thickened significantly. Turn off the heat, let cool, and then stash in the fridge to chill for at least three hours before churning.
When nice and cold all the way through, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the soft ice cream into an airtight container and let rest in the freezer for at least 3 hours before serving, until solid enough to scoop.
Makes 1 Scant Quart