Seeds of Revolution

Ben & Jerry’s is making headlines so fast, you could get whiplash trying to keep up with these two men. No sooner than I hit “publish” on what I thought would be the ice cream review of the of the year, or at least of the season, did a brand new press release come flying through my inbox. Thrown in there as if it was a second thought, a little note to just slip under the door while no one was home, turned out to be a bombshell.

Beyond announcing another flavor, this was a brand new base entirely, never before seen in commercial ice cream production.

Sunflower butter.

No nuts, no dairy, pure indulgence.

If you were a fan of the original almond milk line from Ben & Jerry’s, you’re going to be disappointed… Because you’ll be deeply displeased that the entire range of flavors can’t be upgraded to this new base instead.

Almonds have enjoyed mainstream success for their established identity as wholesome, fairly neutral carriers of good fats and creamy textures. Sunflower seeds are the underdogs, with all those positive qualities, but none of the recognition. Masterfully blended with decadent flavors and extravagant mix-ins, I personally would have never guessed the seedy underbelly supporting it all. Not a hint of nuttiness, no matter how carefully I tasted, came though above the intended indulgences.

Coming this summer, keep an eye out for these three sensations that will rock your local freezer aisle and scoop shops:

“Milk” & Cookies (vanilla with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate sandwich cookies, and chocolate cookie swirls):

Delightful doughy bites swimming in a frozen pool of non-dairy milk, slowly returning to a more liquid state, coating each morsel in a luscious cloak of thickened cream. Huge chunks of sandwich cookies jut out of every other spoonful, as if they hadn’t even been chopped before being loaded into the pint. The end effect is neither vanilla nor chocolate, but somehow, all the best components of the two all at once.

Crème Brûlée Cookie (burnt caramel with brown sugar cookies and salted caramel swirls):

Dirty blonde with a dark, mysterious edge, this complex little vixen is my new obsession. Though it sounds like a straight shot of sugar in a waffle cup, it manages an impressive level of balance with subtly bitter, lightly salted caramel, toasted and nutty, perfectly complimenting the seeded base. The interplay between gooey swirl and soft, fudgy molasses-flecked cookies makes every bite exciting, right down to the bottom of the carton.

Mint Chocolate Cookie (mint with chocolate sandwich cookies):

Fresh, bright, sweet peppermint cradles a fine mist of crumbled wafer cookies, interspersed by enormous cookie boulders. Treading the fine line between rich and refreshing, the overall experience is solidly one of indulgence.

These seeded pints are being added to the current dairy-free offerings, making 17 flavors in all for the truly lactose intolerant to raise a spoon to.

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Binge-Worthy

Curling up on the couch to watch big ticket movies on the small screen is quite arguably America’s favorite pastime. Theaters are hurting as ticket sales plummet and uneaten popcorn goes stale, but it’s hard to compete with the instant gratification of home viewing. “Netflix and chill” is more than a libidinous euphemism, but a genuinely innocent evening activity, as 158 million global subscribers would agree.

Well, I don’t have a couch, nor a TV, but I do have a cozy queen-sized bed and fully charged smart phone. While movie night at Chez Hannah looks a bit different than most, it’s no less glorious of an event. Of course, snacks are a mandatory, essential element, no matter how how late the featured flick drags on. Unlike concession stand limitations, having a full kitchen at my disposal allows for every craving to be satisfied, hot off the stove or fresh from the freezer.

Naturally, as I work on my seventh cookbook, this one all about ice cream, I find myself wrapped around a frosty pint more often than not. Apparently I’m not the only one with such cool inclinations, though.

Connecting the dots, Ben and Jerry’s has just unleashed an exclusive new flavor, Netflix & Chilll’d, upon the world. Showcasing a peanut butter ice cream with pretzel swirls and fudge brownies, the conventional pint has been released alongside a non-dairy, certified vegan variation!

Not gonna lie, Ben & Jerry’s gave me the full hook up.

  • Fluffy slipper socks? Check.
  • Wireless bluetooth speaker? Check.
  • Double-wide stainless steel spoons? Check.
  • Insulated pillow with built in pint holder and phone stand. Oh CHECK yeah!

It should come as no surprise this dynamic duo knows how to chill, no holds barred.

What really matters most, of course, is the scoop itself. Finely ground pretzel pieces combined with the creamy peanut butter base evoke the sensation of biting into a creamy butterfinger candy bar. Notes of malt linger with each lick, compliments of the burnished pretzel’s surface. Soft brownie chunks give way easily into the ice cream, melting like chewy squares of fudge. Nutty, crunchy, gooey, and decadent above all else, I think the critics would give it a standing ovation, even if they had to crawl out from under the covers to do so.

Full of sweet and salty twists and turns, this pint plays out like a good drama with a happy ending.

The Straight Dough(p)

It was only a matter of time. After releasing a glorious vegan version of their infamous cookie dough ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s has now unveiled the next level of dough indulgence upon the world. Joining the previously limited run of “just the chunks,” vegans will soon see a variation with their names on it appearing in grocery stores and scoop shops nationwide.

This is the real deal; the straight dough(p). Cylindrical extrusions exactly like you would see rolling down factory conveyor belts, destined for an unceremonious ice cream burial. Now, they’ve been freed of that typical, undistinguished fate for a glorious full feature. No longer the sidekick but the true hero, every nuance of their buttery, brown sugar sweetness can be properly appreciated. Never before have I tasted anything so closely matched to the flavors of homemade dough without reaching right into the bowl of my stand mixer.

Suddenly, I’m three years old again, standing on a chair to see over the tiled kitchen counter while my mom prepares cookies. Stretching to reach the very edge of the beater, I surreptitiously swipe tiny morsels of soft batter, one after another, letting the flavors explode across my palate and slowly dissipate before going in for another bit. Each stolen taste was just enough to flood my senses with the slightly grainy texture of undissolved sugar and flour, subtly balanced salted edge, and deeply satisfying richness. Stealthy, I was not, but my mom charitably humored my advances, pretending to be engaged with very complicated oven calibration every now and then while I made my moves.

Like the flashbulb of an antique camera, the memory fades off into black, and just like that, the bag is empty, too.

Ben & Jerry’s, take another bow. This is a completely faultless edible masterpiece by any standards. If you’ve ever craved raw cookie dough, this is what you’ve wanted all along.

Ready… Set… Dough!

Can you imagine a time when a flavor as ordinary as cookie dough ice cream would have been deemed controversial? The year was 1984 when Ben & Jerry’s shocked the world by dishing out scoops of vanilla ice cream riddled with unbaked batter. We’ve certainly come a long way, but the drive for sweet innovation remains the same.

Unafraid to venture off the eaten trail from day one, Ben & Jerry’s has been pushing frozen boundaries as open-minded eaters grow more adventurous, and diverse diets pose unique challenges. The game-changing release of four non-dairy pints almost three years ago was just another chapter in this never ending story. Now the full lineup stands eleven tall, as two new doughboys join the ranks. Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, described as having “gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough and fudge flakes,” answers the demand for this familiar childhood staple, while Chocolate Caramel Cluster treads a new path along a cocoa terrain, littered with peanuts, fudge chunks, and salted caramel swirls.

Ben & Jerry’s has been seriously rolling in dough recently, starting with the limited release of Snackable Dough Chunks back in fall, followed by the line of Cookie Dough Core ice creams in their original dairy base. Amidst all of that dough-licious decadence, it only stands to reason that vegans should get to enjoy “the number one global flavor” at long last.

Made with a blend of almond milk and pea protein just like its predecessors, the cookie dough ice cream scoops easily right out of the freezer, soft and smooth, with a premium texture that translates into a rich creamy sensation on the tongue. The buttery, warm vanilla base is rounded out by a marshmallowy sweetness that strikes me as a marked improvement over the first submissions to the dairy-free field. Each spoonful is pockmarked with shatteringly crisp stracciatella chocolate shards, rather than rock-hard chunks. As promised, Ben & Jerry’s delivers the goods in great abundance. Dense nuggets of dough with a fine grain, dominated by brown sugar flavor, turn up in every bite.

Even for an old-school omnivore, it would be hard to find fault in this pint. If you’re already a cookie monster, you know exactly what to expect here: it’s a simple concept, simply done right.

This post was made possible thanks to Ben & Jerry’s, but all content and opinions are entirely my own.

Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream: The Inside Scoop

Ben & Jerry's Non-Dairy Ice Cream - an on-site tour, tasting and honest review of the first four dairy-free flavors!

After decades of craving, years of lobbying, and hundreds of hungry voices calling for action, Ben & Jerry’s has taken the unprecedented initiative to offer a 100% non-dairy frozen dessert. And to say that this brand new line of almond milk creations has sweet teeth celebrating across the country would be the understatement of the year.

Ben & Jerry’s has earned their loyal following through tireless innovation, fearless flavor combinations, and a genuinely inspiring mission statement. Not content to merely spread the sweetness, the brand is arguably more about giving back to back to the community and trying to make a difference in bigger picture issues. In fact, a big reason for the interest in non-dairy options is to reduce the overall carbon footprint for the mammoth company.

But creating something to smile about for dedicated vegans, those suffering from lactose intolerance, and many dairy-free consumers was the greatest goal, of course, as the demands had been coming in fast and furious. Proving that there are real people at the helm, listening to suggestions (or hungry belly-aching, as it may have been), these four new flavors will be available in most mainstream markets by the beginning of spring.

All of the Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream flavors are built upon a foundation of their own finely-tuned blend of almond milk, pea protein, and coconut milk. The right ratios proved elusive, going through 70 to 90 different trials until the base hit all the right creamy, luxurious, and positively decadent notes. I had the chance to sample each flavor, firsthand at the Ben & Jerry’s facility. Flawlessly smooth and luscious, their hard work paid off in full for an impeccable texture that exudes a premium impression at first lick.

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The Taste Testing of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream

After the above taste-testing, I also trialed a pint of each at home, just to firm up my initial thoughts. Here was my take on each vegan flavor of Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Ice Cream:

P.B. & Cookies – This flavor starts with vanilla ice cream and stuffs every square scoopable inch with giant chunks of classic sandwich cookies and thick ribbons of what I can only describe as pure peanut fudge. Pieces of crunchy roasted peanuts complete the overall nutty picture, and for peanut butter lovers, this is one little pint of pure, sweet heaven. Easily my favorite of the quartet, every bite sang of bold, sugary peanut flavor, with all the crunchy, chewy, gooey mix-ins one could ever ask for. At some points, I wondered if each spoonful was filled with more cookies than ice cream- and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Coffee Caramel Fudge – Sure to appease both caffeine addicts and fair-weather fans of the cup of mud, this flavor offers the frozen dessert equivalent of a dressed up latte with all the syrups and sauces a buzzed barista could throw in. Warm and toasty coffee notes intermingle beautifully with the subtle edginess of burnt sugar in the soft caramel swirl. Strong enough to make the roasted beans clear rock stars in this arrangement but still quite demure as far as a coffee concoction can go, those who prefer a milkier cuppa will be thrilled by the balance.

Chunky Monkey – Unfortunately, it’s not all smooth sailing in this turbulent sea of frozen almond milk. Things begin to go south a little upon cracking open this container. One of Ben & Jerry’s best known inventions, a time honored and beloved combination of banana ice cream, chocolate fudge pieces, and walnuts, the original has been around since the very beginning. Although it’s been many years since my last experience with the pioneering pint, I can’t say I recall it being quite so intensely and unapologetically sweet. The banana notes proved elusive, hidden behind the cotton candy-like base. Impeccably fresh, crisp walnuts and rich chocolate bombshells brought me back for more, but it’s not the instant winner I had imagined from this ice cream titan.

Chocolate Fudge Brownie – Layered with more brownie pieces than seems physically possible for a single scoop of ice cream, those generous squares are the absolute saving grace of the whole assembly. Made by Greyston Bakery and soon to be offered by the brand exclusively in Whole Foods Markets, those fudge bar cookies are more than worth seeking out solo. But sad to say, I wouldn’t have known that the base itself was meant to be chocolate if I had tasted it blind. Even Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben and Jerry’s, readily admits, “The chocolate one is too chalky for me. It’s a hard product to make”. True enough, the taste is reminiscent of a cocoa protein shake at best. Thankfully, those abundant brownie pieces do reinforce the decadent dessert angle; despite catering to a market of alternative eaters, these treats were never intended to be health food, after all.

All in all, there’s a lot here to love, and it’s part of a bigger evolution. Pending the success of this new non-dairy direction, the potential for additional plant-based offerings is looking bright. The goal is for Ben & Jerry’s to reduce carbon emissions by a whopping 80% by the year 2050, despite continuing to grow the business and put even greater demands on their factories. The only way to accomplish that is by making dairy-free desserts a bigger piece of the puzzle.

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This post was made possible by Go Dairy Free and Ben & Jerry’s, but all content and opinions are entirely my own.

Ben & Jerry’s – The Inside Scoop

Blinking sleepily, stupidly at the gate, it took a full ten minutes for the meaning of the digital scrawl to sink in. My cross-country, red-eye flight had been further delayed, now rescheduled to depart sometime in the predawn hour of 2AM. A punishing schedule already awaited me upon arrival, complete with a second plane to catch and events lined up from the moment the wheels hit the tarmac. For all this tumult, I would only be in Burlington, Vermont for a two days all told. What on earth could possible be worth that kind of suffering?

Ice cream. And not just any ice cream, but Ben & Jerry’s new 100% vegan line of almond milk frozen desserts. It’s the one food news story that the whole world is buzzing about lately, omnivorous or otherwise, and I was given the rare opportunity to see the birthplace of this extraordinary creation.

Though the dead of winter would be my last choice for when to visit this picturesque east coast town, the white carpet of snow and cozy blanket of clouds were not without their charms. If only I had an extra day, or perhaps even an extra hour, I would have loved to explore the myriad vegan restaurants just around the corner, but I was here on a bigger mission.

Along with a select group of exclusive, top drawer food bloggers, I was treated to an incredible adventure in the Ben & Jerry’s factory and test kitchen. Our main objective, of course, was to get the goods on the buzz-worthy new pints, developed both for the sake of hungry customers demanding dairy-free options, and to decrease the deleterious environmental impact that goes along with milk production. It was made very clear that these four initial flavors are only the beginning of that pursuit. Although it took 3 years and between 70 – 90 trials in development, there are promising hints that pending the success of this launch, we may eventually have even more flavors tempting us on store shelves.

Delicious and ambrosial as the tasting session was, my highlight of the trip was getting the opportunity to play around with the almond milk base to fabricate a “limited edition” frozen dessert. So exclusive that you will never see it in production, it was still a joy to mix up a big batch of the creamy concoction with any and all the chunky mix-ins my heart desired. Working in teams, my group was responsible for unleashing the “Drunk’n Pumpk’n Pie” upon the party, complete with toasted marshmallows, graham cracker crust pieces, and a generous splash of bourbon. Each spoonful had a whole lot of spirit, but alas, it was no match for the truly superlative “Southern Roots” dreamed up by the competition.

Ben & Jerry’s, if you’re listening: Please put this one on the official line up! Outrageously thick ribbons of caramel swirled through every square inch of the creamy peach bourbon jam base with a hint of cinnamon, intertwining with crunchy chunks of toasted pecans. Within our small, secret sampling society, this creative and unabashedly indulgent mix was a hands-down winner.

But… What about the REAL dairy-free offerings now hitting grocery store shelves and scoop shops nationwide, you ask?

For the full scoop on the flavors themselves and my personal tasting notes, head over to my official review here.

This post was is sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s, but all content and opinions are entirely my own.