The Inside Scoop On Umami Ice Cream

Have we reached peak summer yet? Living inside of a proverbial oven, it’s hard to tell where summer ends and all other seasons begin. Temperatures have hit record highs starting in May, carelessly bulldozing right over spring, with no sign of stopping for fall. Most of the US experiences the hottest day of the year in July, but I have a feeling we’ll still be sweating it out for months to come. Want my advice? Dip into a creamy frozen treat to fight fire with ice.

I’m still not done churning after two ice cream cookbooks and scores of bonus recipes. Before you think I’ve run out of ideas and gone back to bland basics, take a closer look. Those aren’t just flecks of vanilla beans you see right below the surface, but tiny particles of finely ground shiitake powder as well.

Mushroom Ice Cream?!

Though typically touted for their uniquely meaty flavor that enhances savory entrees and snacks, there’s so much more shiitake mushrooms are capable of. Using Sugimoto shiitake powder eliminates the more earthy flavors and textures that turn some people off, leaving only pure, natural umami essence at your disposal. When used with a deft hand, it serves to amplify the existing flavors already at play, just like salt or sugar.

Instead of drowning out the delicate floral, buttery, inherent richness of whole vanilla beans, a pinch of shiitake powder brings them to the fore, brighter and bolder than ever. Suddenly, more nuanced notes of marshmallow, whipped cream, light caramel, pound cake, buttercream frosting, and custard can emerge, uplifted by the strength of free glutamate.

Ideas and Adaptations

Like any good vanilla ice cream, you can enjoy every last lick as is, or use it as your jumping-off point for bolder taste sensations. Classic mix-ins include but are not limited to:

  • Cookie dough
  • Toasted or candied nuts
  • Chocolate chips, cacao nibs, or fudge sauce
  • Fruit preserves, jam, or pie filling
  • Sprinkles

Change the whole character of your scoops by adding to the base instead:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Peanut butter
  • Peppermint extract
  • Lemon or orange zest
  • Fresh ginger

Plus, there’s no limit to the possibilities for dressing it up in:

  • Sundaes
  • Floats
  • Sandwiches
  • Cakes
  • Baked Alaska
  • Pies

Umami Flavor Hack

Don’t have time, energy, or equipment to start from scratch? You’re still invited to this ice cream social! Take any store-bought pint and sprinkle a tiny pinch of shiitake powder on top. A little bit goes a long way; you’ll instantly taste the difference.

I’m not making this up! It’s been proven time and again that everything, including desserts, can benefit from the addition of guanylate, the compound responsible for creating umami taste. The drying and rehydrating process of shiitake produces guanylate, so you get a pure, potent source that doesn’t disrupt the overall flavor, preserving the subtle nuances of the vanilla bean.

Don’t just take my word for it. This is an edible experiment that anyone can try with no risks, only sweet rewards.

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Fade To Black Friday

Black Friday is upon us yet again. While it will never be quite the same since the pandemic pushed many frenzied bargain shoppers online and out of stores, such celebrated holiday traditions are unshakable. To some, the thrill of the hunt can be even more joyous than giving or opening this plunder. I salute these people for their tenacity and thrift, while staying cozy in fuzzy slippers and do everything in my power to avoid the crowds.

Is there a better way to do Black Friday?

If you’re on team Stay Home today, welcome to the party! I have an even better prize to share that does proper justice to this dark day.

Straight from the pages of Super Vegan Scoops!, my Brooklyn Blackout Blizzard Cake will give all new meaning to Black Friday that everyone can get behind. It’s been one of the biggest hits from the book for obvious reasons. As an early gift, I’d like to give this one to you and start the festivities on a sweet note. Sure, the weather outside might be frightful, but that’s all the more reason to bundle up inside, blast the heat, and take off the edge with a frozen treat.

What is a Brooklyn Blackout Blizzard Cake?

Sink your fork into a thick slice and close your eyes. This sensation, this euphoric, intoxicated, suddenly blissful feeling you’re experiencing? This isn’t death by chocolate, it’s LIFE by chocolate! The original Brooklyn Blackout Cake, iconic for its jet-black crumb coating and pudding-smothered layers, really does mean well, but doesn’t quite reach the frosty peaks that my ice queen here does. Firm yet supple layers stacked up with a no-churn chocolate custard beckon, reviving jaded chocolate lover with one bite. Kids and adults alike will clamor to help “clean up” the fallen crumbs left behind.

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Snow Day in July

Snow is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares. Growing up on the east coast, I could anticipate at least two or three days off from school every year due to impassable, slush-covered, perilously icy roads. In those early days before driving or work deadlines were a concern, snow days were gifts better than any mandated calendar holiday. Something about their randomness made them more special; the element of surprise was part of the fun.

With age came a creeping dread of the unknown, intolerance for the cold, and overall distaste for winter. I spent all of my adult life running from it, moving to the warmest places possible to avoid snow days at all costs. Snow is much more acceptable from afar, enjoyed on a TV screen or within a controlled environment. Case in point: Snow cones will always be welcomed with open arms as the best type of blizzard possible.

Nothing takes the edge off of a scorching summer day like a heaping spoonful of freshly shaven ice, ground as finely as a powdery snowfall. It’s brilliantly easy to make this refreshing treat at home! Special equipment is helpful for the best results, but you can absolutely get by with what you have, IE, a food processor or blender. A shave-ice machine will give you a fluffier texture while this alternative method will create a denser texture, more like a packed snow ball.

How To Make Snow Cones without a Machine

  1. Chill the canister of your blender or food processor in advance to prevent the ice from instantly melting upon contact.
  2. Use at least 2 cups of ice cubes per batch, but no more than 4 cups to make sure everything is evenly ground.
  3. Pulse rapidly to break down the ice into smaller pieces, pausing to quickly scrape down the sides of the canister if it’s not all being incorporated.
  4. Continue until the ice is finely ground and looks like snow, with no remaining lumps. Listen closely because the sound will change from loud clattering to a quieter, more even whirring.
  5. Immediately transfer the powdery ice to a container and stash it in the freezer until ready to use.

The only thing more important than the ice is the flavoring! There’s no limit to the possibilities here, whether you want to work with only fresh, whole fruits or go avant-garde with extracts. Add more flair with natural food coloring, which could come out of a bottle or straight from nature. Just as a brief refresher course…

Quick and Easy Natural Food Coloring Options Include:

  • Beet Powder or Beet Juice = Red
  • Carrot Juice = Orange
  • Turmeric = Yellow
  • Matcha, Powdered Spinach or Kale, such as Green Vibrance superfood powder = Green
  • Butterfly Pea Tea Powder AKA Blue Matcha = Blue
  • Ube Extract = Purple

Bear in mind that any liquid colors should replace an equal measure of water to keep the sweetener ratio accurate. These will also be more likely to contribute stronger flavors, so make sure you’re ready to embrace those vegetal tastes or use stronger extracts to cover them up.

When you want a treat with no added sugar, snow cones are just the thing! Prepared sugar-free syrups are an easy, instant fix. For something homemade, just start with ripe, super sweet fruit, and accentuate the flavor with a touch of stevia or monkfruit as needed.

Is it possible to make snow cones or shaved ice without syrup in the first place?

Don’t let syrups limit your imagination. You can start with a full-flavored base by freezing juice, smoothies, and beyond to use as the finely shaved ice going into your cone. An added benefit to this approach is that the ice crystals stay lighter and fluffier since they’re not weighted down with extra toppings, while melting a little less slowly as well.

Minted Matcha Snow Cone
In this minted matcha snow cone, the solids settled at the bottom of the ice. I think that’s a good thing because it makes a uniquely variegated mixture, so every bite is a little different.

Instead of plain water, try freezing any of the following:

  • Brewed and cooled coffee
  • Matcha
  • Fruit juice
  • Smoothies
  • Drinkable yogurt
  • Non-dairy milk (plain, vanilla, chocolate, etc)

Snow cones are truly the best way to enjoy a snow day. They’re naturally vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, with easy options for making them sugar-free, keto, and paleo-friendly. Best of all, you can enjoy your flurries while chilling poolside under the warm summer sun.

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New Novelties

Summer should be a care-free time of late mornings followed by slow, unhurried afternoons. When the heat becomes unbearable, a brief cat nap in the shelter of leafy, shaded canopy is more than just socially acceptable, but practically mandatory. When fireflies appear along with the onset of nightfall, the warm evenings seem to stretch on forever, infinite as the number of stars brightening the dark sky.

Summers are precious. Don’t force yourself to work when every fiber of your being wants to play. While some commitments are unavoidable, there’s so much more extraneous noise that we could tune out. That’s why I’m happy to spend less time in the kitchen to make those moments count.

This is a quick snack I originally devised to feature a favorite vegan ice cream brand, taking their chocolate-covered raspberry-acai ice cream off the stick and into a fresh parfait. The shatteringly crisp dark chocolate shell gives way to a silken frozen custard filling. Chopping it into cubes makes each layer instantly accessible, without the fear of drips or mess to spoil the snack. Nestled on top of a super fast, fruity chia pudding, the combination is much more substantial than the average novelty to stave off hunger through the most vigorous match of yard darts or pickle ball.

Unfortunately, that brand is no longer the magnificent purveyor of plant-based indulgences I originally fell in love with, so those bars are off the table. Many more have stepped up to the plate, however, making such a simple concept that much more accessible overall.

What brands make the best dairy-free chocolate-covered novelties?

There’s no hard and fast rule that you must use a chocolate-covered pop, but it’s that textural contrast that makes it so compelling. Mix and match flavors at will, swapping in seasonal fruits based on availability, add nuts, sprinkles, or chocolate chips, and most importantly, don’t overthink it. It’s a stretch to call this a full recipe, but for the sake of convenience, here’s the basic blueprint so you can bookmark it for later.

Now get back out there and enjoy the sun. Summer only comes once a year.

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