There is a basic formula for making ice cream without dairy or eggs. You start with a milk base, your choice of sweetener, and the flavorings. To make your own nutmilk, simply blend equal parts of nuts and water until smooth. You must keep in mind that most nuts and seeds besides cashews are very fibrous, and will remain gritty no matter how much they are processed. You must filter out the pulp by straining through cheesecloth.
Vegan ice cream can be created from a plethora of different bases, from cashews to coconut milk to hemp. Each has a different mouthfeel, underlying flavor, and compatibility with other ingredients that should be taken into consideration when choosing which one to start with.
Soy based ice cream is the most widely available product out on the market, as it is the cheapest to produce, but certainly not the best. Some brands of soymilk and ready made ice cream have an aftertaste that just can't be muted.
Coconut milk is one of the easiest bases to start with, as the cans are readily commercially available and require no processing before freezing. There will always remain a slight coconut flavor, though this may vary between brands, so be sure to keep that in mind when creating your flavor concoctions. The richness of the milk also varies between brands. One reliable brand to use is Thai Kitchen’s Organic Coconut Milk, which is the creamiest as they don't dilute the milk with additional water.
Cashews make for an incredibly rich and creamy frozen dessert, with relatively no aftertaste. The texture is more dense compared to soy or coconut, the same way gelato compares to ice cream.
Hemp seeds produce a heavenly, fluffy texture but can impart an earthy, slightly grassy flavor if not paired correctly. Unless you are using a commercially available hempmilk, hemp is best reserved for highly flavorful ice cream with a nutty or chocolate flavor in mind.
Other bases include rice, oat, and almond, but virtually any nut or seed can be used. You can experiment with corn, pumpkin seed, pistachios, or if you're feeling extra decadent, macadamia nuts or pine nuts.
The secret to luscious vegan ice cream lies in having enough fat content for a rich mouthfeel (no one said vegan means low fat) and enough sugar to prevent the end result from becoming too hard in the freezer (a chemical phenomenon known as freezing-point depression.) The ideal temperature for serving ice cream is 8 degrees F, at which your frozen treat will be easy to scoop, yet thoroughly chilled.
Below is a recipe for maple ice cream, enjoy!
Maple Ice Cream
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup cashews
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 tbsp vanilla
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Blend all ingredients in high powered blender until smooth. Chill in refrigerator for 2-3 hours until well chilled.
- Pour mixture into ice cream maker, following manufacturer instructions.
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Nuts / Seeds