Healthy Eating

Salted Chocolate Pistachio Creamy Vegan Ice Cream

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Ever get the Sunday night blues? That jittery feeling in your stomach that the work or school week is only a night’s sleep away? The pressure to fully utilize those last, fleeting moments?  I’ve had a weekly case of the Sunday night blues for years, though I’ve finally learned to alleviate it with some mental tricks. A friend of mine used to combat it with a date to the ice cream shop with his wife (Jeni’s, if you must know). I like that.

Sitting here in late August, it’s like the Sunday night blues of the summer. As much as I love fall’s pumpkin spices and cozy sweaters, even more I love flip flops and sun dresses, basil and tomatoes and juicy peaches, gourmet popsicles, and outdoor movie nights in the backyard. The slight chill in the air is giving me a bit of the blues. So, here’s an ice cream flavor to pretend it’s still summer, like going to the ice cream shop at 9:00 pm on a Sunday night, just hoping to eke out a little more of the glory days.

Why vegan ice cream? Neither Alex nor I eat strictly vegan / plant-based, but since there are so many stellar traditional ice cream recipes out there, we enjoy the challenge of experimenting with non-dairy versions. Also, non-dairy ice cream tends to sit better with my stomach. And this one–it’s no stretch to claim this vegan ice cream is just as good as the real thing. It’s lusciously creamy and delicious, which is difficult to achieve with vegan ice creams.

The secret to this creamy non-dairy ice cream? Full-fat coconut milk and cornstarch. Simmering the mixture until it is thick and using liquid sweetener like agave or honey also helps for a creamy texture. We tried all these tricks and were amazed at the result, much improved from our last take on coconut ice cream, which became a bit icy when frozen for storage. And the taste? Though it’s made of coconut, this version had no trace of coconut taste to my palate, instead overwhelmed by the burst of salted chocolate flavor.

It’s not a health food by any means, but we’ve tried to keep this ice cream as natural as possible, with some alternate sweeteners to the typical white refined sugar. While I used to sweeten most of my desserts with honey, over the years I’ve found it has a distinctive taste that doesn’t work in all scenarios. For desserts, our philosophy is moderation is key; I now try to make a dessert that tastes good and consume less of it, rather than making a “health-ed up” version that I need 3 servings of to feel satisfied.

If you’re not a salted chocolate fan (like Alex), feel free to omit the salt, and it’s completely customizable to use any mix-in you’d like. I see many variations on this base over the months to come. Hats off to summer– and here’s to curing the Sunday night blues!

WHAT YOU NEED
  • 2 15-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅓ cup agave syrup
  • ⅓ cup coconut sugar
  • 3½ ounces dark chocolate, 70% cocoa (dairy-free for full vegan)
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup pistachios, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon small crystal sea salt
WHAT TO DO
  1. Freeze the ice cream maker base overnight.
  2. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup coconut milk with 2 tablespoons cornstarch and set aside.
  3. Add the remainder of the coconut milk to a medium pan. Warm the coconut milk over medium low heat for a minute or two, whisking to incorporate the solids. Then add ⅓ cup agave syrup and ⅓ cup coconut sugar. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the coconut milk; stir until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the cocoa powder, then the cornstarch mixture. Heat until the chocolate mixture is thickened, 6 to 8 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat and stir in 1½ teaspoons vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-gallon Ziplock bag. If churning immediately, place the bag in an ice bath for 30 minutes until cool; if churning the next day, refrigerate 4 hours or overnight (either way, the mixture should be as cold as possible before churning).
  4. Churn the ice cream in the ice cream maker until it thickens to the consistency of soft serve, adding in ½ cup chopped pistachios and ½ teaspoon sea salt crystals as the mixture churns.
  5. Eat immediately for a soft serve consistency, or for a hard ice cream texture, freeze using the following instructions: press a piece of parchment or wax paper into a sealable container, then scrape the ice cream into the container using a spatula, making sure to scrape in the bits frozen to the edges of the ice cream maker base. Freeze for 4 hours for a hard ice cream texture.

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