Non-Dairy Frozen Adventures

"Do you think it's worth buying an ice cream maker?" Celebritologist Liz Kelly asked me last week. "After all, I don't eat much dairy."

Chocolate sorbet: Look how pretty! (Kim O'Donnel)

I explained to my vegan pal that making your own frozen desserts -- with or without dairy or eggs -- is an incredibly satisfying endeavor that is also surprisingly easy. I told her I saw both homemade sorbet and soy "cream" in her future, and that yes, it's worth plunking down 50 bucks (the going in-store price for a model from the Cuisinart ICE line -- but even cheaper online) to learn what the appliance fuss is all about. Sure enough, Liz purchased an ICE-25 in preparation for her upcoming beach vacation and requested a few MA links to get set up.

I too have had frozen treats on the brain; with Mister MA's 40th birthday this weekend, I knew some kind of ice cream-y concoction was in the cards. In the heat of an inspired moment, I asked Miz Celebritology if she'd like to give her new toy a test run.

We decided on two non-dairy treats -- chocolate sorbet and mixed berry soy "cream." Admittedly, I knew more about sorbet but had no first-hand experience in soymilk ice cream making. I was curious to see how the soymilk would behave in the machine.

We zoomed in on a vanilla ice cream base from "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero in conjunction with the ice cream techno wizardry from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop."

For berry-flavored ice cream or frozen yogurt, Lebovitz suggests pureeing the fruit with lemon juice and sugar, then straining the mixture to minimize seeds and skins. Typically, I'd leave in the antioxidant-rich skins, but it's all about texture in the ice cream world.

We blended the berry puree with soymilk and two other key (and intriguing) ingredients -- silken tofu (for stabilizing) and coconut cream (the stuff that rises to the top in a can of coconut milk), resulting in a full-flavored base with promising frozen potential.
With her churning canister in the freezer (24 hours of advance freezing time is an absolute must for newer models, which eliminate the need for rock salt), Liz was ready to make some ice cream.

Liz's mixed berry soy "cream." (Kim O'Donnel)

While lightning lit up the sky and the wind blew trees around like batons, Liz's pinky-purple-y mixture went into the frozen bowl and began its journey to ice cream land. Within 20 minutes, Liz had a certifiably frozen treat, a soy soft-serv that just might fool a dairy lover. Fruit forward with coco undertones, we ruled it a success.

Liz was beaming. "I feel like I've been let in on a secret!" she exclaimed.

Meanwhile, the chocolate sorbet mixture was chilling, and by nightfall, Mister MA had his first serving, an intensely chocolate-y concoction that proved to be a serious ice cream stand-in. Although a tad grainy (chocolate is quite persnickety without stabilizing fats), the end result is surprisingly creamy and a non-dairy shoo-in. Score!

It's chat day: Discuss non-dairy and other kitchen adventures today at Noon ET.

Frozen Treats from the MA archive.

Mixed Berry Soy "Cream"
Adapted from "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

2 cups mixed berries (Liz used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup cream of coconut (the cream that rises to the top of a can of coconut milk)
1 cup plain soy milk
6 ounces firm silken tofu (I prefer the vacuum sealed, non-refrigerated package)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In a blender or food processor, puree berries, sugar and lemon juice. Scoop out and pass through a strainer or fine sieve to remove seeds and skin. Return berry puree to machine and add cream of coconut, soy milk and silken tofu, and puree until ingredients are completely blended.

Pour into a plastic container and chill in freezer for about 30 minutes, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. The soy mixture came together in about about 20 minutes.

Makes about one quart.

Chocolate Sorbet
From "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz

2 ¼ cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
pinch salt
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, whisk together 1 ½ cups of the water with sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. While whisking, allow mixture to boil for about 45 seconds.

Remove saucepan from heat and stir in chocolate until melted, then stir in vanilla and remaining ¾ cup water. Transfer mixture to a blender (KOD note: I used an immersion stick blender) for 15 seconds. Chill mixture thoroughly -- for 2-4 hours in the freezer or 6-8 hours in the fridge -- then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

If mixture becomes too thick in machine, whisk it vigorously to thin it out.

Makes about one quart.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 17, 2008; 10:03 AM ET Frozen Treats , Vegetarian/Vegan
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I made an avocado icecream with almond milk and honey. The honey can be replaced with raw sugar. It tasted very good. If only I could make it remain the nice bright green of the avocado.

Posted by: Cinci | June 17, 2008 10:22 AM

I meant retain.

Posted by: Cinci | June 17, 2008 10:24 AM

Hey Cinci: Next time, I might add a healthy squeeze of 1/2 lime. Almond milk may also be the culprit -- would you consider adding a little silken tofu for color and texture?

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 17, 2008 10:32 AM

What great alternatives for those who prefer a different mix. I can't wait to try some myself!

Posted by: jennielease | June 17, 2008 10:48 AM

Does it make a difference whether you are using the sweetened canned "cream of cocount" (like what you'd use in a pina colada) or the unsweetened coconut cream here? Or would the sugar difference be negligible anyway?

Posted by: Colleen | June 17, 2008 1:02 PM

the latest Vegetarian Times has several incredible vegan ice creams in it. You really, really, should check it out.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 1:04 PM

Use unsweetened coconut milk. Good question; I will tweak recipe.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 17, 2008 1:13 PM

"...that just might fool a dairy lover."

Yech. EEWW. Why is it necessary to fool anyone?

If you don't want to eat dairy, don't. Please stop trying to convince the rest of us otherwise.

Soy has an ugly, metallic aftertaste to some of us. There is NOTHING, NOTHING you can do to disguise it.

Stop trying, OK?

BTW, although I'm not one of them, I understand that some people taste a dirt flavor when they eat cilantro. I don't see a similar crusade to convince them that cilantro is "good for you".

Soy "dairy" products are fake. They will always be fake. Eat them if you want; as for me, give me real, or forget it.

Posted by: lsgc | June 17, 2008 2:23 PM

I know you've been in Seattle lately...what are some don't-miss restaurants there? I'm going there this Saturday for a week...

Posted by: Catthy | June 17, 2008 2:56 PM

i bet banana would be a great addition to either of these

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 3:27 PM

Have you tried looking through kosher cookbooks or asking a kosher restaurant? I recall eating a non-dairy frozen dessert of some kind at a kosher restaurant in L.A. a number of years ago. I think it was made with non-dairy creamer...

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 3:48 PM

Can recipes like these be used for popsicles or is the freezing without churning going to produce weird crystalization that won't taste as good? I can't quite convince myself that I have room for an ice cream machine, but homemade popsicles are in demand at my place right now.

Posted by: KitchenCat | June 17, 2008 4:08 PM

Hey KitchenCat: check out the following link for watermelon popsicles, also from lebovitz's book:

There are people out there with allergies to dairy and eggs and for whom there is no other alternative. These recipes that make you gag are a source of comfort to those who can't enjoy dairy and eggs like you can.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 17, 2008 4:15 PM

Well, you're lucky you can eat dairy, Isgc. Not everyone can. I'm allergic to casein, so it's nice to have viable options. (At least I can eat soy, several of my family members are allergic to dairy AND soy.)

And cilantro tastes like soap to me. I don't why it has to be used in just about everything, but I don't get in a snit about it; I just avoid it.

Posted by: too many allergies | June 17, 2008 4:19 PM

'Soy "dairy" products are fake. They will always be fake.'

Adding "dairy" to the name makes them "fake" --- to you. But soy milk and different variations of tofu have been eaten as "real" food in Asia long, long before there was a US of A.

Nothing wrong to adapting soy products to a western palate (vegan or otherwise). If you don't like it, you can RESPECTFULLY not eat it.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 5:03 PM

Read this and the previous post and all I can say is there is nothing but good news on our front. My kids have stopped asking me permission to eat their Easter Candy (I dole it out piece by piece each evening) in lieu of seasonal berries.

Wooo hoo!

We have one of those "ice cream balls" that you roll around to churn. Making it burns up the calories in the ice cream. At least, that's what we tell ourselves. It's a birthday tradition at our house now.

Posted by: Silver Spring | June 17, 2008 5:13 PM

To those of you who missed the point of what I was trying to say, let me try again.

I have no quarrel with people who want to eat, cook with, or even wear, soy. My quarrel is with people who feel the need to "fool" me because I like the real thing.

A significant number of vegans, though certainly not all, of my acquaintance have tried to pull this nonsense on me, as though they are somehow morally superior, and are going to "cure" me of wanting to eat animal products. (I don't eat meat, and I don't lay that on anyone else.) When someone, as Kim did, uses that term, my response is, "I don't like soy, and I'm not interested in being fooled."

When foods such as tofu are clearly identified, with no deception, fine. I'm willing to be as respectful of people serving it as they are of me. It's not the soy; it's the dishonesty.

Posted by: lsgc | June 17, 2008 6:34 PM

I don't think Kim was suggesting we trick people. It's just her way of saying, This is good food; not just a substitute that's almost as good as the usual kind.

Posted by: mollyjade | June 17, 2008 7:05 PM

I particularly like this blog for its political correctness. This is a great place to discover the latest fads energizing the decaf soy-latte drinking, Prius-driving crowd.

Posted by: zuny | June 18, 2008 10:04 AM

Thanks for the great recipes. I love frozen treats. Happy Birthday to Mr MA, on his 40th Bday.

Posted by: East Coast | June 19, 2008 2:25 PM

Thanks for the recipes!! I am making the chocolate sorbet as I type. It isn't hardening yet but it's only been churning for 10 minutes. It's gonna be so yummy!

We have major allergies here! I am dairy and soy. Oldest daughter is dairy, soy, corn, nuts. Youngest daughter is dairy, soy, strawberries, nuts. I think if we were to have another one they'd be in a bubble! Oy!

THanks again!

Posted by: Sarah | June 22, 2008 10:49 PM

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