Written by Sara Bir
The reason I stopped using my ice cream maker? Breast milk. When I was nursing our daughter, bags and bags of breast milk overran our freezer. We couldn’t even wedge in a pizza, let alone chill the insert for our little countertop ice cream maker.
The years before her arrival had been rich with gelato, sorbet, sherbet—you name it, I churned it, thanks to the countertop ice cream maker we got as a wedding gift. Some batches were stellar; others were flops. But they were all fun.
And that’s why it pays to have an ice cream maker.
Yes, there are methods for creating frozen desserts without an ice cream maker. But even if they yield scoopable, relatively creamy results, they are not, in my opinion, ice cream.
Because my practical streak trumps the appeal of nostalgia, I prefer the Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker for its speed, convenience, and manageable batch size—a quart and a half, as opposed to the monster capacity of those old-timey jobs.
Cuisinart makes other, more expensive models, but unless you are a home ice cream gearhead, they don’t offer much that the basic one does not. A $50 budget is your sweet spot.
In the seven moves since our marriage, my husband and I have ditched a rice cooker, a panini press, a waffle iron, and a quasi-functional immersion blender. The ice cream maker is a frivolity that earns its keep.
We are still happy to stoop to store-bought ice cream, but it has not been hitting the marks like it once could. I used to love Ben & Jerry’s, and I still harbor a soft spot for Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. The rest of their product line I grew out of. They packed it too full of gluey caramel cores and waxy chocolate blobs. If I’m going to spend more than $4 on a pint of ice cream, I want it to be grownup ice cream.
And what is grownup ice cream? It packs in flavor so you don’t need a giant waffle cone to feel satisfied. It’s ice cream that makes you say “dang!” when you take your first lick.
Ice cream with unexpected combinations like the vegan basil mint chip cream I churned up and then topped with 100 percent non-vegan toasted chocolate cake crumbs.
Yes, my first post-weaning batch of ice cream. Our daughter is four now—the ice cream maker was in storage for a long time—and she’s all too delighted to dive into the chilly pleasure that her very existence pushed off to the side for a spell. Even grownup ice cream is high in kid appeal.
And while I love custard-based ice cream, there are plenty of recipes that don’t call for cooking the ice cream base beforehand.
Like this vegan basil mint chip cream: all you have to do is steep fresh herbs in non-dairy milk, blend with an avocado, and pour the works into an ice cream maker. No cooking or cooling necessary.
It combines the bright flavor of Elizabeth Falkner’s basil-mint chip ice cream from The Essence of Chocolate with the luxe mouthfeel of Fran Costigan’s mint chocolate chip ice cream from her fantastic Vegan Chocolate. Can you taste the avocado? No. Can you taste the herbs? Hell yeah.
Melting and freezing the chocolate for the chunks may seem like a fussy step, but it assures smooth-melting chocolate.Chips or chunks straight from a bag or chocolate bar have a gritty mouth feel once frozen.
Try using a few tablespoons of cacao nibs or about half a cup of crushed Oreos for something different.
- 2 cups fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup (85 grams) agave nectar
- 1 3/4 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk—almond, oat, soy, take your pick
- 3 ounces (85 grams) semisweet chocolate, preferably about 60% cacao, finely chopped
- 1 ripe but still-firm avocado
- 1-2 drops green food coloring, optional (but fun!)
- Wash the herbs (no need to dry them).
- Pour the milk and agave nectar into a large glass measuring cup or medium bowl, add the herbs, and stir to combine. Don't be delicate—in fact, you want to bruise the herb leaves a bit to release their flavor.
- Put the measuring cup in the refrigerator and steep the herbs in the liquid for 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chunks until smooth. (I like to do this in a glass bowl in the microwave in 30-second blasts, stirring after each blast. About 3-4 blasts should do it.)
- Pour the melted chocolate onto a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread the chocolate into a rough circle that's 4 to 5 inches in diameter.
- Freeze until firm, about an hour, then chop the chocolate into small chunks. Keep the chocolate tin the freezer until the ice cream is ready.
- Stir the herb-infused liquid, then pour it through a mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the herbs to release more liquid. Discard the herbs.
- Pour the infused liquid into a blender or a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
- Halve and pit the avocado, then scoop its flesh into the liquid.
- If you're feeling frisky, add a drop or two of green food coloring. Yeah, it's fake, but I'm shallow and into the way things look. Process until fully combined.
- Pour the ice cream base into the freezer bowl of the ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions (it took about 10 minutes of churning in mine).
- When the ice cream base has the same body as a Wendy's Frosty (and we all totally know what that looks like, right?), add the chocolate chunks and let run for another 10 seconds or so.
- Remove the freezer bowl from the ice cream maker and scrape the ice cream into a freezer-safe container (a shallow metal pan makes for easy scooping later)..
- Put it into the freezer for 1-2 hours, until the ice cream is very icy and firm.
- Scoop out servings and let them sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to return them to their creamy glory.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 199Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 13mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 7gSugar: 3gProtein: 5g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.
Sara Bir is a chef, writer, and food librarian. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Sara has worked at as a sausage cart lackey, chocolate factory tour guide, and pop music critic. She’s a regular contributor to Full Grown People and blogs at her website, The Sausagetarian.
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