vegansaurus!

05/24/2011

Guest post: Adventures in DIY ice cream! Plus, a recipe!  »

You know those types of friends that you bond with specifically over one thing? Maybe it’s a particular TV show or a band that you secretly love? That’s the type of friendship that my buddy, Jack Shirley, and I have, except we bond over food, or more specifically: desserts.


Jack owns his own recording studio, The Atomic Garden Recording Studio in East Palo Alto, Calif., but he is also on a covert mission to single-handedly take down the ice cream industry and give all of his friends diabetes. Jack has been making his own vegan ice cream for about a year now, after getting an ice cream maker for a gift.

“I love ice cream, and when I went vegan, I realized that there is no good vegan ice cream,” explained Jack. He’s right; there’s always something off about it, and it never quite tastes like the real thing. Ask anyone who’s tried his ice cream, and they’ll tell you that he’s definitely on to something. “It’s way easier than anyone could imagine,” he said.

About a year ago, Jack and I started creating a master list of possible flavors, just in time for summer. Since then, the list has grown, and he’s still eagerly taking suggestions. He even offers it as a perk to bands who record with him. The first flavor he ever made was Orange Chocolate Chip, which he got out of the vegan ice cream cook book Vice Cream.

Vice Cream focuses on making dairy-free ice cream from a cashew- or a coconut base. “Cashew–based ice cream is pretty rare,” Jack said, as he explained why he thinks his ice cream is different from the other vegan ones sold in stores. “Cashew is a very neutral base, so I try to only use a coconut base when I want the flavor to taste like coconut.”

Jack told me that it wasn’t the easiest in the beginning because he didn’t follow the instructions very well. But, with constant practice, creativity with flavors, and a little bit of trial and error, he’s got it down. So here we are, a year later, and Jack doesn’t even bother to greet me at the door anymore. “Try this,” is what he usually says to me as he forces a spoon towards my unfortunately large mouth, knowing I won’t refuse. Little does he know, I’ve used our food-dependent friendship in order to get exclusive ice-cream-making tips!

Tip 1: Let the base sit in the fridge overnight.
Vice Cream claims that you can also stick it in the freezer for a short amount of time, but apparently overnight in the fridge is the way to go. Jack says this helps the cashew taste to dissipate, leaving an even more neutral base.

Tip 2: Use alcohol-free extracts.
The book calls for alcohol-free extracts for a reason! When you use alcohol when cooking, the strong taste of alcohol burns off. When you’re making ice cream, the lack of heat leaves the alcohol in, and it can change the flavor of your ice cream.

Tip 3: Use real vanilla bean!
Using real vanilla beans instead of extract actually tastes better, and will help overpower any residual cashew taste.

Want to try it yourself? Here are two basic recipes, adapted from Vice Cream.

Vanilla—Makes about 1 quart (average home ice-cream-maker size)
Ingredients

2 vanilla beans
2 cups organic cashews or cashew pieces
2 cups water
1 cup maple syrup (Jack uses agave nectar and it works pretty darn well.) 

Instructions
Cut the vanilla beans into small pieces, and grind them to a powder in a coffee grinder.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 1 minute, or until smooth.
Place the mix in the fridge overnight.
Pour the mix into your ice cream maker and use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Chocolate—Makes about 1 quart
Ingredients
1 3/4 cups organic cashews or cashew pieces
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup maple syrup (or agave nectar)
2 tsp. alcohol-free vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. alcohol-free almond extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  

Instructions
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high for about 1 minute, or until smooth.
Place the mix in the fridge overnight.
Pour the mix into your ice cream maker and use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
You can serve it immediately (it has a nice soft-serve texture when it’s fresh out of the maker) or place it in the freezer to devour later.

If you’re bored with plain old vanilla and chocolate, get creative! Jack has made tons of different flavors. His favorites? Strawberry, blackberry vanilla chocolate chip, piña colada, key lime pie, and eggnog. If you’d like to suggest a flavor for Jack to attempt, go ahead and send him a friendly email.

Jack says it’s really a trial-and-error process, though. “Not every recipe in that book will give you amazing ice cream,” he said, but I think he was just being his usually cocky self.

There are two things that Jack knows really well in this world: music and ice cream. Now you know why I want a shirt that says “I visited Atomic Garden Recording Studio and all I got was this amazing album and some shitty love handles.”

Elysse Grossi is a scientist, a health educator, a vegan food fanatic and a co-owner of Sweet Cups, based in the East Bay. She grosses people out with her other blog, Under the Microscope. Laugh at her boring life on Twitter @glassheart.

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