since eliminating dairy from my diet a few years ago, the ice cream struggle has been the realest. i love cheese, too, but ice cream has continued to hold a mystical power over me, beckoning me with its siren call,
“logan, come back to me. i’m so much more delicious than the dairy-free options you’ll find at the grocery store. i have real cream to offer, not soy or almond ‘milk’ like those other imposters.”
all too often i have followed this voice, only leading my body to its impending doom upon consumption of the death trap that dairy is to me. i have finally learned my lesson and stopped tempting fate when it comes to ice cream, but it’s made for less than stellar experiences with dairy-free frozen treats, most of which have a weird texture and mouth feel and are still filled with heavily refined ingredients. yes, i know there are a few good dairy-free ice creams available, but pardon me if i don’t feel like spending $10 on a pint at whole foods.
recently, i’ve been experimenting with making real custards with cashew cream bases, and those are turning out to be quite tasty, though not quite yet blog-worthy. homemade coconut milk ice creams taste totally different from the store-bought ones, and they have proven to be successful additions to my repertoire. that’s why when our next-door neighbor remy brought us a bushel of thai basil and a pepper from his garden and suggested a thai-inspired macaron (remy is a frenchman, an incredible baker, and, by default, pretty much my ideal neighbor), inspiration struck in an unexpected way.
thai ice cream. of course! how could i not have tried it before? we loved the coconut ice cream we bought from street carts when we were in thailand, so why haven’t i tried making my own version? perhaps i just needed the proper combination of ingredients to set my mind and heart racing with ideas, or maybe i just needed remy’s kindness and generosity to guide me to a stroke of, dare i say it, genius. whatever it was, i’m grateful that the following recipe came about. it is unlike any ice cream i’ve ever tasted, so i wasn’t sure if others would enjoy it as much as i do. my best friend used the word “insane”(in a good way) to describe it, and, after sharing some with remy and his husband, remy said,
“your ice cream is honestly one of the BEST ice creams i’ve ever had.”
and that is coming from a man who grew up around le berthillon in paris.
my heart nearly exploded from the ice cream love, and now i am excited to share it with you. it has a creamy, not-too-sweet, slightly tangy, fresh and verdant flavor with a pleasant, lingering burn and a salty-sweet crunch. what more could one desire than to tantalize ALL the tastebuds with one treat? my hope is that plant-based desserts like this become the new norm and that fillers, preservatives, artificial flavors, yucky sweeteners, and the like become a thing of the past. make it, taste it, and see how surprisingly easy it is to create healthier alternatives at home.
Lime / Blistered Chili / Thai Basil Coconut Ice Cream with Cashew Crunch
makes 1 quart of ice cream
for the ice cream base:
- 2 cans of full fat coconut milk
- 2 limes, zested and juiced
- 1 green chili pepper (if you use a thai chili, use half first then increase the amount after tasting if you want more spice)
- 1 cup loosely packed thai basil
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup brown rice syrup
- 2 Tbsp raw sugar
for the cashew brittle:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 4 tsp coconut oil
- 2 Tbsp coconut sugar or raw sugar
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- preheat your oven to 400F before rinsing any of the produce. once it’s preheated, roast the chili pepper until blistered, then remove from the oven and cool. lower the heat to 325F.
- lightly toast the cashews on the stove top in an oven-safe sauté pan, then add the remaining ingredients for the brittle and stir to thoroughly incorporate and coat nuts. as the mixture grows stickier, remove from the stove top and put in the oven for 4-6 minutes, until the cashews are golden and the whole mess is sticking together. remove from heat and pour onto a piece of parchment or a silpat to cool.
- remove the seeds from the chili pepper, then add it and the other ice cream ingedients to a blender and blend until smooth (you might see small traces of the lime zest and basil).
- if you don’t have an ice cream maker, a quick search on the interwebs will offer plenty of methods for making coconut milk ice cream sans machine, most of which involve just skipping this step and the next. if you do have an ice cream maker, add the mixture and prepare per the manufacturer’s instructions, churning until a soft ice cream has formed (35-45 minutes depending on the machine, air temperature, etc).
- while the cream churns, break up the cooled nut brittle into small pieces (and taste a few because they’re delicious). once the ice cream has reached soft-serve texture, add the brittle and let it churn for another 3-5 minutes.
- line a loaf pan with parchment paper, then fill it with the ice cream and freeze until solid. if you aren’t using an ice cream maker, add the liquid to the loaf pan, then gently stir in the cashew brittle and freeze.
- once frozen, let sit at room temp for 5-10 minutes before scooping and serving (top with toasted coconut for an extra treat).