Mr. Zebra, the meanest cat I have ever had the pleasure of meeting
My first experience of homemade ice cream was when I was in preschool. My mom, sister, and I were living in an apartment complex in Indianapolis, IN while Mom pursued her MSW. We also had an extremely angry cat named Mr. Zebra. He was fat and always grumpy, with occasional (frequent) violent tendencies. Apparently the fact that he was our cat was pretty much my fault: if I remember correctly, both Mom and Diana wanted a nice cute kitten, but I was adamant that we get the sad, overweight grumpybutt of a kitty cat. I’m not sure what sort of trials, tribulations, and abuse he suffered before we took him in, but he never mellowed out at all. Still, I loved him.
But I digress. My uncle Steve had an old-fashioned ice cream maker, the rock salt and crank style. I remember an afternoon when we made ice cream outside of our apartment building, and how interminably long the whole process seemed. I was a bit impatient when I was 4, and I couldn’t possibly imagine why we were putting in all the time and effort into making ice cream when we could have just gone to the store. Oh, sure, I was curious about the process, but mostly I wanted ice cream.
And then I tasted it. Oh my goodness, I didn’t know anything could be so creamy, I had no conception that a texture like that existed in the world. That first bite was a transformative moment for me. It was as if my understanding of the potential for what food could do to the senses opened up before me, as if I had just received an invitation to explore a mysterious world of food that just might be full of light and shadows and waterfalls of flavors.
I know that a photograph of this day exists, and I just spent a bit of time going through my photo albums looking for it. I was unable to find it, so instead I will post an extremely embarrassing picture of me and my sister playing dress-up. Yaay for visual non sequiturs.
What followed were years of exploring food and cooking and flavors, but without the delight of homemade ice cream. It was just a few years ago that I finally got an ice cream maker to call my own. I was unable to justify the expense of a truly top-of-the-line model, but I did some research and determined the best rated and reviewed model for my budget, which ended up being a simple 1-1/2 quart Cuisinart brand maker that I have been very happy with.While it is not a piece of kitchen equipment that could ever be called a necessity, as it has an extraordinarily specialized application towards making a substance that (however delightful) is not in any way essential for the sustenance of life, I do believe that it was well worth getting. Making my own ice cream is a fun process that requires a good deal of attention and creativity, and it yields substance that has the potential to be truly transcendent.
I haven’t made any ice cream since last summer, and so I was quite delighted to get a request for one of my readers to do a few posts on dairy-free ice cream recipes. I absolutely love having an excuse to make yummy foodstuffs. This is the first of what will be a series of non-dairy ice “cream” recipes. The second post will be for coconut chocolate chip ice cream, which I plan to make tomorrow. These first two recipes are non-dairy, but are not vegan. While I don’t know what the flavor will be for the third ice cream recipe that I will post in this series, I will make sure that that one is vegan. I am partly inspired to create a vegan version of one of my favorites from past excursions into homemade ice cream: I once made an absolutely incredible lavender ice cream, which I think would lend itself well to be revamped into a vegan version.
One offshoot of that last paragraph is that, yes, I take requests. If you have any suggestions for future ice cream flavors and/or ingredients and/or recipes that you would like to see featured in future posts, please feel free to send me an email to email@example.com with “Post Request” in the subject line.
With that said, I did rush this recipe in a way that resulted in less than perfect results. I put the ice cream base into the maker before it had cooled sufficiently, and so it didn’t freeze adequately before I transferred it into containers to put in the freezer. I had never rushed my ice cream in this way before, and I must stress that the decreased time from start to finish is simply not worth it. The flavor of this batch is divine, but the texture is not as smooth as it should be: when you put the ice cream into the freezer before it is already sufficiently frozen, the finished product will contain small ice crystals. I am more than happy to eat it, as it is truly delicious. However, it doesn’t have the texture that first won me over to homemade ice cream. So, yes, learn from my mistake: when I say in the recipe to cool the base thoroughly in the refrigerator before putting it into the ice cream maker, please do so.
For those who do not have an ice cream maker, and have no desire to invest in one, you can elect to take the chilled ice cream base and put it in a metal bowl, cover it with aluminum foil, and put it in the freezer for one hour. After that hour, you can blend the ice cream in a food processor until completely smooth and return to the freezer in the covered bowl for 20-30 more minutes. Blend again in the food processor. Continue freezing in 20-30 minute intervals between blending in the food processor 2 to 3 more times before putting the ice cream in an airtight container and freezing thoroughly. This will work fine, but will increase the likelihood of the same texture problems that I had with this batch.
Also, those who have read my post on making tea (https://transgustatory.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/just-tea/) know that I have a strong preference for loose tea leaves. If you choose to use bagged tea, you can substitute four bags of green tea for the loose tea. You can also elect to use either caffeinated or decaffeinated tea.
I suggest using a full-bodied green tea to get maximum flavor in the finished ice cream. I used Dragonwell, and Sencha would also be lovely. I’m also thinking that the next time I make this recipe I will try a jasmine green tea, and see how that goes. In fact, probably any full-bodied tea would work well: Earl Grey ice cream may be in my future…
One more thing: when I say “stir constantly” in this recipe, I actually mean to stir constantly. Expect to be standing at the stove the entire time the base is on the stove, stirring it gently in every moment. This not only helps you remain constantly attentive about the temperature and texture of the base, but it also helps to prevent any curdling. If curdling happens regardless, strain the base through a sieve two or three times before you chill it. No one wants lumpy ice cream.
You can also add some green food coloring if you want the ice cream to actually look green, but this is not necessary and I tend to avoid adding coloring to pretty much everything except for frosting for decorated cakes and cookies.
Dairy-free Green Tea Ice Cream
- 3/4 cup water
- 4 T loose green tea
- 3/4 c plain, unsweetened almond milk
- 2 c unsweetened plain soy yogurt (Silk brand is wonderful)
- 1/4 t salt
- 5 large eggs
- 2/3 c sugar
- 2-3 T honey
- Bring the water to first boil (for a description of the different levels of boiling, please refer to my previous post on tea at the link mentioned above). Pour the hot water into a cup or teapot and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the tea thoroughly through a sieve.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the tea with the almond milk, soy yogurt, and salt. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to just below the boiling point (just shy of when the bubbles break the surface). Reduce heat and stir constantly until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are light yellow. Add the honey and beat on low speed until just combined. Slowly mix in 1 cup of the almond milk mixture, beating on low speed to prevent curdling of the eggs.
- Add the egg mixture into the saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened, 4-5 minutes.
- Pour the custard into a bowl and cool in the refrigerator or in an ice bath until cooled to at least room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- Place the custard base into your ice cream maker and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions until thick and frozen (it will get to the texture of soft-serve ice cream). Put in an airtight Tupperware container and freeze further in your freezer.