It doesn’t take much psychological digging to extract meaning from why I, a person who was never particularly moved by plain vanilla ice cream during previous iterations of myself, am suddenly craving it specifically now that I’m vegan. Unfortunately the grass is doubly greener on the other side when you factor in not just wanting to consume, but also to create, but I knew I had a recipe somewhere in me. And after trial and error and error and error I finally succeeded in making a vanilla ice cream that I’m happy with, that’s not only safe for human consumption, it’s also actually delicious, and doesn’t taste gritty or like bananas or coconut or beans – absolutely not beans – despite being bean-adjacent by being largely propped up by whipped aquafaba – it just tasted like rich, creamy vanilla ice cream.
I recounted my disastrous times trying to make a bean-based ice cream back in April and since then I’ve had at least three other goes at making a straightforward vanilla ice cream, all of which failed but unfortunately not in a humorous enough manner to blog about. Finally I hit on the near-perfect formula that uses the aeration and fluffy heft of beaten aquafaba in combination with a thick, cornflour based custard-type emulsion that gives that crucial silky richness. I honestly felt like I was in one of those Beautiful Mind type movies where the peculiar genius is furiously writing equations on a chalkboard while everyone stands up and slowly starts clapping and someone says “lads this is the arithmetic that will end the war on the moon” except it was just me in the kitchen and my mum saying “it’s a bit too sweet for me.”
I was genuinely delighted with how it tasted, but I freely acknowledge that I haven’t had dairy-based ice cream in over a year, so my idea of what ice cream should even taste like is based on a mental image that’s becoming more and more pixelated as time goes along. But on the other hand like, I really think this is delicious, so, that’s that. The aquafaba gives it this incredible soft texture and the combination of golden syrup, cornflour, and refined coconut oil in the custard base (and I use the word custard very loosely here) lend it a richness and body and depth. Every previous attempt had just not cut it, either too watery and icy, or too flatly sweet, or it tasted like beans, overall just not something you could convincingly call ice cream. This recipe is soft and velvety and tastes luxurious and billowingly fulsome and I’m honestly just so happy with it, it tasted like the memory that I had been craving. I have no idea if non-vegans would be convinced of its resemblance to dairy-based ice cream but I feel if nothing else that my mounting failures give some sense of my still having a semblance of discerning taste, like, I’m not out here just insisting any old frozen-bean-garbage tastes amazing. I had a positive feeling about it before it went into the freezer because it was the first time since first embarking on this mission that I’d actually liked the taste of the unfrozen mixture, and when I took it from the freezer five hours later and had a taste of it, a lone tear ran down my cheek and I lifted my spoon triumphantly and said “tell the moon squadron…they’ll be home for Christmas this year” while the cats glared at me.
Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream
A recipe by myself
- 1 cup/250ml almond milk
- 3 tablespoons cornflour
- 4 tablespoons refined (flavourless) coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 heaped tablespoon golden syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- the brine from one can of chickpeas, aka aquafaba (this comes to roughly 3/4 cup/175ml liquid, it doesn’t matter if there’s a little less or more)
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dark chocolate for grating or melting, to serve (optional)
1: Whisk the almond milk and cornflour together in a small pan till smooth. Gently cook over a low heat, whisking constantly. It will appear to be doing nothing at first and then thicken all of a sudden, and the second it does start to thicken, remove it from the heat and continue whisking to ensure no lumps form. If you have a mini whisk this is an ideal use for it rather than a big balloon one.
2: Whisk in the coconut oil, one spoonful at a time, followed by the golden syrup, vanilla, and salt. Set aside (just on the bench, not in the fridge) while you get on with the aquafaba.
3: Place the apple cider vinegar and aquafaba in a mixing bowl, and use electric beaters on a medium to high speed to whip it into soft peaks. This is when you can lift the beaters out of the mixture and a small frothy peak raises up underneath before subsiding back into the mixture. If that doesn’t make sense there are like five thousand online tutorials and reference images and so on to help you out. Also, this will take about three to five solid minutes of beating.
4: One you’ve reached this point, continue beating and slowly start adding the caster sugar to the mixture, about a tablespoon at a time. Beat the mixture at a high speed until all the caster sugar is absorbed into it and it has become stiff and glossy and bright white. Again, this will probably take another solid five or six minutes of nonstop beating, so don’t feel like you have to rush it. You really want to make sure that it’s as aerated and thick as possible. I like to hold the bowl at an angle for most of the process so that the beaters can really get in amongst the mixture.
5: Give the cornflour mixture a good stir, since it will have probably set a bit at this point. Scoop a large spoonful of the aquafaba mixture into this cornflour mixture and whisk it briskly – this will make it easier to fold back into the remaining aquafaba without losing too much of that air that you’ve spent so long beating in. Fold this whisked cornflour mixture into the aquafaba, about half or a third at a time, as gently and carefully as possible.
6: Spatula this into a 1 litre (or so) freezer-safe container, and freeze for about five hours or overnight. Serve with grated chocolate sprinkled over or drizzled with melted chocolate, or, y’know, literally however you want! This does not require any stirring while it’s freezing and it can be eaten straight from the freezer without needing to soften first.
To get to this recipe I looked back through other ice creams that I’d made successfully to see what I could learn from them about making something that couldn’t hide behind the trompe l’oeil of flavour and it was my Rosé Raspberry Ripple recipe that finally pointed me towards victory with its combination of aquafaba and cornflour-thickened liquid. Now, though I’m not very good at being assertive, I simply have to be firm in regards to this recipe, because much like last week’s macarons there are some specifics that make it, well, specifically good. If you want a recipe that you can ignore and replace half the ingredients haphazardly then see every other recipe of mine or indeed the entire internet. I built this recipe like I was casting the revival of a classic and much-loved musical thus inviting the immediate scrutiny and comparison of the entire Broadway community and at least three surprisingly energetic LiveJournal communities.
In descending order of what I can imagine being questioned about first from the ingredients list: the refined coconut oil gives you satiny texture and substance without any obtrusive oily flavour. Having tried this with just refined coconut oil and with a combination of that and rice bran oil, well they were both nice but you could sense the presence of the rice bran oil, unlike the refined coconut which just slinks in unnoticed. If you can’t tell by how many times I’ve pointedly said the word “refined”, you really need the refined coconut oil here which does not have a pronounced flavour. My final point in regards to this, and I’ve said it before: if you’re thinking of reducing the oil, firstly, grow up, and secondly, if anything add more than what I’ve asked for. The golden syrup has a really particular depth of flavour that you can’t get from anything else and that one mere tablespoon of it does so much for the finished product that it will literally ruin it if you leave it out. If you’re unable to get hold of golden syrup (I think it’s not very common in America?) then probably honey or light treacle would be a suitable substitute. After all that posturing I concede that you could happily change the almond milk for something like soy milk or oat milk or basically anything that’s not coconut milk unless you want the finished product to taste like coconut milk which, if I wanted that, is what I would’ve said, but if you feel like that’s an okay decision then so be it.
Finally, I really am contrite about insisting that you use electric beaters, they genuinely make life easier and feel rather crucial for achieving the level of beaten thickness in the aquafaba that is required. However, I have absolutely made like, entire pavlovas using only a whisk so it’s not impossible and I’d hate to be the gatekeeper between you and this ice cream if this is what it comes down to. Just promise me that you will whisk with honesty in your heart and not stop until the mixture is as light as a feather and stiff as a board. If, after all this, it doesn’t work out for you: feel free to blame me entirely, or indeed, attempt to write a humorous blog post about it.
(Roger is “the friendly one” out of the two tabbies. As you can see.)
title from: Cream by the sadly late Prince. Silky smooth like well-beaten aquafaba.
Home Is Where, by Caveboy. This is really dreamy and softly hypnotic and has gorgeous momentum, if a purple lightbulb in a darkened room could sing this is what it would sound like.
Ambition, by Subway Sect, it has this scuzzy upbeat insolence but also this odd bloopy underwater noise running through the background which is almost like ASMR? Obviously, I love it.
The River Won’t Flow from the 2018 Encores! performance of Jason Robert Brown’s 1995 off-Broadway musical Songs For A New World (which itself is notable for being an early role for Billy Porter.) I find this particular musical so compelling, it has no real plot or characters, instead evoking moods and feelings via its four performers. These songs all sound so grown up, like what you’d hear at a jazz festival by some singer you’ve never heard of but whose bio insists is extremely critically acclaimed. With no need for pushing plot forwards it means almost every number ends up sounding like the showstopper. I also recommend the more theatrical opener The New World which just builds so exhilaratingly and honestly, just listen to the whole show.
Next time: I feel like I either need a break from aquafaba recipes or to start taking out shares in canned chickpeas, only time will tell.
PS: I have a Patreon account where you can directly support me and my writing and where you can receive exclusive content written just for you, and it’s very, very, very easy to be involved and has an extremely positive effect on my life.