Windfall Five-Spice Plum Ice Cream (Vegan)

If you live in the rural countryside, there’s a solid chance at any stage of the summer that your mother, an aunty, (perhaps yours) or the neighbour’s dog will confidently stride into your house and lower onto the table a bulging tote bag or empty paint bucket filled with plums. I’ve spoken before of that particular proclivity in regards to receiving lemons, but it very much extends to any and all domesticated fruit. If, like me, you find yourself in possession of a lot of plums and are wondering what to make with them, may I suggest this Windfall Five-Spice Plum ice cream – as pink as pureed lipstick, intensely plummy, tartly acerbic, and extremely delicious. Even if you aren’t blessed with a front-end loader’s worth of plums, they’re in season right now and therefore, I hope, easier to acquire – and this ice cream is absolutely worth a little outlay.

This uses a full thirty plums – which is on its own, a lot, but did not make any visible dent in our large tote bag full of them – and yields you a fun-sized 2.5 litres of ice cream. As with all my ice creams, this is no-churn – no ice cream maker necessary – and although my instructions look violently complicated, there’s not really a whole lot asked of you in the process. There are two components to this – first, the simmered plums, thickened to make a kind of dense, pink custard. Then, the aquafaba, that versatile liquid in your canned chickpeas, which is whipped into a glossy meringue and folded together with the plums. I’ve used aquafaba in many of my other recipes and yet, every time, I’m amazed at its functionality and structural integrity. It’s literally just water that beans were cooked in, it somehow becomes, well, everything.

Because of the high proportion of fruit in this ice cream it has an icy, slightly sorbet-like texture, but with a rich smoothness from the aquafaba and custard powder. The plums have an almost tinfoil-biting sourness, which is kept in check by the sugar and the vanilla, and rounded out by a kick of cinnamon and Chinese five-spice powder – in particular, the star anise component of the five-spice is excellent with the jamminess of the plums.

This recipe also works well – and is just as seasonal – in a strawberry-lemon variation – just replace the plums with two to three punnets of hulled, chopped strawberries, use fresh lemon juice instead of water, reduce the sugar to about 1/2 a cup for the syrup and 1/2 a cup for the aquafaba, and I would definitely add a pinch of citric acid to the cooled syrup too (plus the grated zest of however many lemons you squeezed.) This makes around 1.5 litres of dreamy, creamy strawberry-lemon ice cream. Either way, whichever fruit: delicious, bright pink, ice-cold summer happiness awaits.

Windfall Five-Spice Plum Ice Cream

What to do with a lot of plums? Why, make this extremely delicious, no-churn, vegan ice cream. As per usual, the process is much easier than my over-explaining makes it look; all you’re doing is simmering some plums, whipping some aquafaba, and stirring them together. Recipe by myself.

  • 30 ripe plums
  • 1 and 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup aquafaba (the brine from one standard can of chickpeas)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1: Have ready two containers – preferably with lids – of a combined capacity of about 2.5 litres, since that’s how much this makes. Roughly chop the plums, removing the stones as you go, and place in a good-sized saucepan with one cup of the sugar (the remaining sugar goes in the aquafaba) and the 1/2 cup of water. Bring this mixture to the boil, stirring often, then lower the heat and let it bubble away at a brisk simmer until the fruit has collapsed, still stirring all the while.

2: Meanwhile, whisk the custard powder into the soy milk, making sure there are no lumps remaining. Once the plums have completely softened, almost dissolving into the syrup as you press against them with your wooden spoon, remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the soy milk mixture. It will immediately turn from a dark scarlet to a more muted pink, but don’t worry, it will somehow get brighter as it freezes. Return the pan to a low heat for just another minute, stirring as you go, to let the custard powder thicken the syrup up somewhat.

3: Remove the pan from the heat for the final time, stir in the cinnamon, five-spice, and vanilla, and set aside to cool a little. I like to stick it in a sink filled about 1/3 high with cold water to hasten the process. Just make sure anyone else in the house is aware of this so they don’t turn on the tap and blast your pan with cold water (which has actually happened to me. I managed to salvage it – and wouldn’t you know, the resulting ice cream was incredible and I have no idea how to recreate it now.)

4: While this is cooling, place the aquafaba in a large mixing bowl and using electric beaters (you can use a whisk if you have the patience and energy though) whip the aquafaba on a low speed until it’s frothy and opaque. Add the apple cider vinegar and continue beating at a higher speed, until it’s really quite frothy and stiff, and the beaters leave visible trails in the mixture as they move through it. Now, start beating at the highest speed while you add the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar a little at a time. Keep beating until the sugar is entirely dissolved – to test, taste a little of the mixture and if you perceive any sugary grit remaining, keep beating.

5: Fold the plum mixture into the pale-white, aerated aquafaba a little at a time, until it’s all mixed together (I find a 1/3 cup measure useful to transfer the plums into the aquafaba bowl.) The aquafaba will lose a little of its volume, but manages to bear the weight of all that fruit impressively well. To ensure it stays as fluffy as possible, make sure you really are folding the fruit in, rather than briskly stirring or whisking. Taste, to see if it wants a bit more five-spice powder, which it may well do.

6: Spatula this dreamy pink mixture between your containers – I recommend something with a lid, to prevent freezer burn – and then pop these containers into the fridge for two to three hours. This improves the flavour and the texture, I don’t know why, but I cannot make ice cream any other way now. After this time, remove the lid, give the mousse-like mixture a brief folding stir to lift up any fruit which has dropped to the bottom of the containers, return the lid, and then freeze your ice cream for at least six hours, undisturbed (that is, you don’t need to stir, process, or churn it at any stage. So both you and the ice cream are undisturbed, really.)

Makes around 2.5 litres depending on the size of your plums, the curve of the earth, etc.

Notes:

  • If your plums are very sweet, you may want to reduce the sugar a little – perhaps 3/4 cup in the syrup and 1/2 a cup in the aquafaba – I would also recommend adding a pinch of citric acid to the cooled syrup
  • Feel free to use cornflour (cornstarch) in lieu of custard powder
  • This is fairly scoop-able straight from the freezer, but it’s a lot easier if it’s had five-ten minutes on the bench first
  • I’ve made ice cream with pretty much every plant milk available and curiously, soy milk has the most unobtrusive flavour here, hence why I’ve specified it

music lately:

Tentpeg by JFA. Probably one of their more accessible numbers, but still as loud and mean as you please.

On A Clear Day, by Robert Goulet. That voice! That relaxed yet opulent voice! The way he swings into the lip-smacking enunciation all, “Awn-uhh cleah day” – the way that listening to this makes it feel, very briefly, like everything is actually wonderful! Goulet’s version is second only to my favourite interpretation of this song, by the tragically late Laurie Beechman – an astonishing and entirely different take, and one I revisit often.

Lucinda, by A Certain Ratio. May I just say, what a staggeringly funky bassline. I really like their unexpected 2020 release, ACR Loco – good news at last – but the older stuff has a slightly more shambolic, menacing quality to it.

Next time: While we’re talking bright pink foods, I made the beetroot and rhubarb soup from Nigella’s new cookbook and it was excellent.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

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