As you can probably tell by our food-themed board on Pinterest, our Instagram feed, and our seemingly never-ending supply of funny, punny food-centric designs, we like to eat here at Boredwalk HQ. But consumption is just one half of the equation — we love to cook, too!
Lately we've been trying to focus more on "clean" eating during the week — mostly raw vegan, low-carb stuff; tough, because like Oprah, WE LOVE BREAD — but we allow ourselves a little wiggle room on the weekends.
Well, Sunday was the cheat day of all cheat days — we decided to take a crack at homemade ice cream sundaes!
First order of business was to decide on a flavor profile, and even though it's mid-May, my sweet tooth is obsessed with traditional "Fall" flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, and maple, so we found a recipe for cinnamon ice cream on Pinterest from Gin at the Eat Happy, Eat Healthy blog.
If you're not already vegan or are unfamiliar with vegan cuisine, I know what you're thinking — "No way is this going to be good." As a formerly die-hard carnivore turned vegetarian who has struggled with giving up dairy, I get the skepticism. It's not entirely unfounded; store-bought* vegan ice cream has lagged behind other vegan alternatives over the years. Taste and texture improvements in non-dairy cheeses and meat substitutes have far outstripped the results on the dessert side of things.
* A necessary distinction — we've had some truly amazing vegan ice creams in the past, but pretty much exclusively in speciality parlors & restaurants, or from local/regional vegan creameries that don't have a national presence in non-specialty grocery chains (yet.)
Recent years have seen a welcome jump, though — So Delicious's line of soy and cashew milk ice creams were a big step forward, but not necessarily enough to get me to put down my Ben & Jerry's. Thankfully, B&J really hit it out of the park with their limited non-dairy launch a few months ago. With those flavors now a regular offering in our local grocery stores, I can easily see myself eschewing the dairy form entirely from here on out. I just wish they'd expand the non-dairy line to include their Cinnamon Buns flavor!
Anyway, I digress — this post is supposed to be about our homemade stuff!
Overall, we were pleased with how the ice cream turned out. It wasn't as rich & creamy as B&J's, but for our first foray into home-churning, we'll take it! I was worried about how thin it was even after churning for an extra 10 minutes, but it scooped just fine after the requisite amount of time in the freezer (though, like most non-dairy ice creams, it needed to sit out a bit longer before serving.)
Since it had more of an ice milk consistency (as opposed to that of ice cream), I'd probably tweak this recipe a bit the next time we try it. I did a little research while waiting for the cream to harden in the freezer, and a couple of sensible tips found on SeriousEats.com might make for a better end result next time: lowering the overall temp of our freezer the day before to keep our KitchenAid attachment colder for longer during the churning process, and adding a thickening agent like xanthan gum to the "batter". Both changes working in concert should, hopefully, yield a less liquid, more soft serve-like consistency by the culmination of the churning process.
Flavor-wise, it was very much on-point. I typically don't like coconut-based ice creams, but the cinnamon was enough to mask the coconut flavor.
Now, a sundae isn't a sundae without toppings, right? So we found two more recipes to pair with our ice cream: this vegan caramel sauce from Leelalicious, and my absolute favorite ice cream topping, wet nuts made from a recipe courtesy of Saveur!
First, the caramel sauce:
Per Regina's recipe, finding the paste form of coconut sugar in our local grocery store was a no-go, so we made do with granulated coconut sugar which, as she warned, resulted in a darker sauce. It was fine as toppings go, but I think in the future I may just use a more traditional caramel sauce recipe and forego the whole coconut angle.
The element of the sundaes I was most excited for were the wet nuts. In the past we've had great success with recipes from Saveur, but this one was pretty disappointing. We were able to salvage it with aplomb, as I'll explain below, but here it is just before we removed it from the heat:
In fairness, some of the blame for how this initially turned out falls on me — I didn't chop up the walnuts into small enough pieces, which in turn led them to not toast as thoroughly as I would have liked. That aside, following the recipe exactly is going to leave you with something closer to walnut caramel chews than a pourable or spoonable topping. Either simmer for less time than the suggested 3 minutes, or add some other form of liquid — otherwise the base cooks down too much and thickens into a chewy block as it cools. Still delicious, but it makes it unsuitable as an ice cream topping.
So how did we save it? Good old American ingenuity (re: booze)! We reheated the wet nuts in a skillet to re-liquify the sauce, diced up (finely; almost minced) an apple — we suggest something firm and crunchy that will hold shape during cooking and not just disintegrate into mush; we used a Honeycrisp, but a Granny Smith, McIntosh, Gala, or Fuji would also suffice — and tossed it in, along with a little more corn syrup (probably no more than a tsp.) and 2-3 Tbsp. of bourbon. The additional liquid from the combination of the natural juices of the apple, the bourbon, and the corn syrup kept the cooled end-product from solidifying as it had earlier without those adjustments. We cooked everything down until the apples were soft and most of the alcohol had evaporated. Bonus: this reheating process also softened the nuts enough for us to break up the larger chunks with the side of our spoon to correct my earlier mistake. The inclusion of the bourbon also provided a nice counterpoint to the borderline-cloying sweetness of the first attempt.
So how did it all come together? Feast your eyes:
Even though our dessert skills lie more on the baking side of things, this is definitely something we would try again...I just hope next time we can entice some of our friends to help us eat it all — not that Meredith is complaining!
Meredith about to dig in while sporting her sweet Sundays Are For Sundaes Unisex Tank Top! If you'd like one of your own, just click the above photo to purchase!