I've missed ice cream. It seems like a silly thing to say, but it's true. Growing up, rarely a week passed by where I didn't have a bowl of vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate sauce or a banana split for dessert. I come from an ice cream-loving family, where chocolate syrup is an anchor in the kitchen cupboard. As I grew older, I'd often mix my own blended ice cream coffee shop drinks, enjoying my own twist on a mocha. However, after I discovered I'm lactose intolerant this summer after taking on a month long vegan challenge, I haven't had more than a few spoonfuls of ice cream since.
While the absence of ice cream was easy to handle at first, the cravings have slowly crept up on me until it finally became time to do something about it. I actually put dairy-free chocolate ice cream on my holiday list this year.
A few months ago, I was really struggling with my newly required dairy-free eating habits. I shared my difficulties with you, a mixture of confusion in how to approach eating and lamentations at the loss of my old lifestyle. Looking back, I realize now that I was grieving. Grieving for the loss of milk and cream, for butter and for cheese. I had moments of denial, when I'd order a cheeseburger instead of a hamburger at a restaurant. I was angry and upset at my body, telling anyone who talked about my favorite dairy-filled foods to wash their mouths out with heavy cream. I tried to justify my actions, telling myself the pain I would feel later was absolutely worth that piece of caramelized bread pudding (and, of course, it never was).
While some people can embrace new eating habits with ease, I needed time to sort my feelings out, to let go of the foods I had eaten and loved my entire life. Over the last few months I have been in the process of acceptance, but I finally, finally, feel like I've reached it.
I never knew such feelings could arise out of food.
While some baked goods are effortless to convert to dairy-free, ice cream is one of those sneaky desserts that is difficult to make without its namesake—cream. I've tried several of the dairy-free brands in the stores with disappointing results. With an unpronounceable ingredient list and a texture that resembles marshmallow cream or shaved ice, they leave much to be desired. As is the case when the supermarket fails me, I look to the kitchen and my own ingenuity to make something better than I can find.
Oh, let me tell you, this is exactly what I've been craving.
Chocolate (Dairy-Free) Ice Cream is bright, satisfying, and perfect for those in your life with a milk allergy or intolerance. The richness of the ice cream comes from full-fat coconut milk. Do note, however, that the final product will have a subtle coconut aftertaste which cannot be avoided (but for me, a coconut lover, it was an added bonus). The ice cream isn't too sweet, with a deep chocolate flavor coming from cocoa powder. This ice cream is the real deal—smooth, creamy, and an excellent dairy-free ice cream alternative.
Note: Straight from the freezer, this ice cream will have an icy texture. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes on the counter (or a few seconds in the microwave) and the texture will transform into the one you know and love.
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Chocolate (Dairy-Free) Ice Cream
Yields about 1 quart
28 fl ounces (2 cans or 800 ml) full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup (110 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (45 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a large saucepan, warm coconut milk over medium heat. Do not allow to boil.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Add about 1 cup warmed coconut milk and whisk until the mixture forms a thick, smooth paste. Whisk in the egg yolks one at time, mixing well between additions. Slowly add cocoa mixture to the warmed coconut milk, whisking quickly to incorporate.
Simmer over medium heat until coconut milk base thickens enough to thickly coat the back of a spoon, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract. Transfer to a heat-proof container and refrigerate until cold.
Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer ice cream to a plastic airtight container and freeze for 2-3 hours before serving.