Once in a while, as I mindlessly go about my business living life in an ice cream induced stupor, I’ll stumble across one of those poor unfortunate souls who, for whatever reason, is forced to abstain from the supreme influence and indescribable magic of dairy products.
These conversations become especially poignant when framed within the context of the blog.
“That just looks so delicious!” says Person. “But…I can’t. I can’t have dairy.”
Naturally, my heart always breaks a little upon hearing those four fateful words.
After all, the thought of living a life without dairy is…sad. Tragic, even.
Okay. If we’re being honest, it’s downright unbearable.
Usually, when these conversations occur, I’m briefly inspired to Do Something About It. I fantasize about becoming a Dairy-Free Hero of sorts, quitting my day job to pioneer a delicious new line of gourmet dairy-free ice creams that put their full-dairy counterparts to shame.
But, like many things that cause me to react emotionally, I buried this concept of dairy-free heroism deep into my subconscious, where it remained hidden behind other ideas and feelings that I refuse to acknowledge.
Until recently, that is, when the concept of dairy-free ice cream reemerged into my life, in the form of my sweet little baby nephew, the newest member of our crazed dairy-loving family. Little Nephew started having some pretty major tummy aches and unexplained rashes right out of the gate, and by process of elimination, it seems dairy may have been the culprit.
Yada yada yada …now my sis-in-law is dairy-free. (For a good cause of course…but it doesn’t make the lifestyle transition any easier).
After our most recent visit, my dairy-free demons haunted me the whole way home, and a few days thereafter. But I was tortured by an internal conflict. Did I want to be a dairy-free hero? Why yes, of course. But..what’s ice cream without..well, the cream?
I was intimidated by the task ahead of me. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a strict whole milk + heavy cream + many many many eggs formula, and generally it works (well, most of the time. I’m talking to you, banana gelato).
I decided to buckle down and do some experimenting, and after some trial and error, found that coconut milk (full-fat, of course), has a natural richness that lends itself perfectly to the ice creamatic arts. However, there was still that issue of the slight coconut taste of coconut milk. For coconut fans, this is an added bonus, but for those of us who only appreciate coconut in moments of extreme desperation when a wee Almond Joy is the last snack in the candy dish, it can be quite problematic – which is why I went with a rich chocolate – a flavor that would somewhat mask, yet somewhat complement, the coconut-y ice cream base.
I didn’t decide on Rocky Road until I spotted some dairy-free chocolate chips at my local Target; but as soon as I saw them, I knew this ice cream was going to be BALLS-TO-THE-WALL in dairy-free goodness. Besides, what’s a mere $7.99 per bag if it gets me that much closer to my dairy-free hero status?
Once I gathered my ingredients and got started, the process felt like making ice cream and looked like making ice cream. But in the end, did it taste like ice cream, you ask?
Why yes, dear readers – yes it did! There is a pretty significant coconut aftertaste, so if you are adamantly against coconut, I wouldn’t waste your time. However, if you’re open to an essence of the tropics in your frozen desserts, then you’ll be just fine!
As far as texture, this ice cream is a bit icy at first, but it’s nothing that 15 minutes on the counter won’t fix. The result? A creamy, palate-pleasing experience that’s darn near close to the real thing.
It’s worth noting that I also cheated a little by keeping in the eggs to serve as a stabilizer, but if you wanted this ice cream to be completely allergen free, you could leave them out – just prepare for a slightly icier texture.
At the end of the day, I still prefer full-dairy ice cream (shocking, I know). But if for some reason that’s not an option, this is a great substitute.
I’ll continue working on my formula and posting updates as I go; expect to see a few more dairy free posts this summer. After all, perfection – and dairy free heroism – don’t happen over night. 🙂
Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Rocky Road Ice Cream
2 cans coconut milk (full fat only)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup dairy free dark chocolate chips (or to taste)
1 cup roughly chopped pecans (or to taste; I used raw pecans but you can toast for added crunch)
1 cup marshmallow fluff (homemade is awesome, but store bought works great too!)
Make the base:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, and salt and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the coconut milk (do not boil!). Once milk is thoroughly heated, add to the cocoa powder mixture a little at a time (about ½ cup) until a paste forms.
- Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time, making sure each is incorporated fully into the mixture.
- Pour the mixture back into your saucepan, and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until it thickens and coats the back of a rubber spatula or spoon (just like custard!!)
- Stir in vanilla, and then store mixture in the fridge for a few hours or overnight until chilled thoroughly.
- Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add in the chocolate chips, pecans, and gobs of marshmallow fluff (marshmallow needs to be dropped in a little at a time in order to prevent a giant ball of hardened fluff from forming). Store in an airtight container in the freezer overnight or until hardened (about 4 hours or so).
- Enjoy 🙂