Lately, I’ve gotten into making desserts. I’ve always loved making them, but in my efforts to eat healthfully, I stopped preparing them as often. In the past, the problem was that I would end up with more left over than I wanted (I was going to say needed, but is dessert ever necessary??). However, since then, I have learned that almost everything can be frozen and then eaten whenever.
Two things in particular got me going. One was a recipe from the magazine Cooking Light which was for Peach Cobbler Ice Cream with a Bourbon Caramel Sauce and the other was meeting the two women who run the truffle-making business, Evolve.
I’d held onto the ice cream recipe for a long time never making it partly because there is no point to it unless one has fresh, perfectly wonderful, peaches. And, I was going to have to make changes because I can’t eat cow dairy and it called for that (as well as whipped topping which I never buy as I think of that kind of thing as akin to ingesting a petroleum by-product).
So, I’ve made three kinds of ice cream over the summer and they were all delicious (is there bad ice cream??). The first was inspired by the aforementioned peach cobbler ice cream which I decided to do as a Peach Pie Ice Cream as that sounded more appealing to me. I used as my base one can of lite coconut milk, one egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, ¼ cup sugar and 1-2 packets of stevia sweetener. This became the base for my later ice creams. To create the pie crust flavor, I made a quarter recipe of pie crust (just using a basic pie crust recipe), rolled it out flat, baked it on a sheet pan, let it cool, and then broke it into pieces (it was very difficult not to snack on this because I love pie crust. It should be a dessert in its own right. Hmm…maybe that’s an idea). For the peach flavor, I mashed up some chopped peach, added some sugar and a dash of nutmeg, mashed it up some more and then put it into the fridge until I was ready for it. I made the ice cream in my ice cream maker, transferred it into a plastic container and then poured the peach sauce and the pie crust pieces into it and swirled them together. After that, I popped it into the freezer until after dinner when I got to try it out (as if I hadn’t “quality-tested” every step of the way!).
It was so good that I was inspired to make more flavors of ice cream. The next two kinds I made were lemon meringue and butter pecan. I made the lemon meringue by adding home-made lemon curd (made with goat butter instead of cow butter) and broken graham crackers to the coconut milk ice cream base. For the butter pecan ice cream I made butterscotch sauce, swapping goat butter for the cow butter and evaporated goat milk for the cream, and toasted some pecan pieces. Again, I swirled those into my ice cream base (for this one, I subbed in brown sugar) and put it into the freezer.
The one problem I’ve come up against with my ice cream is that it freezes so hard that I have to let it soften on the counter for a few minutes before scooping as it is like trying to scoop a rock. At first I thought it might be because it wasn’t particularly rich, but now I’m pretty sure that’s not the problem as I purchased some ice cream made with a coconut milk base and it was about twice as rich as mine and it also comes out rock hard. I don’t want to raise the temperature of my freezer as I want everything else to be that cold/frozen. The consequence is that I actually have to wait to eat my ice cream and I’m not very good at that!
So, as I mentioned, the other inspiration was some truffles I had while attending this great musical event called Chucklestock. They are made by this female duo who started a truffle-making business, Evolve, relatively recently and the truffles they make are pretty darn fabulous. I haven’t been one of those people who have gone all crazy for chocolate. I was just fine with plebian milk chocolate and didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Then, I was diagnosed with a cow dairy allergy and could only eat semi-sweet or dark chocolate and I didn’t like them as much. However, I guess our taste buds change over time, or something, because I began to crave chocolate (I also started to crave spicy foods, but that’s another story, … or not) and dark chocolate started to taste just fine with me. A couple of years ago my friend Katharine Kagel was visiting and gave me two bars of a dark chocolate that she helped develop in collaboration with Askinosie Chocolate that had pistachios, ancho chiles, goat milk, and sea salt in it. It was really hard to share because it was so delicious. I was sold on chocolate.
Christy and Shannon Fox of Evolve Truffles also do some unusual pairings. Like, Askinosie, they make it work. Not everyone can use wasabi or beer in a truffle and make it delicious. They also make more regular truffles, but I like how they push the chocolate envelope. The last time I made truffles was when I was in college and went door-to-door in my apartment complex asking for a couple of ounces of liqueur so I could make different flavors (I think I ended up with things like Kahlúa and Peach Schnapps).
This time I wanted to be a bit more creative. Again, I had a “base” for my truffle, which was chocolate and coconut “cream” (refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut and then skim off the “coconut cream”). For my first batch I steamed the cream with some chopped fresh ginger, strained it, re-heated it, added it into the chopped chocolate and stirred it until the chocolate melted, and then added minced candied ginger. After I had chilled the truffle mixture, I rolled it and chilled it again, and then coated it with some tempered dark chocolate and topped it with a curl of toasted coconut. They were good enough that I wanted to make another batch with different flavors.
My next endeavor featured mangoes and pistachios. I added to my truffle “base” pureed dried mangoes coated with some kind of lime-chile concoction (I bought them from my local co-op so no weird/bad stuff on them). Then I played with different ways to coat them. Some I just rolled in pistachio flour and topped with a chocolate dipped pistachio. Others got the roll in pistachios and a coating of dark chocolate. I also tried mixing the pistachio flour into the dark chocolate and then coating the truffle to see if that made it taste different (it didn’t, but I’m no connoisseur). Lastly, I tried melting sugar until medium brown, dribbling it over the truffle, letting it harden, and then dribbling the chocolate-pistachio flour on top of that and sprinkling a few flakes of salt. That was really different and really good …probably my favorite. However, I kind of ruined them by refrigerating them all. I did not know that if you refrigerate a dry caramel it goes back to a liquid state. At least it did in this instance. So, the dry caramel “melted” off the truffles and made little puddles around each one. Interestingly, the dry caramel that was coated with the chocolate-pistachio flour stayed put. I really liked the crunch it added. Of course, the salt made it good too and was an excellent counter-point to the additional sugar.
What I meant to do, and forgot, was to sprinkle each one with some amchur powder. I have some that came with a variety pack of Indian Spices. I never knew what it was until recently. Turns out it is made from dried unripe green mangoes. It has a rather sour taste—not surprising since the mangoes would have been sour if eaten instead of turned into powder. However, the truffles tasted great without it and it would not have gone well with the sea salt, in my opinion.
It has been a fun little journey back into the world of sweets. I learned that if flavors are complex and have depth to them, eating a small amount really is enough. The advice many have given that having a small amount of a quality dessert (like a square of dark chocolate) should satisfy any craving, had never worked for me in the past. Now, I find that that can be possible for me, and it is a little freeing. Also, the freezer solution helps!