Oh yes, this no churn vegan and gluten free ice cream is creamy, sweet and coconutty, and flecked with dark and bittersweet biscuitty bits.
I was eating some ordinary cookies and cream ice cream a while ago and noticed how coconutty it is. Which got me to thinking about how those flavours could be replicated in a healthier and vegan version. Because really, who doesn't love cookies and cream icecream? And why should anyone miss out?
This recipe has taken a little bit of experimentation but I'm pleased to say the final result is creamy, sweet and coconutty, and flecked with dark and bittersweet biscuitty bits. It passed the test with my big girl after a little refinement too. She says it doesn't taste exactly 100 per cent identical, but that it's pretty close and she loves it. I agree.
The cookie crumb is made with a simple mix of oat flour, ground almonds, cocoa, a little sugar and non-dairy butter or coconut oil. I rubbed it together with my fingers, then baked it for 10 minutes. Super easy.
The ice cream is is made with whipped aquafaba, brown rice syrup, coconut cream and vanilla. Now if you're saying to yourself, aquawhat? Fear not.
Aquafaba is a miracle ingredient that's been having a bit of a moment for the last year or so. It's the cooking liquid from chickpeas (the liquid that you'd normally drain and tip down the sink after opening a can of chickpeas). This liquid looks and acts a lot like egg whites - it's whippable (think meringues, mousse, mayonnaise), works as a binder in baking and also provides a very pleasing but hard to put your finger on mouthfeel that's essential to a good creamy icecream.
I've done a bit of experimentation with aquafaba, both successful and not. If you're interested in heading down that particular rabbit hole, then I'll point you in the direction of Goose Wohlt's blog: Goose's Vegan Cookery, a very active Facebook group titled Vegan Meringue - Hits and Misses! and the official Aquafaba website.
Now back to the recipe.
I began this journey with a standard aquafaba meringue mixture - liquid from a can of chickpeas, whipped with lots of white sugar and a bit of vanilla paste.
I then added the thick part from a can of coconut cream and watched my mixture flop. Aquafaba doesn't play nicely with fats, and well, coconut cream...
Turns out it really didn't matter though. I froze it anyway and the texture was great! The aquafaba seems to stop the coconut cream from freezing so solidly (as does the sugar) which means the final result remains quite scoopable. All that sugar though. It was too much. Even my daughter wouldn't eat it and how many seven year olds think ANYTHING is too sweet.
Enter brown rice syrup. Given that we're not making meringues, and the mixture flops in the end anyway, mildly sweet and lower GI brown rice syrup is a perfect candidate here. I used 6 tablespoons in the end, tasting as I went until the aquafaba foam was sweet but not too sweet.
I added the coconut cream, watched my mixture flop again (so sad), stirred through my crumbs and whacked it in the freezer overnight. And awoke to sweet success. The resulting ice cream is dreamy and not too sweet, and incredibly similar to ordinary dairy-based cookies and cream ice cream.
To be honest, I'm wondering if the aquafaba whipping even needs to happen at all - given the 'fat flop' that happens at the end. But it still seems a good idea to get as much lightness in there as possible and it's not exactly hard work if you're using an electric beater.
I tried the crumb using a dairy free butter (Nuttelex) and again using coconut oil. Both versions work well so just use what you have and prefer. The Nuttelex crumbs clumped better and held together a bit better, while on the other hand the coconut oil crumbs were a little finer and the taste of the coconut oil is totally neutral in this context. If you use coconut oil I recommend putting the cooled crumbs in the fridge for an hour to firm up before stirring them into the ice cream mixture.
For the cookie crumbs:
- ¼ cup ground almonds (almond meal)
- ¼ cup oat flour (I made my own by putting rolled oats in the blender, check label if gluten free)
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp dairy free spread or coconut oil (whichever you prefer)
For the ice cream:
- 1 ½ cups aquafaba liquid from one can of chickpeas
- 6 tbsp brown rice syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 can coconut cream (full fat, chilled overnight in the fridge)
For the cookie crumbs:
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F) fan bake.
- Put all ingredients into a baking dish and use your fingers to rub together until everything is well mixed and clumpy. Spread evenly (but ensure there are plenty of clumpy bits).
- Bake for 5 minutes, give it a stir, then bake for another 5 minutes. If your oven tends to cook hot, then keep a close eye on the crumbs as they can burn easily.
- Remove from oven and leave to cool at room temperature (this won't take long - maybe half an hour). If you used coconut oil, put the crumbs in the fridge for another hour to firm up.
For the ice cream:
- Open your can of coconut cream and carefully spoon out the thick part into another dish so that it's ready when you need it. Well chilled coconut cream will separate into a thin clearish liquid, and the very thick coconut cream. If it's all liquid when you open the can, put it back in the fridge until thick enough to separate. Use the thin liquid in a smoothie so it doesn't go to waste.
- Start the aquafaba with a perfectly clean mixing bowl. Add the aquafaba and whip it with an electric beater. It will take longer than egg whites, but after about 10 minutes you'll have stiff peaks. Once it's reached the stiff peak stage, whip in the vanilla paste, then slowly add the brown rice syrup while continuously whipping.
- Add the coconut cream and continue to whip for a minute or two. The mixture will deflate and become a lot more liquid. Don't worry!
- Add the cookie crumbs and quickly stir through (you don't want them to break up too much).
- Pour the mixture into a loaf tin, cover and freeze overnight.
- Remove from the freezer five minutes before serving.