Were I forced, for some cruel reason, to choose only one dessert as my absolute favorite, ice cream and caramel would battle it out Thunderdome-style, with ice cream just barely emerging the victor. It’s my go-to for any celebration, but especially for birthdays, which I celebrated just this past weekend. I would much rather have ice cream than cake – and “ice cream cake” while great in theory, has always been kind of a bummer in reality. (A cake made entirely of ice cream, though, I could get behind that.)
Now that I live in Portland, I have the joy of access to Salt & Straw, which is hands-down the greatest ice cream I have ever consumed. Sometimes referred to as “boutique” ice cream, they specialize in daring flavors like arbequina olive oil, pear with bleu cheese and even bone marrow, as well as more conventional (but still bold) flavor combinations like coffee and bourbon or sea salt with caramel ribbon (the last of which is, of course the ultimate experience for me). Naturally, this was my birthday dessert destination. Along with the usual single or double scoop, cup, cone or sundae options, one can also order a flight of four flavors. I chose sea salt & caramel (as per every single time), cinnamon snickerdoodle, almond brittle with salted ganache, and another favorite, the strawberry, balsamic vinegar, honey, and cracked pepper.
[I’m suddenly realizing all this effusively descriptive drooling is coming off like an ad for Salt & Straw. This is actually not a sponsored post, believe it or not.]
Anyway, here I am with my goofy five-year-old and my flight (note that the sea salt and caramel is already GONE):
As the reunion with my beloved Stuff continues, the next big project was going to have to be an attempt to approximate the glory that is the strawberry, honey, balsamic and cracked pepper ice cream – only in coconut milk form, and without refined cane sugar. I busted out the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment, and whipped up my variation on this theme. I decided to omit the cracked pepper, much as I enjoy it in the original source material, since adding coconut into the mix is already changing the flavor harmonies up quite a bit.
Result? Pretty amazing, if I daresay. If you’re an ice cream lover with a ken for the bold, yet you prefer to avoid or reduce your dairy, give this a whirl.
STRAWBERRY, HONEY & BALSAMIC COCONUT MILK ICE CREAM
3/4 cup honey, divided
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, quartered
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
4 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine 1/4 cup of the honey with the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until honey is completely dissolved. Add strawberries and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until strawberries start to soften. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. If you’re not going to complete the whole recipe at once, you can complete this step and then strain the berries, keeping them and the balsamic and honey mixture separately in the fridge.
Heat water in a small saucepan and set a metal bowl on top (or just use a double boiler set if you’re so equipped); make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Add coconut milk and whisk until smooth as it heats up (heat to hot but not boiling). Once it’s hot, add about 1/4 cup of the coconut milk to the egg yolks and whisk vigorously, then add another 1/4 cup or two, whisking to incorporate the coconut milk thoroughly each time. The slow introduction of the milk (the technique known as tempering) is to prevent the eggs from overcooking or scrambling.
Once you’ve transferred about half the coconut milk into the egg mix, pour it all back into the metal bowl and whisk continuously for another 5-10 minutes, until the custard starts to thicken. It won’t be as thick as, say, a pudding, but you’ll definitely notice it gradually becoming more substantial.
Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining honey and the salt. Transfer to the fridge and let it cool before you add it to your ice cream maker; maybe an hour or so.
From there, you’re mostly following whatever the manufacturer’s instructions on your home machine advise. Towards the end of the churning process, add the strawberries and then drizzle in just about 1/4 cup of the reserved balsamic (you may have some leftover – throw it in some dressing). Freeze in a pint container for several hours.
— posted by Anne