Thursday, July 24, 2014

Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream

It's gotten hot around here, so more ice cream is in order. Strawberries are a bit of an obsession of mine, though I don't really eat much strawberry ice cream. Growing up, I only really ate it when we had the neapolitan variety in the freezer. Chocolate and vanilla were always around, but I would eat neapolitan and think, why don't I eat more strawberry ice cream?

Until a few years ago, strawberry balsamic ice cream was considered one of those boutique and unusual flavor combinations. Now it seems to be a staple at places like Molly Moon's. I didn't love it at first, but it's grown on me. The balsamic in this recipe is somewhat subtle, so if you really want to taste it, feel free to add a little more.

Do not use the light (or, maddeningly, "lite") variety of coconut milk. It'll leave you with weak, thin ice cream. It's also a big ripoff because it's 95% water. Full-fat coconut milk sounds like a dieter's nightmare, but remember: we're making ice cream, which isn't exactly diet food to begin with.

1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 cups non-dairy milk (almond or soy works best)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp evaporated cane sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
1 1/2 tbsp water
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, combine the 3/4 cup of sugar with both milks, stirring to combine. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. When it starts boiling, reduce the heat and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let it cool.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cornstarch. Add the strawberries and water and cook over medium heat, until the strawberries are soft and starting to break down, about 5 minutes. Use a potato masher to crush the strawberries until they're mostly smooth (a little chunkiness is fine). Stir in the balsamic vinegar and set the pan aside to cool.

Process the ice cream base mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. While this is happening, gather your strawberries and ice cream container together, along with a silicone spatula. Now you're ready to assemble your ice cream.

Pour 1/3 of the ice cream base into the container, followed by half of the strawberry mixture. Repeat again, ending with the last 1/3 of the ice cream base. Take your spatula or a butter knife and swirl it gently through to mix the two together. I ended up stirring it all together, but you can get artsy with it if you want.

Freeze it for at least 3 hours before serving. It tends to freeze a little hard, so set it out on the counter for about 5 minutes or so before you plan to start scooping.