Oh! Happy day when I get to share my love of all things coconut.
This quick and easy coconut ice cream is as simple as open, pour, stir, blend, chill, churn and devour. As long as you can use a can opener, you can be chowing down on fresh vegan coconut ice cream in a matter of hours. Perfect for those of you who have written to me bemoaning the fact that you will never crack open a coconut! The only trouble with this ice cream is learning how to stop at one scoop! It is absolutely delicious.
I was first introduced Thai coconut ice cream on a school trip to Thailand as a teenager. We were touring around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and sampled some of the most exquisite food I have had to this day. Simple, fresh, rustic and absolutely bursting with complex flavours. I have had a sense memory of this taste sensation that has stayed with me forever and still sends me into a saliva spin! My fondest culinary memory is still the rustic churned coconut ice cream that came wrapped in a banana leaf covered with crushed peanuts. Oh My! The minute that coconut laden spoon hit my lips it was love at first bite. I was in coconut heaven ready to “coat check” my teeth and swear off solids for life. That might just be the moment The Blender Girl was born!
Rustic Thai coconut ice cream is devoured by many a Thai foodie on a hot Summer’s night in small towns all over Thailand’s north country. They serve it garnished with chopped peanuts or inside Thai ice cream sandwiches (coconut ice cream, sweet rice and peanuts squashed between two fluffy pieces of white bread). Oh My! One bite of this delicious toxic treat (I swear they put cocaine in it) and my gluten free considerations become a distant memory as I surrender to the coconut carb pleasure chest.
The Thai cooks keep this vegan coconut ice cream really simple with unsweetened coconut, sugar and salt; and whilst it tastes wonderful like this in Thailand, we just don’t have access to the same quality of fresh coconut in the West as those blessed in coconut-rich Asia. So I jazz it up just a little in order to achieve a depth of flavour that matches my Thai dreams. Fresh coconut milk is widely available all over South East Asia, Polynesia, the Carribbean, and Hawaii. Fresh coconut milk is made by squeezing grated coconut milk through cheesecloths. Two grades of fresh coconut milk are available in Asia -- thick coconut milk and thin coconut milk. Thick coconut is the product of the first press. This press has a thick, paste like consistency closer to coconut cream and is traditionally used for desserts, ice creams and sauces. Thin coconut milk is made by soaking the fresh pressed coconut in warm water and squeezing it a second and third time. Thin coconut milk has a much higher water content and is more suitable for use in smoothies, drinks, curries and stews.
In the West, we generally purchase coconut cream and coconut milk in cans. Coconut cream just contains less added water. Typically, the coconut cream and milk we purchase is a combination of thick and thin coconut milk with thickening agents, stabilizers and water added. I like to make my own coconut milk using fresh raw coconut meat and coconut water. When I purchase coconut milk in cans, I always purchase 100% pure coconut cream, which is just fresh coconut kernel extract. Ayam is a wonderful commercial brand that is widely available. There are some other brands that are just a mixture of organic coconut and filtered water. A lot of coconut milks contain guar gum as a thickener and stabilizer. This is fine, but just remember that guar gum is widely known to have a laxative affect on some people. I always purchase regular coconut milk to make ice cream. I find the “light” varieties are too thin and watery.
One really important thing about making coconut ice cream -- the base must be really well chilled before churning in the ice cream maker or the ice cream will be too soft and slushy. It is still scrumptious, but will not resemble the expectations of traditional ice cream connoisseurs. Try and chill it for a minimum of three or four hours. Overnight is preferable for the best results. Even then, I find that the ice cream never gets to a consistency beyond that of frozen yoghurt in the machine. I like to transfer the ice cream into the freezer for a few hours to solidify it a bit more before serving. Well, I say that in theory! There have been many instances when the batch has not made it any further than ice cream carriage to my greedy gob!
I like to add natural coconut flavouring in order to accent the coconut flavour. But it is also wonderful with pure vanilla extract. It is all a matter of personal preference. You could also add in more shredded coconut if you prefer a crunchier texture. You can also add in cacao powder or fruit to the mix too. But I like it just like this!
Until I can get back to Thailand, I will close my eyes and transport myself to Thailand with every bite of this ice dream! Oh My! How did man survive before the first coconut was cracked? It just baffles me!