Hannah Kaminsky, a baker after my own heart, has done it again with her new book, Vegan A La Mode. Mind you, I care nothing about her fabulous treats being vegan, since I am not afflicted with any of those restrictions, dietary, ideological or otherwise. I make her desserts over and over again only for one reason: With flavors and textures as seductive as the ones Hannah puts together, the absence of butter, eggs or cream goes totally unnoticed, and better yet, totally unlamented! The immediate reward they deliver, beside being outrageous, is they are much leaner and much healthier: In short, quite affordable! Dear vegan friends, I trust you won’t mind sharing your treats with the rest of us omnivorous commoners!
Being something of a rebel myself when tinkering in my own kitchen, I am not flabbergasted, in fact I am delighted, when someone else – Hannah – experiments tirelessly with desserts starring improbable stuff we are often still trying to sell to the public as, well, nourishment. So is the way to get you to eat – maybe even, G-d forbid, fall in love with – the beleaguered beets, pumpkin, beans, leaves, oatmeal and whatnot, to bravely venture on the less-traveled culinary road, and sneak them into desserts, churn, freeze and pray? After tasting these improbable combinations, you will agree with me: No problem! Consider some of Hannah’s New Age ice cream flavors called Oatmeal Raisin, Bloody Mary, Green Smoothie (with kale!), Salt and Pepper Sunflower, Beet Marmalade, Brandied Yam, Cucumber-Melon.
Hannah’s pictures, spread out generously throughout her books (each dessert is photographed), with none other than herself as the one-woman-show all-at-once mad food chemist, food stylist and photographer, are nothing short of stunning. So glad I can’t eat the paper: thank goodness for small blessings!!
Vegan a la Mode starts with a useful chapter on ingredients and tools, and ends with a chapter on luscious ice cream toppings, sauces and accompaniments.
Excerpted from Hannah’s book.
Black Pearl Ice Cream
Discovering this unusual Asian-inspired flavor combination was pure serendipity, but ever since trying it once, I can’t seem to get it out of my head. The way that ginger and wasabi brighten up a dry, dark chocolate is a sensational pairing in itself, but it’s the sesame seeds that are the real star here.
2 3/4 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Cup Toasted Black Sesame Seeds
2 Tablespoons Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Wasabi Paste
1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Instant Coffee Powder
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
Pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper (Optional)
2 Ounces (1/3 Cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
If you have a high-speed blender, you can just toss everything in, except for the chocolate chips, and let it go. Puree for 1 – 2 minutes on high, until completely smooth. Otherwise, if using a regular blender, place the black sesame seeds in the blender first, and grind them down to a fine powder, pausing to scrape down the sides of the canister as needed. Then you can go ahead and add the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate, blending thoroughly until smooth. Pass the mixture through a strainer to ensure a silky texture.
Pour the contents of your blender into a medium saucepan and set over moderate heat. Whisk occasionally until the ice cream base has just begun to boil and has thickened significantly. This custard turns out a bit thicker than most, so you need to stay very close by at all times, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and burning. Remove from the heat and add in the chocolate, stirring continuously until it has melted from the residual heat. Cool completely.
Chill thoroughly before churning in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an air-tight container and freeze solidly for at least 3 hours before serving.
Makes About 1 Quart
PS: No Ice Cream Maker? No problem! Here’s what Hannah recommends:
The Granita Method: A traditional Italian method of making fruit-based ices much like instant snow cones, this method creates dessert with larger, crunchy ice crystals. That same idea can be used with an ice cream base, and naturally yield smoother, creamier results. Simply prepare your ice cream recipe of choice as directed, and chill thoroughly. Pour out the cold mixture into a baking dish. The exact size is not important, as long as it can fit comfortably in your freezer on a flat surface. Don’t chance it and try to balance the pan on top of a number of unequally sized items; trust me, it’s a pain to clean melted and re-frozen liquids from inside a freezer! Simply bear in mind that the larger the pan, the greater surface space the base will have, and the faster it will freeze.
Place your baking dish filled with liquid ice cream base in the freezer, and let it sit for 30 – 45 minutes. At this point, it should begin to freeze around the edges. Take a fork and scrape up those ice crystals into the center. Place it back in the freezer, and repeat this process every 30 minutes or so until the entire contents of the pan has frozen; approximately 2 – 3 hours, depending on the temperature of the freezer and size of the pan. When ready, spoon into glasses and serve immediately, or it will ultimately freeze solidly into once piece.