Start of summer: check.
Cheap-o ice cream maker: check.
Collection of vegan ice cream recipes ranging from “vanilla” to “seaweed”: check.
By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of Wheeler Del Torro, the mysterious man behind Wheeler’s Black Label Vegan Ice Cream, based in Boston. I reviewed some of his flavors here last year and was super excited to see that he was sharing his secrets to homemade ice cream greatness.
Wheeler learned his craft from a high school girlfriend’s grandmother in France and perfected it upon returning to the United States. Though he wasn’t vegan until a bet he made with an incredibly unhealthy boss, Wheeler was able to adapt what he had learned about making ice cream to his new vegan diet. Before long, he was making vegan Cristal ice cream with gold flecks for Alan Iverson that cost thousands of dollars.
While that recipe doesn’t appear in the book, there’s still quite a variety. The Vegan Scoop is divided into nine sections:
- Classic Flavors (Vanilla, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Black Raspberry, Caramel)
- Fruity Flavors (Blueberry, Plum, Date)
- Healthy Flavors (Cinnamon Ginkgo, Yam, Orange Dragon Fruit)
- Asian Flavors (Black Sesame, Thai Chile Chocolate, Seaweed)
- Caribbean and Island Flavors (Orange Passion Fruit, Ginger Beer Sorbet, Ginger Lychee)
- Novelty Flavors (Peanut Butter Cucumber (no, I didn’t miss a comma in there), S’more, New York Irish Cream, Jalapeño)
- Aphrodisiacal Flavors (Lavender, Rose Water, Pumpkin and Oats)
- Ice Cream Vessels and Sauces
- Ice Cream Sides and Desserts
In addition, there’s a very helpful introductory chapter on how to construct your own unique flavors in case you’ve been itching to try a Basil Carob Rhubarb ice cream.
A true measure of a cookbook is in how often it gets used. The fact we’ve made six quarts of ice cream in the last month-and-a-half should give some indication of how much we’re digging the book around here thusfar. Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve made:
Vanilla – I used Mimicreme instead of a soy-based creamer which resulted in a very, very creamy rich ice cream, but definitely not classic vanilla in flavor. It had that nuttiness that some may or may not appreciate. Next time: soy creamer, as recommended.
Rocky Road – This was our favorite. Made with Sweet & Sara marshmallows, the Rocky Road was nothing short of amazing. It lasted the shortest time in our fridge. Creamy, chocolatey, nutty, and just delicious.
Mint Chocolate Chip – My all-time favorite flavor is done justice here. The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 T. of peppermint extract, which is enough mint to singe your eyebrows. Cut it back to 1 T. for near-perfect results.
Apple Pie – The least orthodox of the ones I tried, the apple pie ice cream really is just that: apple pie in ice cream form. Though it took twice as long as the instructions said to prep the apples, the end result was quite intriguing: just enough apple and cinnamon to not be overwhelming, yet distinctive enough to stand out. I liked it.
Key Lime-Strawberry – This was our first attempt and was far, far better than the commercially available key lime soy ice cream. It packs a punch, but isn’t overly sour. Great stuff.
Other flavors I’m most looking forward to trying: Wasabi, Pomegranate-Grapefruit, Vanilla Saffron, Green Tea, Peanut Butter and Flaxseed, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.
The recipes themselves are straightforward and follow a simple formula. It should be noted, however, that you need to plan ahead. You’ll need to freeze the ice cream maker bowl the night before and start making your ice cream about six hours before you’ll want to eat it. (Ice cream makers are cheap – I got this one a few years ago for a mere $20. There are some alternative solutions on Wheeler’s site if you don’t have space for a dedicated ice cream maker.)
There are only two notable criticisms that I offer about The Vegan Scoop. First, the recipes all call for vanilla extract rather than vanilla beans. While that makes sense when you realize that a single vanilla bean can cost you $9 in your local grocery store, here’s a secret: you can get 60 quality vanilla beans for $14 on eBay. For that reason, it would have been nice to have the option to use actual beans in place of the extract. I found a suitable substitution online: for each teaspoon of extract, use one inch of vanilla bean. Most of the recipes here use a tablespoon of extract, so one 3” long vanilla bean does the trick. Drop the full bean into the milk/cream mixture while it heats. When the mixture is done heating, remove the bean, slice it down the center, scrape out the vanilla paste inside and add the paste back into the milk/cream mixture. I confirmed this method with Wheeler and local vegan cooking teacher Mimi Clark.
My other nitpick is the subtitle of the book: “150 Recipes for Dairy-Free Ice Cream That Tastes Better Than the ‘Real’ Thing.” I’ve gotten to the point that I dislike when a non-vegan version of a food is called “real,” implying that a veganized version is somehow fake or less real. Minor nitpick, I realize, but I think language is important when presenting veganism to a mainstream audience.
All told, Wheeler Del Torro’s The Vegan Scoop is a big win for those looking to put that ice cream maker to good use. You won’t grow tired of the options and the old favorites will be new again. And, honestly, you may not buy another store-bought ice cream again.
(If you’re avoiding soy, you can substitute other milks in these recipes. If you prefer cashew-based ice creams, Vice Cream is worth checking out.)