OMG! My life has changed. Yep.

I’ve always wondered if homemade vegan ice cream could really be different than store-bought. There have been recipes on the internet for some time but I never really took them seriously until Hannah wrote her book, Vegan a la Mode, which is essentially, a Vegan Ice Cream 101 for beginners but with fancy-ass flavors so you don’t look like a beginner.

Now granted, I haven’t tried all the recipes in the book but the strawberry ice cream (I left out the lemon curd so that The Husband would try it) has caused me to rethink ice cream. No longer am I limited to vanilla, chocolate, or green tea flavors in the freezer section of the grocery. I can make Hannah’s version of Moose Tracks (she calls it Mouse Tracks which is just friggin’ adorable ;-), the various fruity recipes, or the exotic ones that she’s developed (chocolate-cabernet, bloody Mary, black pearl, Pfeffernusse, blood orange, peach melba, pear cider, the list goes on, there’s even a recipe for the pooch: pupcicles).

“Somebody” got up in the middle of the night and scooped out all but the courtesy corner crumbs before I was able to get a decent “scoop shot” this morning. So please forgive the messy scoop job. Next time, I’ll shoot before folks steal the goods.

Homemade is really all about fresh ingredients. Using fresh strawberries in Hannah’s recipe is clearly evident in the resulting taste. By controlling the ingredients yourself, you’re in charge of not only flavor but also any ingredients that may give you a belly ache. I know I’ve tried a couple brands of vegan ice cream that kept me up at night.

Plus homemade ice cream hasn’t been sitting in a store freezer for an unknown amount of time and it hasn’t melted while waiting on the loading dock. That melting process can ruin ice cream before it even gets to your local Whole Foods. I’ve even made it a practice to squeeze the little tubs in the store to seek out potential empty areas where melted ice cream pulled away from the container. A dead giveaway that you’re about to buy crystal chunks rather than a creamy dessert.

If you’re looking for a cookbook with a great reference section for vegan ingredients and explanations on what does what and how, get Hannah’s book. You get all the how-to answers to help newbies like me, great recipes ranging from regular flavors like French Vanilla to super exotic stuff I can’t pronounce, and a section in back with toppings recipes.

And if you’re really like me and aren’t sure if you want to invest in an ice cream maker without trying to make ice cream first, try getting one via Freecycle. That’s what I did and I ended up with a snazzy little 2-pint Donvier which works perfectly.

Donvier has mastered the craft of tiny ice cream makers. This is a perfect size if you don’t want to make a whole gallon or are testing lots of flavors. It has a metal chill-pack liner that you keep in the freezer until ready, then put it in the plastic tub, fill with your glob, then turn the handle a few times every 2 or 3 minutes. The frozen drum does all the work by freezing the glob that touches its surface and the crank mixes it together and breaks up the crystals every two minutes so in about 20 minutes, you have soft serve consistency.

Yeah, I gotta crank it but seriously, I don’t break a sweat. And you know how I am about too much exercise ;-] Seriously, crank it 3 or 4 turns, do dishes for 2 minutes, crank it again, flip the pancakes or make coffee, crank it again…you can work it into your kitchen routine. Twenty minutes later, you’ve got a stiff soft serve consistency that you scoop into a tub and put in the freezer. Remember, if you let it get too hard in the Donvier, you won’t be able to turn the handle.

I’ve heard of other folks using a Cuisinart model but I’m not sure which one that would be. If you have a preference for an ice cream maker, feel free to list it in the comments.

So now stop your belly aching about the summer heat and get cranking! And if you see a fat old lady squeezing pins of vegan ice cream in your local Whole Foods, leave me alone will ya? ;-p My Donvier must be broken.

Disclosure: No, Hannah did not give me her book for free to review. I did this all on my very own, all by myself. And  no, I’m not an Amazon affiliate dagnabit cuz I live in Illinois which hates Amazon and won’t allow affiliates to live here. Stoopid state.

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite confections are from Allison’s Gourmet. Allison has mastered the art of making vegan caramels, brittle, toffee, truffles, cookies, fudge, bark candy and more. And you know how hard it is to find really great confectionary treats that are vegan, fair trade and organic. Yeah, there are a lot of chocolate bars in the stores but not a lot of gift-worthy, high-end goodies that you can be confident sending to loved ones or business associates while still being able to sleep at night.

Her treats are so good they’re our preferred holiday gift for clients 2 years running. And of course, they work for employee bonuses as well, not to mention Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc. And now you can enter to win a $20 gift certificate toward anything in Allison’s Gourmet Store. Yep, just read further.

The mastermind that is Allison.

If you haven’t heard about Allison’s Gourmet confections before, you may have seen Allison’s recipes in VegNews magazine. Same chic, same dogged dedication to veganizing great classics whether they’re for dinner or treats.

Gena at Choosing Raw wrote a great backgrounder on Allison and yeah, it totally makes me look like a lazy pixel pushing schmuck. But hey, if we don’t have people like Allison to look up to as heroes, we’d all just be a bunch of aimless mouse potatoes and then were would the world be?

Toffee, caramels, truffles, cookies, how will you choose?

My personal favorites always lean toward the caramels, toffees and brittle. She even has salted, salted chocolate, and chipotle caramels along with traditional vanilla. Lots of varieties of toffee and brittle too.

If you lust after chocolate truffles, Allison just launched a new palette of flavors this month! I did order a box for my own personal employee bonus this year and they are indeed silky, flavorful and very decadent.

And let’s not forget the cookies, brownies, fudge and other delectibles. We received a gift box of the cookies yesterday at work and I am totally hooked on the Butterscotch Pecan even though it was a limited edition. So the next time that flavor swings around on the seasonal schedule, be sure to snag some.

We have a winner! Congrats Meryl!

Random Number Generator select Meryl from among the entries submitted prior to 9am today, Chicago time (per the contest rules). Congratulations Meryl!

Is your mouth watering yet? So enter the contest already!

Allison is providing one lucky Snarky Vegan reader a $20 gift certificate for anything from her online store. I will announce the winner on December 23rd so you can choose to give the gift certificate as a stocking stuffer (printable pdf certificate), keep it for yourself or use it for New Years or some future special event.

I’ll make this very simple: you can enter up to 6 times in the pool to win a $20 gift certificate from Allison’s by leaving a separate comment for each of the following:

  1. Look through Allison’s Gourmet store and leave a comment with what you’d like to buy from her gourmet shop.
  2. Leave a second comment if you care to divulge how you intend to use the giveaway.
  3. Tweet about this giveaway using this bit: “Enter @SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  4. Either like Allison’s on Facebook or post about this giveaway on your wall: “Enter SnarkyVegan’s contest to win a $20 gift certificate @allisonsgourmet for vegan truffles, toffee, caramels! http://wp.me/pdVnX-Dg”
  5. Follow Allison’s on Twitter.
  6. Follow SnarkyVegan on Twitter.

Deadline for your comments is 9:00 am December 23, 2011. Drawing will be among comments left prior to 9:00 am CST (Chicago Standard Time ;-) I will send out the gift certificate immediately but you MUST ENTER WITH YOUR CORRECT EMAIL ADDRESS when leaving a comment.

US residents only, sorry.

Legal disclaimer: Yes, I know Allison, I order her goodies for our clients at work and no, she’s never given me anything for free or in return for my patronage. I just think she’s an awesome happy person whose groovy vibe rubs off on everyone she meets. And I’m a whore for supreme toffee to go with my single malt.

When the summer heatwave rolls through Chicago, all most of us can think about is staying indoors with the AC cranked up. This year has been no exception. The heat index on Wednesday of this week was expected to reach 115F! It can also be torturous to bake in your kitchen on days like that. So rather than cranking up the oven to make chocolate chip cookies, I decided to use DH’s car as a solar oven.

But really, any car will do. Your Prius works just as well as an eco-terrorizing Hummer. The key here is to have 3+ hours of 95F as your external temperature. And I suppose non-tinted windows would help your car reach the heat neccessary to actually bake cookies.

It was touch and go there at the beginning because some clouds moved over the sun. That brought the temperature inside the car down to 130F. You need the temperature inside the car to be at 180F or higher.

What you need:

  • Sunny day with temperature of 95F or higher for at least 3 hours.
  • Car with windows that close up tight.
  • Place to park the car so sun reaches the windshield for the duration of baking time.
  • Baking sheets covered in aluminum foil.
  • Towels.
  • Potholders.
  • Eggless and dairy-free dough.
  • Thermometer.

Steps:

  1. Check the hourly forecast to ensure you’re going to have at least 3 hours of 95F + heat.
  2. Park your car so the windshield is facing the sun for the duration of baking. Take nearby trees into consideration. Close it up to pre-heat while preparing the dough.
  3. Pick a recipe that does not contain eggs or milk. The car won’t get hot enough to make non-vegan dough safe to eat. There are a lot of vegan cookie recipes you can search for via Google. The recipe I used was Garrick’s Chocolate Chip cookies on page 215 of Kelly Peloza’s cookbook, The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur.
  4. Foil your baking sheets with the shiny side up to reflect more heat.
  5. Cover your dashboard with towels in case something melts off the baking sheets.
  6. Position an oven thermometer on the dash so you can monitor the temperature by looking through the window. You’re shooting for 3 hours of 180F inside the car. Mine only reached 160F so I think the Yaris’ windshield may have some sort of coating on it to cut down on heat. So I left my batch of cookies in an hour longer than normal.
  7. Place the cookie sheet, loaded with dough, on the dash. Close the doors and start timing. At 1 hour, the cookies will be flattening. At 2 hours, they’ll look very flat and smooth. At 3 hours, you can pretty much tell through the windshield if the cookies are close to done. Chocolate chips will start poking through the dough, deforming the smooth surface. You can open the door and test a cookie by pressing the center gently with your thumb. If it’s firm, and a spatula lifts them easily, they’re done.
  8. Using potholders, remove the trays to your kitchen, setting them on trivets to cool. I kid you not, these trays will burn your hands. Use the same precaution you’d use removing trays from your kitchen oven.

Upside:

  • free energy
  • eco-friendly
  • easy
  • car smells wonderful
  • conversation starter among co-workers and neighbors
  • crispy edges and chewy centers
  • no way to burn the cookies

Downside:

  • not a totally crunchy cookie but great for softer cookies
  • not hot enough to caramelize sugars in cookies
  • takes a while
So no more belly aching about the weather, eh? Let’s get baking!

Maybe I’m the last to notice but Turtle Mountain now has their fabulous pomegranate chip flavor available in both regular soy and coconut ice creams. I’ve always been a huge fan of the pomegranate chip soy ice cream but stopped buying it due to intestinal issues that arise when eaten. So I was extremely elated that they now offered the same flavor in coconut milk ice cream. I like the other coconut milk ice cream flavors so this was sure to be a great combination.

Even if it did cost more than $1 more per pint.

To determine if it was going to match up to the great flavor of the soy option, I bought one of each to compare. After all, making a semi-regular habit of something that’s $1 more per pint is worth investigating first, doncha think?

In the left corner we have regular and in the right, made with coconut milk.

The first thing I noticed when opening both containers is that the coconut (on the right in the photo below) appeared to have melted at some point during shipping. Since I brought them both home in the same bag, same car, same number of miles, I concluded that either it melted during its trek from factory to store or it simply melts faster than the soy.

Yes, there is a color difference between the two but don't get hung up on food coloring.

To test this conclusion I spooned up 2 dips of each in their own bowls, set them on the same kitchen counter under the same lights. Interestingly, the soy melts faster at room temperature. So this would seem to mean that somewhere between the factory and Whole Foods, the coconut version was partially melted and refrozen.

Does this matter?

Maybe. I’ve had other ice creams that when refrozen after melting became separated into crystals and flavorings and are then just about the most disgusting thing ever (next to tapioca but don’t get me started on that). I did notice a slightly powdery sensation in the coconut ice cream but there was no way to know if the melting and refreezing caused it or if that’s just part of the texture.

Soy ice cream close up. Notice it's already melting. A good sign in my book.

The coconut milk ice cream never did really melt. It just sorta got squishy.

But what about the danged flavor!

Yeah, well, that’s what it really boils down to right? Is the coconut really worth $1 more than the soy version of the same flavor? For this I wasn’t looking for a match in flavor, I was looking for something better. At least $1 better.

Overall, neither one sucked. BUT, the coconut version just did not have as strong a pomegranate flavor as the soy. Yes, the soy had more pronounced flavor. The coconut ice cream was much creamier but just not as flavorful.

Verdict?

If I buy the pomegranate flavor in the future, I will by it via the soy ice cream rather than the coconut milk ice cream. But only on days when DH isn’t home since it results in gastronomy ‘noises’.

So that should save me what? About $52 annually? Yeah, that’s about right.

Note: This is a comparison of only one Turtle Mountain flavor that crossed over into both their soy and coconut ice cream lines. No assumptions should be made for other flavors that crossover as they were not reviewed.

I know there are more caramel recipes on 2010’s Vegan MoFo, I just can’t find them at the moment. If you know of any, please leave a link in the comments and I’ll add to the list.

Thanks!

Earl Grey Salt Caramel Sauce

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Southern Comfort Caramel Apple Pie

Cream Cheese Caramel Sauce

Caramel Chocolate Popcorn Balls

April’s Caramel Apple Pie

Aunt Nicci’s Caramels

Salted Caramel

From Vegan MoFo 2008:

Caramel

 

Behold! The gooey-est, yummiest, chocolaty-est yellow cake ever!

I don’t know about you but I LOVE that classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting! If the yellow cake has that old-fashioned caramel flavor, all the better. I will sniff this stuff out at a vegan pot luck, huff it till I sneeze chocolate then hoard it, if possible. Yes I will.

I also have an old-fashioned love for boxed cake mixes. And my favorite dairy-free cake mix brand—BAR NONE— is Cherrybrook Kitchen®. They make the best boxed yellow cake mix I’ve had, including the old Duncan Hines from my childhood.

I also like to dress up my cakes beyond just the basic box mix. In this yellow cake, I added chocolate chips for melty goodness and sprinkled pecans on the icing while it was melting on the hot cake. I didn’t mess with trying to make a multi-layer or bundt cake. I just created a simple 9×13 cake. To do this, you will need two of the cake mix boxes and one of the frosting box shown here:

SnarkyVegan’s Outrageously Gooey Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Doodads

Cake:

  • 2 boxes of Cherrybrook Kitchen® yellow cake mix
  • 2/3 cup melted margarine (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1  1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 to 3/4 bag of chocolate chips as your melty doodad (use however many you want)

Frosting:

  • 1 box Cherrybrook Kitchen® chocolate frosting mix
  • 1 cups of softened margarine (2 sticks)
  • 2 T. soy or rice milk

More Doodads:

  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. You can use a mixer like they say on the box but a spoon works just fine.
  3. Pour batter into casserole dish and smooth to corners.
  4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. The box says 20 to 25 minutes but that’s for a small single layer. Since I used two boxes, it took a tad longer.
  5. While the cake is cooling, make the frosting by blending the frosting ingredients in a deep bowl on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape sides to get everything incorporated.
  6. Frost the cooled cake gently applying the frosting texture you want. If you like a more textured frosting, you can keep it in the fridge for a bit while the cake is cooling.
  7. Sprinkle lightly with chopped pecans.

What I did that wasn’t on the box: I wanted my frosting to be really melty and flat as if I poured it on so I applied the frosting while the cake was still very warm. I could see the frosting melting in the hot spots and it sort of smoothed out to a fairly even surface. Unfortunately, this meant I had to wait to cut it because all the frosting would run into the empty space left by the first piece. You have no idea how hard it was to wait.

NOTE: The box says not to use tub margarine and to not melt the margarine, only to soften the sticks at room temperature. I didn’t have any sticks so I went ahead and used Earth Balance tub margarine and it seemed to work just fine. Perhaps there are other margarines that don’t work well from the tub?

Cherrybrook Kitchen® also makes a ready-to-use vanilla frosting. But you’d be best not to waste time nor money on it cuz it sucks like Elmer’s glue. Not fluffy. Not frosting like. Weird funky taste. Looks strangely translucent. ICK.

BUT, their box mixes and box frostings are awesome. Stick to the boxed stuff and you can’t go wrong.

I thought about doing all kinds of extra things to the cake but seriously, yellow cake is pretty perfect by itself. I even considered making a caramel sauce to drizzle on the cake but the yellow cake is already so caramelly, I thought it would be overkill. And with the chocolate frosting? Well, I honestly doubt that you’ll be able to eat a second helping of this without going into a sugar …… comma ….

<1 hour later>

……what?

Wait!

How long have I been out?

OMG this was wonderful! Best apple crisp EVER and a CONTEST too! DH asked for apple crisp for his birthday and I finally created one where I measured everything. Yes, after 20 years of eyeballing apple crisps, I can finally share a recipe.

SnarkyVegan’s Cranberry Apple Crisp with Maple Syrup

  • 7—8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin (Granny Smiths are the classic but I used Honeycrisps and they were fine)
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1—2 c. frozen cranberries (depending on how much you like cranberries, I used 2 cups)

Filling:

  • 1 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. allspice
  • 1/4 t. cloves
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 2 T. water

Topping:

  • 2 c. raw oats
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. Earth Balance margarine
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  1. Peel, core and slice the apples and float in a bowl of water with lemon juice until ready with remainder of ingredients.
  2. Mix cornstarch and water in small cup and set aside.
  3. Mix remainder of filling ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is mostly dissolved.
  4. Add cornstarch mixture to saucepan and continue stirring until thoroughly blended. Really, all you’re doing here is giving it a head start as a syrup so it will coat the apples better before baking.
  5. Drain apples and mix with cranberries in a deep baking dish.
  6. Pour hot filling over apples and stir to coat.
  7. In medium bowl, cream together sugar, margarine and cinnamon. Add oats and pecans and continue creaming until crumbly.
  8. Crumble topping on top of apple mixture.
  9. Bake at 375° F for 45 – 60 minutes or until apples are translucent as shown below. If the topping starts to brown too much, cover with foil or a lid until complete.

TIP: I use a clear baking dish so I can keep an eye on the apples. Many recipes have shorter cooking times but I find that I prefer an apple that’s more like those gold jewel-like ones in TV dinners from the late 60’s. Remember those?

I really wouldn’t use any more cinnamon that noted above. I do have a tendency to overdo the cinnamon in general but too much will obscure the apple and maple flavors. In fact, I did try this with a full tablespoon of cinnamon and it was just too much. But do what you think you’ll like. Remember, most recipes are flexible.

Contest!

Earth Balance margarine really is THE margarine to use for baking. And I have in my grubby paws THREE coupons for free Earth Balance products! One product per coupon, expiration date of 03/31/11, you are responsible for taxes cuz afterall, the government gets theirs. I will conduct a random drawing for three winners on November 19, 9pm CST. All you gotta do to enter is one of the following:

  1. Follow me on Twitter @snarkyvegan and send me a tweet mentioning you’re a new follower for the EB drawing.
  2. Follow me on Facebook, same deal, send me a message mentioning you’re a new follower for the EB drawing.
  3. Leave a comment on this post with your own tip for making supreme apple crisp.

Yes, you may do all three and increase your chances of snagging a coupon. The coupons are good for any Earth Balance product including their really pricey nut butters! Don’t forget, if you want to snag a coupon, you gotta ensure I have a link back to you via email or your own blog/Twitter/Facebook accounts so I can notify you.

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