Cool and creamy coconut ice cream is the fountain of youth for me. It takes me back to a time when I was thin, tanned, and away from home for the very first time. It was 1985, and I was 17...
...and a senior in high school. I had been invited by my now-husband, but then-just-friend David, and his sister, Kim, to go to Puerto Rico for a month in January, presumably to study tropical island ecology. You see, their father, Fred, was a biology professor at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire and every winter he took a group of students to Isla de Mona, a very small island off the west coast of Puerto Rico, where they studied the plants and wildlife of the island for 3 weeks.
Now, picture yourself at 17. Would you rather spend January in snowy, sub-zero New England bundled up like the Michelin Man, or go with a group of college kids to a tropical island where everyone is wearing bathing suits and sleeping in tents literally just yards away from the Caribbean Sea? Yeah, tough call. Surprisingly, my parents were good with it and off I flew.
Ah, the stories I could tell you about that trip. BUT my mother reads this blog, so we'll stick to the tamer tales.
There was a lovely cruise on Phosphorescent Bay, where tiny organisms in the water glow when disturbed, so the wake of your boat glows and water dripping from your hands looks otherworldly. We also spent New Year's Eve dancing in the town square before heading to the island where we hiked, swam and fed saltines to the iguanas.
After 3 weeks on the remote island, we spent our last few days back in San Juan before flying home. During one sightseeing trip, we stopped on a corner where an older man was selling cups of coconut ice cream from a big trash can full of ice. The flavor was simply magnificent. Cold and creamy, it melted slowly in the heat of the day and was amazingly refreshing. I've never had such wonderful ice cream in my life, and that taste memory stays with me to this day. I have to say, this recipe is the closest thing I've had to that ice cream in over 25 years.
Stroll with me down my memory lane and make Coconut Ice Cream.
First, mix together the coconut milk powder and hot water. I know this is a lot of coconut milk powder for one recipe, but think of it like you would the cream cheese for a really decadent cheesecake, or the bottle of wine for a special celebration. It's not something you're going to buy every day, but when you do, it's OH so worth it.
Next, blend the secret ingredient into the cold heavy cream. Yes, it's pastry cream filling mix! It adds richness, creaminess, and a very satisfying mouth feel to any ice cream recipe. I think it helps thicken the ice cream base, too, and prevents the ice cream itself from melting into watery nothingness. I'm down on my knees a-beggin' you to give it a try. And that means a lot – I'm NOT 17 anymore. Getting up again may take awhile.
Combine the coconut “milk” with the pastry/ heavy cream. Add the sugar, coconut flavoring and shredded coconut, if using. Whisk until well blended. My hubby isn't a big fan of the texture of coconut, so I run this through the blender at this point to break up the pieces a bit.
Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight, until well chilled.
Set up your ice cream machine. I love my Cuisinart Ice Cream machine. Just freeze the core, then place it in the bucket. Add the dasher (the funky shaped plastic part that scrapes the sides and bottom) then the lid.
Turn on the machine and pour in the cold base. It's important to turn the machine on first so that the cold base doesn't freeze in a lump and make it impossible for the bowl to turn.
Set the timer for 20 minutes and go enjoy a good book or have a cup of tea.
The ice cream should be just about done at this point. It'll be soft serve consistency, and quite dense.
Take a minute to admire the creamy goodness. Don't wait too long, though; if the ice cream gets too soft before you freeze it again, it'll be full of ice crystals.
Our nylon spatulas are great for scraping your machine's core clean. They're tough enough to handle the ice cream, but soft enough not to scratch the core.
Serve the ice cream immediately for a soft treat, or freeze for 4 to 6 additional hours to firm and ripen. I think this particular blend is better after additional freezing. Just allow it to sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes to make scooping easier.
Serve the ice cream topped with additional coconut, toasted or flaked or both. It's also amazing with pineapple sauce. I'm dyin' to try it with almonds and chocolate chips; that's the plan for this weekend.
Thanks for wandering down memory lane in the Tropics with me. I'd love to hear your stories; be they ice cream related or island related, it's all good.
Please make, rate and review our recipe for Coconut Ice Cream.