Just one week ago, I was in sunny California with Anguel – a week into our trip to Joshua Tree. Around this time in the morning, I would have been crawling out of the tent we pitched in the red desert dirt. The sun would already be beating down, making it impossible to sleep in. I'd still be a tad groggy from stargazing the night before; but regardless, I'll happily take a morning wake-up from the sun over an iPhone alarm any day. And besides, there was so much of the park to explore.
It had been a while since Anguel and I played 'tourist'. Over the past year or so, we've instead been playing 'tour guide' to many of our visiting friends and family. Because if someone travels to visit you after your big move across the country…well, they deserve a pretty epic tour.
We like to take different friends to different places around Vancouver – and of course it depends on our mood, the time of year, and who's visiting. But I'll fess up to doing one serious repeat: ice cream. Given Vancouver gets a solid dousing of rain throughout the entire year, I recognize this might seem like an odd choice. But of all the places we checked out first when moving here, Anguel and I obviously tried a local ice cream shop. And we fell in love, big time. Which is why if you come to visit us in the peak of summer or the depths of winter, you can bet that either way, we're hauling you over to Earnest Ice Cream.
Earnest is known for its fun and delicious flavors. Things like Salted Caramel, Oatmeal Brown Sugar, and Matchstick Espresso Flake to name a few. Their fan favorite, Whiskey Hazelnut, is an epic flavor that we always recommend. And while I'm not one to jump for gratuitously boozy desserts - this ice cream is anything but. The nutty, roasted hazelnuts pair perfectly against the creamy (slightly) boozy ice cream base. It's so hard to describe, but when you know, you just know.
They have some pretty awesome vegan flavors too, but unfortunately there's no vegan Whiskey Hazelnut version available (yet, at least). The conversation came up on our first night in Joshua Tree – when Anguel and I were sitting on the patio of the Airbnb we had for the first few nights. When challenged to make my own version, I was prepared with a list of reasons why now wasn't the right time. This place didn't have an ice cream maker (obviously) and our grocery and wine stop did not include a bottle of Whiskey. But I knew deep down that we were both craving some of our favorite ice cream – isn't it ironic how it often takes being away from something to make you miss it?
Given that spontaneity often results in the best recipes, I threw my caution to the wind and set out to make my own version of Whiskey Hazelnut ice cream the next day. This time the ice cream would be dairy-free and refined sugar free. And oh yah – it's made without an ice cream maker. The results were delicious. And given the healthier twist, you can still feel good about that scoop or two (or three…).
Making the ice cream is super simple. The base is made from soaked cashews and coconut cream, which provides a yummy, creamy base that isn't too 'coconut-y' or 'cashew-y'. If you've made a lot of vegan ice creams before, you know what I mean. You can either buy coconut cream in a can – or if you have trouble tracking that down, go with full-fat canned coconut. Putting the cans in the back of the fridge will allow the coconut cream to separate from the water. And for this recipe, we just want the coconut cream. Every can and every brand varies, so for most accurate results, I always recommend measuring the cream after it's been separated. I used one and a half cans to get the required amount of cream (using Whole Foods 365 brand) – but to be safe, budget for two.
I've written before about some tricks to get scoopable vegan ice cream – and one favorite is to add a splash of alcohol through a generous amount of vanilla extract. This time I've upped the ante by adding a guzzle or two of Whiskey (or Bourbon). It doubles as extra flavor, while also helping keep the ice cream soft enough to scoop (almost straight out of the freezer). Maple syrup is our liquid sweetener of choice here, because the maple flavors are the perfect complement to the spicy whiskey and crunchy hazelnuts. All in all, this is an out of this world pairing that's sure to impress. And if I can make it in a random house in the middle of the desert, you can most definitely make it at home!
Whiskey Hazelnut No Churn Ice Cream
- 1 cup hazelnuts (raw/untoasted)
- 1½ cups raw cashews, soaked and rinsed (see note 1)
- 1½ cups coconut cream (see note 2)
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup whiskey or Bourbon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Preheat: Preheat to 300°F (150°C).
- Toast hazelnuts: Scatter hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake until nuts are fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes, shaking the pan halfway. Transfer nuts to a clean kitchen towel, cover, and set aside to fully cool (see note 3).
- Blend ice cream base: Meanwhile, add cashews, coconut cream, maple syrup, whiskey, vanilla, and salt to a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth and airy. Pour into a freezer-safe container and place in freezer to start cooling (see note 4).
- Skin hazelnuts: Rub the cooled nuts in the kitchen towel to remove as much of the skin as possible (don't worry if there's still some left).
- Combine, freeze, stir: Roughly chop nuts and stir into the ice cream. Cover or wrap the container. Freeze until the mixture is firm, about 6 hours, giving the mixture a quick stir every hour or so. Once the ice cream has been in the freezer overnight, let soften on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes before scooping.
- How to soak cashews: Cashews should be soaked until soft when squeezed between your fingertips. To soak cashews, either cover them with boiling water (soak for about 30 minutes) or cover them with room temperature water (soak for 6 to 8 hours).
- Coconut cream: Either from a can of coconut cream, or the solids scooped from a can of full fat coconut milk. If using cans of coconut milk, you'll likely need 2 cans to get 1.5 cups coconut cream. For some brands, the coconut solids may have already started to separate in the can at room temperature. But to maximize separation, place cans in the back of the fridge overnight (or ideally 24 hours) before using. Do not substitute with boxed nut milk (it doesn't have enough fat).
- Toasting hazelnuts: The step of wrapping the hazelnuts in a tea towel after roasting helps to steam them. This will make it easier to remove the skins.
- Container: I love to use freezer-safe glass containers with lids (like Pyrex) for homemade ice cream. Alternatively, you could use a loaf pan (just make sure to wrap it tightly to keep the ice cream fresh).
- To use an ice cream maker, adjust method as follows: After blending the ice cream base, refrigerate it until cold. Pour chilled base into ice cream maker. Churn to a soft-serve consistency, then sprinkle in cooled nuts. Transfer mixture to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm. If you have an ice cream maker, you don't need to stir the ice cream every hour.