I’m a huge fan of coconut. That said, there’s a fine line between a great coconut dessert and something that tastes like you’re eating straight from the Coppertone bottle. When the itch came to make coconut ice cream, I obviously went straight to David Lebovitz—the source for all my ice cream quests and non-sunscreen tasting desserts. Not surprisingly, the base for this ice cream had the perfect amount of coconut—noticeable, but not overwhelming. Coconut ice cream wasn’t enough for me, though, so I decided to cover some almonds in chocolate, chop them up, and add them along with some extra toasted coconut, resulting in a mighty tasty ice cream reminiscent of the Almond Joy candy bar.
I used more whole milk than cream in this not to save on calories (although, that’s a bonus, I guess) but because I had 1 cup of cream leftover from making the sticky toffee pudding and more than 1 cup of whole milk needing to be used up (since my son is not the biggest fan of cow’s milk, apparently). I’m calling this gelato (maybe) since it has more milk than cream. If you’re making traditional ice cream, replace one cup of the milk with cream, and make the custard with a cup of each (using the second cup of cream at the end, to stir the custard into before cooling).
The only thing I’ll do differently next time is to not break the spatula as I’m pressing the coconut through the strainer, causing random bits of coconut to land on my cabinets, floors, and hair (and probably in the light fixtures, too, but who can tell?).
Almond Joy Ice Cream/Gelato
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
1-1/3 cup shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened*
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar*
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
5 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted dry roasted almonds
Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast for 6-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to toast it evenly. Remove from the oven when it’s fragrant and golden brown.
In a medium saucepan, warm 1 cup of the milk, the cream, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of the toasted coconut (reserve the rest of the coconut for folding in later). Using a paring knife, scrape all the vanilla seeds into the warm milk, then add the pod as well. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Rewarm the coconut-infused mixture. Set a mesh strainer over another medium saucepan and strain the coconut-infused liquid through the strainer into the saucepan. Press down on the coconut very firmly with a flexible rubber spatula to extract as much of the flavor from it as possible. Remove the vanilla bean halves (you can rinse and reserve them for another use), and discard the coconut.
Pour the remaining 1 cup of milk into a large bowl and set the mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm coconut-infused mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Don’t boil the custard. When it’s done, it should be 170-175°F.
Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Mix in the vanilla and stir over an ice bath until cool. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
While your custard is cooling, make the chocolate covered almonds. Stretch a piece of plastic wrap over a plate. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or a stainless or glass bowl on top of a pot of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir in the almonds, coating them with the chocolate. Spread the mixture onto the lined plate and chill.
Freeze the ice cream base in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While your ice cream is churning, chop the chocolate covered almonds into bite sized pieces. Fold the reserved toasted coconut and the almonds into the frozen ice cream, as you’re removing it from the machine.
*I usually get unsweetened coconut from Whole Foods, but I didn’t have any around this time and a trip to WF was not in my cards, so I used sweetened coconut and reduced the sugar in the recipe to 2/3 cup.