Chai Toasted Coconut Dairy Free Ice Cream

9:20 PM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments

Homemade Chai and Toasted Coconut Dairy Free Ice Cream!

I LOVE chai lattes. I discovered them when I started working at a particular champagne house in the Napa valley and I had to make a long drive to UC Davis to recruit interns for Harvest every year. I would ride with a coworker who, like normal folks, loved coffee. We would stop at a coffee house before we made the trip. I started out not ordering anything because I just don't like the taste of coffee. One day my coworker suggested I try a Chai Latte. I didn't even know it was tea and not coffee so I had never even ventured a taste before. Ever since that day I have been a huge fan of the tea. I drink it mostly in latte form but sometimes I just add cool milk and drink it like a Thai iced tea. That is what gave me the idea to make a Chai Ice Cream.
A Chai Latte I had at a diner late last year

Here is an incredible Chai Latte I had in Kent, England. This was sure a memorable one!

My husband gave me an ice cream maker for Christmas because I am a huge ice cream and frozen yogurt lover. I have not been able to use the maker for the first quarter of this year because we have been uprooted. It has been a wild ride of moving here and there and sometimes not even knowing where we were going to be next. We are finally settled down in a beautiful and comfortable location. Last night my husband suggested we give making ice cream a go. Without a blink I began looking up recipes while the ice cream maker's tub froze overnight. I am in California and there is a huge rash of storms coming through the region after several years of drought. For this reason I am way too lazy to head out in the storm so I wanted to make something with what I have around the house. I am not against dairy but in the house we only have almond milk and canned coconut milk so I had to make a decision as to how rich I wanted my ice cream to be. That is why I chose to make a custard style ice cream. If I had heavy whipping cream or half and half, this recipe might not have had eggs in it and I would have been able to spend a bit more time on the couch. I think the creaminess and texture of this rich ice cream is worth standing at my stove for a little longer, praying my custard does not turn into scrambled eggs. I was able to take bits and ideas from a whole lot of different ice cream, gelato and custard recipes to make this ice cream. Once I understood the basics, I was able to put in the flavors I wanted and ingredients I needed to get the flavor and texture I was looking for...using what I had lying around the house.
Custard, ready for churning.

The coconut sugar turned the color of the milk a medium brown color. You can use other sugars but this is all I had in the house. The chai tea added even more brown coloring as I manipulated and smooshed the bags trying to get all the flavor out I could. This is a risky thing to do because it is not too difficult to rip or tear a tea bag. If you do rip a bag just let the bits float in there because you can strain them out in a later step. If you leave the loose tea bits in the ice cream, it will become bitter and we are not looking for that in a dessert today.
Spices that make Chai taste so good.   (photo from wikipedia)

My husband came in as I was making this and smelled the custard as it was chilling and thought it could use a little more flavoring. He has the worst sense of smell of anyone I have ever encountered. But I tasted the custard and thought a little more spice couldn't hurt so I added just a tiny dusting of ground cloves, ground ginger, ground cardamom and cinnamon. I can't really go overboard with a husband who can't smell well because it means his senses aren't too strong all around when it comes to tasting. And I love chai spice!

This recipe uses the following:

2 cans of coconut milk (approximately 14 ounce cans)
3 tea bags of chai tea
1/8 teaspoon salt (I like to make it heaping)
1 cup sugar (I had to use coconut sugar but regular white sugar is preferred)
1 vanilla bean (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 egg yokes
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Other things you can add for extra flavor:
-1/4 cup more coconut shreds
-a dash of ground cardamom, ground dried ginger, cinnamon and dried ground cloves to up the chai flavor
-1/4 cup chopped and toasted almonds.

1. Shake one of the cans of coconut milk so the fat mixes in with the cream. Open the can and pour the contents into a sauce pan with the three chai tea bags. Put the burner on medium to low heat and stir in the 1 cup sugar and a big pinch of salt. Let this all steep and dissolve for about 10 minutes to really get the tea flavor pulled out. Do not let the milk come to a boil. You are looking to just heat the mixture until it is very warm but not boiling.

Coconut milk and Chai tea.

2. Scrape a vanilla bean into the pan and then toss the bean in as well. Remove the pan from heat and let cool a bit and to steep further. Meanwhile, separate 5 eggs. Whisk the egg yokes in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk about 1/3 of the warm coconut milk mixture into the eggs being careful to not heat the eggs enough to scramble. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the sauce pan with the rest of the warm milk. Heat on medium low being super careful not to scramble the eggs. Use a flat ended wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan as it heats. Stir constantly during this step.

Look how dark it got with the coconut sugar and tea!

3. Shake the second can of coconut milk before opening. Pour the can into a medium bowl and place the bowl into a larger bowl full of ice water to make an ice bath. Pour the heated custard mixture through a strainer into the cool coconut milk. Mix the custard in this cooling bath to chill it.

Straining the warm custard into the cool coconut milk in the ice bath.

4. Take a quarter cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut and put it on a piece of tinfoil. Place the tinfoil as is or on a pan and place on the top shelf in oven or toaster oven and broil for 1-2 minutes. Keep a very close eye because, much like toasting nuts, it goes lightening fast.

Toasting coconut in a toaster oven.
Add the toasted coconut flakes to the custard and pour the whole mixture into an ice cream machine. If you want to put in any extra seasonings or ingredients, do that now.  If you do not have a machine, that's fine. You can freeze the custard in any freezer-proof container or put into ice cube trays to blend when frozen.

First put in the machine...

...after about 15 minutes in the machine

More shots of the final product. 

Rich and creamy. Sweet and spicy.

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