The Jelly Roll Failure Files

My mom has a yummy Christmas dessert that she has been making since I can remember. Chocolate Mint Yule Log (I know, very 80’s). It’s a chocolate jelly roll filled with minty whipped cream and crushed candy canes, topped with chocolate ganache and more candy cane bits, and served semi-frozen.

And I cannot veganize it yet. I’ve been trying every few weekends for a while now.

Traditionally, jelly rolls are made with sponge cake sheets, as the high egg content makes them stretchy and a little less soggy upon prolonged contact with filling.

The first two attempts, I didn’t take photos. First, I tried mom’s recipe, which used both egg yolks and egg whites. I tried some weird custard powder-aquafaba-psyllium powder mixture from the yolk. The egg whites were made from Aquafaba with Xantham gum added in. I recall that this version stuck to the paper like the dickens, and had large holes. I figured I would next try something that didn’t require egg yolks.

So I tried a modification of a “hot milk sponge” recipe from Joy Of Cooking, with Aquafaba egg white whipped stiff, sugar whipped in, and then a dry mixture of flours and baking powder mixed in.  The second version had no xantham gum added to the “eggs”, and fell flat while folding in the dry powders. It also was crunchy on the top once baked.

The third time, I called my gramma and got her recipe (similar to the Joy of Cooking one). It’s lemon, rather than chocolate, but I figured I’d start with the lemon recipe and go from there. It didn’t collapse when folding in the dry ingredients, but I had upped the Xantham gum. It stayed relatively high, but the op of the cake almost seemed caramelized. Once flipped over for filling, it was full of very large air holes.

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A few nights ago, I tried gramma’s recipe again, but with some of the flour subbed out for cocoa, and I decided to follow the recipe more closely by using mostly granulated sugar instead of instant-dissolving sugar. However, I goofed and used four times the amount of hot milk – so the batter collapsed as soon as I added it. Undaunted, I baked it anyway, and was rewarded by a thin, gummy sheet. Mme. Minty tried it and said it gave her a stomachache.

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I decided to take a different tack and try an already vegan recipe, and make it more like the cake I remember eating in years past. I took the “Wacky Cake” recipe from How it All Vegan and modified the oil and water ratios and added some psyllium powder. It’s a cake that uses leavening from vinegar and baking soda, in addition to baking powder. It baked into the perfect thickness. However, I tried rolling it up before it was cool enough, so it broke. I also think that I need to fold in a little bit of “egg white”, to give it a bit more elasticity.

So here I am, five cakes later and not as far ahead as I had hoped. At least the last attempt tastes and looks good; I just need to make it a bit more durable. Have any of you, dear readers, ever made egg-less sponge cake? Have any suggestions? I’m hoping to have a recipe up here soon that will actually work!!

Upside Down Cake for Beginners

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I know that some of my recipes can be complicated: a lot of steps, exotic ingredients, or both. However, you don’t always need something to be complex in order to be delicious. More importantly, making something vegan, or even just egg-free, doesn’t always require any extra thought. I’m sharing a recipe that’s easy and even a bit fun to make, and will be received with excitement. I created the cake recipe so than you can make it with basic grocery-store ingredients, but nobody will know how basic it is!

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Pineapple upside-down cake is a retro staple, moist and tasty, not needing a layer of icing. If you’re allergic to pineapple or cherries, sub out for another canned or candied fruit. I’m allergic to pineapple, so I made a small cake with canned mandarin orange segments.

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The recipe makes a lot of cake: one large 9×13-inch (lasagna sized) pan, two square 8×8-inch pans, or three (slightly thin) round 8-inch pans. This is a perfect big cake to bring to a potluck, and is equally good eaten right away or after sitting on the counter overnight.

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Once the cake comes out of the oven, you’ll need to let it set a few minutes before you flip it, and may still have some fruit and sugar stick to the pan. This is no big deal! Just use a fork to pick up the stuck fruit, arrange it back on the cake. Scrape up the remaining sugar-goo and use it to fill in any cracks in the surface. After it cools down, no one will be the wiser!

Upside-Down Cake

An Agent Minty original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of pineapple rings
  • 1/2 cup glace or maraschino cherries
  • 1/4 cup margarine + 1/4 cup + tsp table margarine (becel vegan or similar) divided
  • 1 1/2 cups, packed, brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups superfine sugar (buy “berry sugar” or “instant dissolving sugar” but not “icing sugar” or “powdered sugar”. Alternatively, take regular white sugar and pulse in a blender for 20 seconds)
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp + 4 tsp baking powder, divided
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups almond or other milk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Drain fruit and place on paper towels to further dry during the next step.
  3. Spread 1/4 cup of margarine on sides and bottom of large 9×13 pan or two smaller pans.
  4. Sprinkle brown sugar over bottom of pan over margarine.
  5. Arrange drained fruit in an attractive pattern, leaving a few spaces for the cake batter to peek through.
  6. Cream remaining margarine with shortening and white sugar.
  7. In a small cup, combine corn starch, water, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and 1 tsp baking powder.
  8. Pour into margarine mixture and beat until white and opaque.
  9. In a bowl, combine flour, remaining baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  10. Add 1/3 of dry mix to bowl, beat until mostly mixed.
  11. Add half of the milk and mix, then repeat steps 10 and 11 until everything has been incorporated. The finished batter will be a little stiff – not runny like from a cake mix.
  12. Scoop into pan(s) and smooth the surface of the batter evenly.
  13. Bake in the centre of the oven until a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. Small pans: ~26 minutes, large pans, ~35 minutes.
  14. Let pan sit for 3 or 4 minutes on a cooling rack. Place a cooling rack or platoon top of cake, and flip together to unfold cake.
  15. Pick out and arrange any fruit or caramel that stuck to the pan.

Perogies for Thanksgiving

Perogies on a plate with fall decor

Perogies, Pyrohy, Piroshki, etc., etc. Delicacy of Eastern Europe, particularly of Ukraine. Western Canada is perogy-land, having been settled by a large number of Ukrainians over the last century.

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They often make an appearance at old-school buffets, and many community halls hold perogy dinner fundraisers. Many people I know also include them at the Thanksgiving table.

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I learned to love perogies when our family moved away from the prairies to the maritimes, and my mom had to make them from scratch. It was a special-occasion meal because it was more labor intensive. When we moved to Alberta when I was a teenager, perogies beam a convenience food, cooked from a bag from the freezer aisle.

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It wasn’t until I lived on my own that I tried making perogies from scratch myself, but they’re worth the effort (I say that a lot on this blog!!). This recipe is one loosely based on a recipe from the Vegetarian Times cookbook. It’s also a good recipe to make with friends, as many hands speed the assembly stage. Our friend Matt came over when we last made these, and is the lovely hand model in the photos.

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Vegan Cheddar and Chive Perogies

An Agent Minty original recipe

Makes approximately 45 perogies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4 hours to overnight
  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp miso paste
  • 4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 + 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 sundried tomato, soaked in water and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

Instructions:

Prepare components:

  1. Peel and cube potatoes, cover with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, process together drained soaked cashews, until coarse.
  3. Add almond milk, miso, and vinegar and puree for 3-5 minutes until perfectly creamy.
  4. Set aside cashew cream for now.
  5. Once potatoes are cooked until very tender, drain, reserving potato cooking liquid in a bowl.
  6. Mash potatoes until smooth.
  7. Combine 2 1/2 cups of flour with cream of tartar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  8. Mix 1 3/4 cups of mashed potato with 3/4 cups of potato cooking water and the oil.
  9. Add mixture from step 8 to the flour-salt mixture and stir well.
  10. Either kneading in the bowl by hand, or using your mixer’s dough hook attachment, start kneading the dough.
  11. Add remaining flour in 1/4 cupfuls every minute or so, until the dough is no longer very sticky.
  12. Continue kneading for about five minutes.
  13. Cover dough with plastic wrap to rest while you prepare the filling.
  14. Blend together 1/4 cup of cashew cream from step 4 with remaining mashed potato. Add in remaining ingredients and puree or stir until creamy.

Cut and fill perogies:

  1. Using a generous amount of flour, roll out 1/3 of dough to 1/8-inch thick.
  2. Cut 3-inch circles, and fill each with 1 Tbsp of filling.
  3. Moisten the edge of the dough with water, fold over, and press together with a fork.
  4. Transfer all finished perogies to a tray covered with plastic wrap to keep them moist.
  5. Scraps from cutting dough can be reused.
  6. After all perogies have been cut and filled, bring a pot of water to boil.
  7. Cook perogies in boiling water for 5-8 minutes.
  8. If desired, lightly sauté in oil before serving.
  9. Serve with remaining cashew cream, fried onions, and vegan “bacon” bits.
  10. Leftover boiled perogies store well in the fridge for a week.Perogies-3

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Roll me out and cut me up! Iced chocolate sugar cookies.

I’m not actually a huge fan of traditional sugar cookies. I find that they have a weird taste to them, like they’re missing something. It’s not just that I make them with margarine instead of butter, either, as I didn’t really like them before I went vegan. I always felt that was a bit of a shame, as I really do like how pretty sugar cookies can be, iced and decorated.

However, these cookies are different, as they contain a magical ingredient: cocoa.

Cocoa makes the cookies dark and chocolate-flavoured, which not only provides a beautiful backdrop for both coloured and crisp white icing, but provides a slightly bitter contrast to the one-note sweetness of royal icing. I got the cookie recipe from Baking a Moment, and veganized it.

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First batch on the left, second on the right. Sorry about poor photo quality – I had fried the camera battery on vacation and for the last month only took pictures on my phone.

I’ve included our vegan royal icing recipe here too, as we first started experimenting with vegan royal icing a few years ago at our annual gingerbread house party. I can say that this recipe works well as construction-grade cement, but when thinned out works nicely for piping on and flooding cookies. The consistency of the icing is varied by how much water is added, so start on the lower and and add a few drops at a time to get the texture you’d like. Keep in mind that wetter icing can take longer to dry – my first attempt at flooded icing took several days to not be soft under the top “crust” of the icing.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Veganized from Baking a Moment

EDIT: I corrected the volume for corn starch. I hope it didn’t cause anyone a headache!!

Makes 3 dozen 2-inch cutouts

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance or other baking margarine
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp psyllium powder – I use an unflavored version of Metamucil powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream margarine in a a stand mixer, then add canola oil and sugar and stir until combined, but not fluffy (see the original recipe for more details on why – basically so that it doesn’t spread).
  3. In a cup, gradually add water to psyllium husk, and whisk until it starts to thicken. Add in vanilla and salt.
  4. Add liquid mixture to margarine mixture, scraping all of the liquid out of the cup.
  5. Stir on medium speed until combined.
  6. Add in cornstarch and cocoa and stir a few seconds.
  7. Add in all the flour and mix until dough is homogeneous.
  8. Take 1/4 of the dough and place it on a shed of parchment paper. Place another on top, and roll until dough is 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Remove top sheet of paper, and cut out shapes. Use a paring knife to pick the scraps out from between the cutouts.
  10. Place paper full of cutouts on a baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, until firm at the edges and soft in the middle.
  11. Remove cookie sheet from oven, and wait 1 minute before transferring cookies to a wire rack.
  12. If using the cookie sheet immediately, wave it around the kitchen like a goof for a minute to cool it off.
  13. The dough scraps can be re-rolled again a few times until it’s all used up.
  14. Let cookies cool fully (at least an hour) before decorating with icing.

Vegan Royal Icing

An original recipe from Agent Minty

Makes about 1 1/4 cups of royal icing (enough for 3 or 4 dozen cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Xantham gum (available in gluten-free sections of the grocery store)
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 1/2 to 3 Tbsp water, divided
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (white extract is best but usually found at baking supply stores)

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together sugar, Xantham gum, and corn starch in a large bowl.
  2. Start hand mixer or whisk attachment of your stand mixer. I find a hand mixer with the two beaters works better here unless I’m doubling or tripling a batch.
  3. Slowly add 2 Tbsp of the water, followed by vanilla extract. Continue beating until all of the sugar is mostly mixed in.
  4. Stop to scrape down sides of bowl, and mix for a few more seconds.
  5. Assess the consistency of the icing – do you really want it thinner?
  6. Add more water in small amounts until icing is the consistency you desire.
  7. Colour if you would like, and immediately cover up any portions you’re not going to use.
  8. If you don’t have someone to help you fill a piping bag (if you’re going to use one), I’d highly recommend the plastic wrap trick.

Top egg replacement options

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Are you looking to go egg-free, for health or ethical reasons? Do you actually eat eggs but ran out of them in the middle of your recipe? We often get asked how it is possible to bake vegan desserts. It is actually surprisingly easy to substitute eggs. The key to success is understanding what the role of eggs are in the particular recipe you are trying to adapt.

Leavener

Eggs in recipes like pancakes, soda bread, or muffins often serve to “fluff up” the baked good. Usually only 1 or 2 eggs are required in the recipe. Acceptable substitutions per egg are:

a) A commercial “egg replacer” from brands like Ener-G (the best!), Pane Riso, Planet Organic, or Bob’s Red Mill. Their recommended amount of replacer plus water per egg is written on the box. Check ingredients on the box if you have any allergies. Mix with a fork until homogeneous.

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Egg replacer usually comes in a cardboard box and is white in colour.

b) 1 tbsp corn starch + 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice + 2 tbsp water per egg. Whisk tougher with a fork.

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c) If you are making muffins or quickbreads that already have more than 2 tsp of baking powder/soda, try using a substitute from the “enrichment” category instead.

Glue

Eggs in these recipes need the stickiness and protein of eggs to glue bits together. If only one or two eggs are needed, such as in a pastry crust, this is doable. Lots of eggs cannot be replaced for this type of recipe, however, such as in choux pastry – the whole recipe would need to be reformulated, which is a topic of its own. This is also what is needed when you are coating things with breadcrumbs, like sliced green tomatoes or tofu nuggets.

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Flax egg on the left and psyllium on the right

a) Combine 1.5 tbsp of ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp water per egg. Sit for 2 minutes before using.

b) Combine 0.5 tsp of  pysillium (Metamucil) husk with 3 tbsp water per egg. Sit for 2 minutes before using.

c) Make an emulsion of oil and vinegar. Into a mixing bowl of vinegar, drizzle canola oil with the egg beaters running. When it looks white and frothy, it can be used for dipping things that need to be breaded. Prepare immediately before using.

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d) Mix equal proportions of Aquafaba (see section below) and water.

Enrichment

Eggs give softness and flavour to sweet breads, cupcakes, and muffins. Substitutes in this category are best sticky or mushy. This is the easiest egg to substitute.

a) Combine above quantities of ground flaxseed or pysillium husk with 3 tbsp water per egg. Sit for 2 minutes before using.

b) 2 tbsp of mashed banana or canned pumpkin and one Tbsp of water or oil per egg.

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c) 3-4 tbsp of mashed silken or “dessert” tofu per egg.

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Glazing

Eggs brushed on pastries and bread combine with the natural starches in the dough to produce a rich brown crust. While this can be eliminated altogether, substitutes will keep the nice appearance you are used to.

a) Soymilk, almond milk, or dairy milk combined with a little melted margarine. If low-fat milk is used, add a pinch of sugar per tbsp of milk.

b) If canned fruit was used to prepare a pie, combine some of the syrup with a few drops of oil and/or a splash of milk. This makes the richest pie glaze ever, but it browns faster than plain milk.

Note: BOTH of these options are improved by the addition of 1/4 tsp of psyllium husk (I use this in my Tourtière recipe), as it helps the wash cling to the pastry

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From left: fruit syrup plus oil, fruit syrup plus oil and milk, milk plus margarine and sugar.

Aquafaba

This gets a section of its own. In honesty, I researched, photographed, and prepared 90% of this post back in late winter, before I first heard of aquafaba. It’s a cool alternative to eggs that whisks up really well, just like egg whites.

It is the “juice” drained from a can of chickpeas or navy beans! Full of starches and protein, it’s both gooey and whisks into something fluffy. I’ve mostly used about 3 or 4 tablespoons of liquid per egg with success.


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After whisking

I have used them to make numerous variations on homemade marshmallows and marshmallow creme, and have experimented a bit with meringue pies. I’m still working on perfecting using them to make a chiffon cake, so stay tuned for that recipe in a few months! Until then, also check out Seitan Is my Motor and Vegan Dad for some aquafaba recipes.

Triple Cookie-Splosion Ice Cream

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Wow, it’s been hot around here. Sleeping with no sheets and wet hair to cool down, going through a litre of water on bike rides, running through the garden hose’s spray like a little kid kind of days.

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You know how they say not to grocery shop hungry? Well, you also shouldn’t bike home on a hot day past an Oreo McFlurry billboard. Two days in a row. Or you’ll start getting ideas. This delicious monster came about from my fantasizing while finishing my ride home.

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The ice cream base is your classic nostalgia white vanilla cream, but the three cookie types – oreos, peanut butter cookie dough, and spekuloos – balance it nicely and add enough crunch and chew to it. The spekuloos do double duty by also adding a mild bit of nutmeg-ish spice. Spekuloos are a Dutch crunchy store-bought cookie, also called windmill, Lotus, or Biscoff cookies. If you can’t find any, use store-bought gingersnaps. It’s important to use ones that are a bit “greasy”, as a low-fat or digestive cookie would go soggy in the ice cream.

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Unlike my previous recipe, this ice cream is not instantaneous – the cooked mixture needs to cool completely before freezing, and then the churned mixture should be frozen for several hours before scooping. However, it scoops beautifully straight out of the freezer, and has a wonderfully soft texture. It’s well worth the wait.

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Triple Cookie-Splosion Ice Cream

An original recipe by Agent Minty

Ingredients:

Ice cream base:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup almond milk, divided
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch
  • 3 Tbsp of alcohol (I chose half vodka and half amaretto)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Cookie parts:

  • 3 large spekuloos cookies
  • 4 oreo cookies
  • 2 Tbsp margarine
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • pinch of salt, two pinches if peanut butter is unsalted.
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped-up chocolate chips

Instructions:

Make ice cream base:

  1. Whisk together sugar, salt, coconut milk, and 1 1/2 cup almond milk in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Once sugar has dissolved, bring to a medium simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together corn starch and 1/4 cup almond milk in a small cup.
  4. Pour corn starch mixture into simmering base, while whisking continuously.
  5. Rinse cup with remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk and pour into the base.
  6. Whisk continuously while bringing back to a simmer.
  7. Cook while whisking for two more minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and cool at boom temperature for 15-30 minutes.
  9. Stir in alcohol and vanilla.
  10. Transfer to a bowl or similar and cover surface of cream directly with plastic wrap.
  11. Refrigerate overnight or for at least three hours until completely cold.
  12. Transfer to your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Prepare add-ins:

  1. Chop up cookies into small bite-sized pieces (about 1 cm across) and place in the freezer to chill for a few minutes while preparing other ingredients.
  2. Cream together all remaining ingredients except flour and chocolate chips. I used a soup spoon in a small bowl.
  3. Stir in flour and then chocolate chips.
  4. Form cookie dough into finger-thick logs and place in refrigerator to chill while ice cream is mixing.
  5. Once ice cream base is frozen, plop approximately 1/5 of it into your storage container, and sprinkle with 1/5 of the chopped cookies. Tear off four or five short pieces of cookie dough and add on top.
  6. Continue filling container by alternating ice cream and cookies, gently mixing a few times with a butter knife to ensure filling is more randomly distributed here. I found I only used half of the cookie dough, but you may use more based on your preferences.
  7. Freeze for at least three hours before serving.

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Instant Gratification Strawberry Ice Cream

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Want some ice cream immediately? This recipe is great because as long as you have a freezer canister already frozen (I keep mine in the freezer at all times just in case), you can have ice cream from start to finish in about half an hour.

This recipe makes a strawberry ice cream pretty much identical to the stuff you’d find sold by the scoop at your local corner store – sweet, fruity, and bright pink. It uses the same type of secret ingredient that my tiger tail ice cream employed. One more ingredient note: if you don’t have a can of high fat coconut milk/cream waiting in the refrigerator, don’t worry. Just use the lower volume of almond milk to compensate for the extra water that will be in the can of coconut milk.

This is your sweet quick fix when it’s 30 degrees outside and all you want for dinner is ice cream. It’s made with staples most people already have in the fridge or pantry. And it comes out of the ice cream maker firm enough to eat right away. Now you have even fewer excuses to wait!

Instant Gratification Strawberry Ice Cream

An original recipe by Agent Minty

Makes about 3 cups of ice cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 can’s worth of coconut cream, watery portion drained off if you have chilled it beforehand.
  • 1 1/4 cups of almond milk, or 3/4 cup almond milk if the coconut milk was not separated.
  • 1/2 tsp strawberry Kool-Aid powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup strawberry jam

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients to blender in listed order. Blend on high until completely smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. Transfer to the canister of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the directions.
  3. Ice cream should get quite firm within about 25 minutes.
  4. Store any leftovers in the freezer.