When it comes to preparing food, I like to go all out. Cooking brings me such joy that I’m willing to go to any length to share the pleasures of the table with others. When the weather turned warm this year, I decided it was time to make ice cream. I have a small ice cream maker for home use, but I quickly realized it wouldn’t produce enough to feed all of my family and friends. So, I bought a professional ice cream machine. And then I bought a blast freezer to go with it, to freeze the ice cream so quickly it wouldn’t form any ice crystals. Now it was time to experiment with flavors.
Believe it or not, I began with avocado. I knew the creamy texture of the avocado, full of good fats such as oleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, would marry perfectly with the cream. And it did. I used a light hand with the sugar and this resulted in a creamy frozen treat that could be paired with savory foods or eaten on its own.
Next I started experimenting with macapuno coconuts. These are a variant of coconuts that produce mostly coconut jelly, containing only a little bit of flesh or coconut water. The white translucent macapuno jelly is sweet and refreshing with all of the calcium, magnesium, and potassium of coconut water. There is a little bit of chewy white young coconut meat in the macapuno as well. Needless to say, it makes a terrific ice cream flavor. Everyone went wild for it—even people who had never heard of macapuno before. Its sweet flavor and chewy texture are irresistible.
Now I was ready to introduce pandan ice cream to the world. Pandan leaves, also known as the “vanilla of Asia,” are used in both sweet and savory Southeast Asian dishes. We make pandan cakes, pair it with chocolate, and put it in coconut jam. Pandan leaf tea is used as an herbal remedy for high blood pressure, stomach cramps, gout, and loss of appetite. I added pandan leaf juice to my ice cream base and ran it through my ice cream machine. It came out a luscious light green color. It has a sweet, creamy flavor with a tangy undertone. It’s unusual and delicious.
Another export from the Philippines, pili nuts, tastes something like a cross between toasted pumpkin seeds and pine nuts. Pili nuts are used in the filling of Chinese moon cakes. Like all nuts, pili nuts contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and fiber. Unlike other nuts, pili nuts also contain the anti-inflammatory oleic acid, and potassium and phosphorous which are both good for building muscles. I decided to make a paste from ground pili nuts and mix that into my ice cream base. It added a nice toasty flavor to the ice cream and made it a pretty tan color.
I’ve given out hundreds of pints of my ice cream already this summer, and I have no intention of slowing down in the hot months still ahead. Here is my basic ice cream recipe that you can use in your home ice cream machine. Enjoy!
2 cups half & half
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg white (as a stabilizer), beaten
The corn syrup and the egg white will give body to your ice cream and help keep ice crystals from forming. Whisk together until corn syrup is incorporated. Add up to 1 cup of flavorings such as mashed avocado, macapuno coconut jelly or coconut water, pandan leaf juice or vanilla extract, pili nuts or toasted pine nuts. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Hints: Transfer soft ice cream to a plastic container and lay a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap over the surface, blocking out any air. Affix lid. Freeze until hard (at least 2-3 hours, ideally overnight). After scooping some ice cream out of its container, replace the waxed paper and your ice cream will stay fresh longer and will remain free of ice crystals.