When it comes to putting a healthier spin on baking and sweet treat making, I think we know by now that I’m not really an all-or-nothing type of person. As is evident by the recipes and philosophy in the pages of Real Sweet, I’d sooner jump off the roof than try to pretend that a brownie made with black beans makes life worth living. Of course, there is something lovely and virtuous about wanting to live a healthier lifestyle, and still find a way to treat ourselves, but I think there’s a way we can get there without resorting to trickery or deprivation masquerading as comfort food.
Because of this deep-seated belief, I’m all about using real, high-quality ingredients that taste great and seriously satisfy our raging sweet teeth. The reason I feel so passionately about using less-refined and more natural sugars and sweeteners in my kitchen and encouraging you to use them in yours, is that it’s the perfect way to strike balance in desserts and sweet snacks, adding dynamite flavor beyond flavorless refined white sugar (and sometimes even a little nutrient punch, too!). When you upgrade to a better-tasting, less-processed sugar, you can still keep all the other good stuff in a recipe (like some full-fat dairy and even a little bittersweet chocolate here and there) that makes it satisfying to our psyches and tastebuds. It’s not about “diet food”, it’s about better-quality food, you feel me?
Take, for example, this spin on the classic ice cream hero, the Drumstick. I don’t know about you, but these babies take me right back to my Midwestern childhood, chasing the ice cream truck in the late afternoon, sweaty and exhausted from running around the neighborhood for hours on end. Thankfully, the Drumstick hasn’t gone the way of the Jell-O Pudding Pop or Bubble O’Bill ice cream bar–you can still find Drumsticks a-plenty in any ice cream truck or grocery store freezer. Now to be frank, if you’re really craving a Drumstick, the ingredients list on a store-bought box of them isn’t going to stop you from scarfing one down and reclaiming a little of that aforementioned summertime childhood glory. But! If you happen to be feeling a little more Practical Grown-Up on a given day, and you do happen to glance at the ingredients list–i-yi-yi. Not many pronounceable words in that there list, let me tell ya.
On the plus side, sometimes feeling all Practical Grown-Up can inspire some pretty epic kitchen crafting as a way to make even the most iconic ice cream treat more crave-worthy: just add a little homemade twist, and swap in some less-refined, way more flavorful natural sugars and sweeteners.
The star players here are two of my favorite products from a really great company–Wholesome!™ Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, and their Organic Blue Agave Nectar. With these ingredients in the mix, I don’t see how this could not go well. I’ve been a fan of Wholesome!™ products for years (you may already know them as Wholesome Sweeteners!), and the quality, availability, and insanely wide range of their products helped me survive the seemingly endless recipe testing for Real Sweet. I even listed them in the Sources section of the book–I’m telling you, my love for their products is real and it’s deep. So when they asked me to help celebrate their all-new, super-happy packaging look and jazzy spin on their brand name by whipping up some new recipes using their products, I was all HECK YESSSS.
It all starts with what I like to call my Chocolate Cheat Ice Cream. I like a rich, custard-based ice cream as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s more refreshing on a hot day to have something lighter, and this technique of making an ice cream with low-fat milk thickened with a bit of cornstarch and enriched with dark cocoa, a scattering of bittersweet chocolate, and the exotic, almost smoky sweetness of coconut sugar manages to walk the line between a sorbet and a ganache. Not drowning the mixture in cream also leaves room to pack a whole bunch in a cone and dip the whole thing with HOMEMADE MAGIC SHELL. Oh, no, you heard me right, people. Let’s just say that the sweeteners here might be natural, but the sounds you’ll be making when you crunch into one of these melting, chocolaty gems won’t be. Hellllloooooo.
Homemade Double Chocolate Drumsticks
Makes 6 to 8 cones
Whipping up these beauties takes a bit of doing, but both the ice cream and the coating can be made days ahead of serving, and the results are well worth the craftiness of the whole operation.
To keep the cones upright as you scoop and dip them, I found that the best tools for the job are small jars, like large baby food jars or half-pint mason jars, or a series of juice glasses–the idea is to find something sturdy that is just tall enough to support the cones without the rim of the glass smooshing into the ice cream or coating.
Chocolate Cheat Ice Cream
Makes 1 scant quart
2 1/4 cups low-fat milk (1%), divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup Wholesome!™ Organic Coconut Palm Sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 cup Wholesome!™ Organic Blue Agave Nectar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch until the cornstarch has completely dissolved.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the remaining 2 cups milk, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, agave nectar, and salt. Set the pan over medium-high heat, and bring the mixture to a low boil. Boil for 1 minute. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and continue to whisk until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a medium heatproof bowl. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours.
When the ice cream base is completely chilled, whisk thoroughly to smooth out any lumps. Scrape the base into an ice cream maker and churn according the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack into an airtight container and freeze until firm.
Magic Chocolate Coating
Makes 1 cup
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons Wholesome!™ Organic Blue Agave Nectar
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 cup chopped toasted almonds or peanuts
6-8 sugar cones
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Set the pan over low heat and stir constantly with a heatproof spatula just until the mixture is smooth (don’t overheat, or the mixture will separate). Let cool, stirring as necessary to keep the coating smooth and homogenous.
To assemble the cones, line up 6 to 8 small jars or juice glasses on a small baking sheet. Working one cone at a time, scoop the ice cream into the sugar cones, placing each cone in a jar or glass. Freeze until very firm, about 1 hour. Again working one cone at a time, dip each into the coating (double dip for a thicker coating, if you like), and just as the chocolate is setting, sprinkle generously with chopped nuts. Freeze until ready to serve.
This post is sponsored by the good people of Wholesome!™. Products and compensation provided by Wholesome!™; all opinions are my own. You can always trust that I’ll only share information and products with you that I personally love and use in my own kitchen.
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