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Friday, December 24, 2010

December 13-18: Neapolitan icecream

So this birthday of mine was a notable one, as far as societies with decimal numeral systems go, and I wanted to do something special to mark it.  I did a few nice somethings, actually, but the most notable event was a vegan icecream potluck party.  I hinted at it months in advance, K supported it with dizzying enthusiasm, and everyone else kindly went along for the ride.  I spent weeks consuming everything not icecream related in the freezer, planning flavours and waffles and suggesting others bring fruit, sauce, sprinkles, cookies - anything that'd fit into a Saturday afternoon sundae.

I knew I'd be crazy not to make my salted caramel triumph again, and from there I mused about chocolate and peanut butter and vanilla and fruits... until I thought of Neapolitan and just couldn't stop thinking about it.  It's a childhood staple that many vegans probably wouldn't have eaten in years, and would be all the better for being made with real strawberries.  Could I arrange the three layers neatly?  Would it take me days?  I knew I had to find out.

I started out almost a week in advance, preparing the strawberry layer.  I found that the flavour of my punnet of strawberries was a little overwhelmed by the coconut milk, and added a little pomegranate molasses as a tangy boost.  I also couldn't resist a few drops of my vegan-friendly red food colouring for that straight-out-of-childhood hue.  Once churned it was quite easy to manoeuvre into an angled lunchbox, which I froze positioned on its side to make space for the chocolate and vanilla layers to come.

I prepped the vanilla section a day later without a hitch but came up against an unanticipated obstacle before I got to the chocolate.  I lost my sense of taste.  More completely than I have ever done before. I'd caught an epic cold, such that I couldn't discern a single flavour in the gorgeous, healing laksa Michael cooked for dinner.  This was not the time for icecream experimentation.  I reluctantly deferred my project for a few days, and insisted that Michael double-check my cocoa usage when I did eventually get back to it.  My last little challenge wasn't taste-based - I ended up making far too much vanilla and far too little chocolate icecream.  In the recipe below, I've suggested dividing 3 cans of coconut milk evenly between the vanilla and chocolate layers instead of my original 2:1 ratio.  Hopefully that'll make something closer to two even litres of tri-coloured goodness.

This icecream takes a lot of forward planning but I've no regrets - it sure put me in the right party mood!  And I'm mighty grateful to the fab veg*ns who granted my birthday wish.  They brought cookies and sprinkles and chocolates and fruit and waffles and icecream flavours you wouldn't believe!  Also laughs aplenty.  Among them K, Veganator and Johanna have blogged their contributions.

Neapolitan icecream
(inspired by recipes like this, this and this)

strawberry layer
250g punnet strawberries
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot
400mL can coconut milk
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
red or pink food colouring

Wash and hull the strawberries.  Place them in a food processor with the lemon juice and puree thoroughly.  Add the sugar and arrowroot and blend until smooth.

If you want a smooth icecream, strain the strawberry mixture.  Transfer the strawberry mixture into a medium-large saucepan and stir in the coconut milk.  Taste the mixture and add pomegranate molasses if you want a more fruity taste.  Stir the mixture over medium heat until slightly thickened.  Remove it from the heat and add a couple of drops of food colouring.  Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge.

vanilla layer

2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 x 400ml cans coconut milk (would use 1 1/2 cans next time)
3/4 cup castor sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the arrowroot in a mug and add 1 tablespoon of the coconut milk, mixing it to a smooth paste.

Put the remainder of the first can of coconut milk into a medium-large saucepan with the sugar and set it over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  When the sugar has dissolved, add the second can of coconut milk and the arrowroot paste.  Bring the mixture almost to the boil, stirring regularly, and then remove it from the heat.  Stir through the vanilla and chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge.

chocolate layer

3/4 cup castor sugar
1 x 400mL can coconut milk (would use 1 1/2 cans next time)
1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 tablespoon arrowroot
1 teaspoon vanilla

Dissolve sugar in the coconut milk in a medium saucepan; whisk in cocoa and arrowroot.  Bring the mixture to the boil, then take it off heat and stir in the vanilla.  Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge.

Use a container with a liquid-proof seal to store the final icecream.  Choose a flavour to start with and churn it in an icecream maker until it's light and fluffy. Scoop the mixture into the container, tipping it at an angle and filling roughly a third of the container.  Freeze the icecream solid with the container positioned on its side.

Repeat this approach over a series of days with the other two flavours, churning and partially filling the container at an angle and freezing it on its side.


  1. I have never had neapolitan ice cream this good - the one from the supermarket really does pale beside the wonderful flavours of this! Great idea for a potluck - really enjoyed it - have a great Christmas!

  2. As someone who was never interested in Neopolitan ice cream as a child (horrible fake strawberry, insipid vanilla... only the chocolate won my 7-year-old heart), I can unabashedly say that you've made something I'd trample over old ladies to get to. Coconut and pomegranate and real strawberries, oh my!

    P.S. Huge commiserations over the loss of taste. I had that happen to me on my travels this year, and it was excruciating. I was in Germany, surrounded by all manner of intensely-flavoured tasty things, and all I could taste was a faint hint of sweet when I stirred 6 sugars into my tea.

    P.P.S Happy birthday!!

  3. What a great way to celebrate your birthday! I wish Townsville had the potluck culture of Melbourne, I would *love* to have an ice cream potluck!

  4. Oh, thanks Johanna! Hope you had a lovely Christmas too. :-)

    Oh Hannah, I can only imagine how much worse it must've been while on holiday! All those fleeting chances to taste new things.

    Theresa, we'll happily have a potluck in your honour any time you're in Melbourne! Maybe us southerners should embark on a potluck tour and have a tropical-themed one up your way. :-D

  5. Well Happy 1E Birthday Cindy. Neopolitan ice cream are definitely memories of the past for us 80s children. Love your idea of recreating it.

    I would have taken a cheats approach and made all three colours, then let them melt a bit so I could scoop them into the container in three sections. There's the extent of my engineering skills haha.

  6. Heh, thanks for the geeky birthday wishes Thanh. :-)