Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Vegan Banana Ice Cream

Can ice cream every really be healthy? Or at least, not quite as bad for you?
I have concluded that this can only really be done if you take out what is truly (health-wise) objectionable about the dish: the cream. Skipping over any debate about whether something that contains no cream can legitimately be labeled as ice cream, this was one fine frozen dessert. It was smooth, creamy and rich tasting and - best of all - it doesn't taste anything like tofu! It looked and tasted like ice cream. I daresay that it would hold up to some fairly stiff competition in the flavor department. The only giveaway is that it does not have that sticky, unctuous mouth-coating that "real" ice cream leaves behind.
Bananas and tofu have a similar thick, creamy consistency and seem to work well together. I thinned the mixture with vanilla soymilk and sweetened it with brown rice syrup. Brown rice syrup is a corn syrup-like natural sweetener that seems to be called for in quite a few vegetarian recipes and is available in natural foods stores. I debated about whether to add it or not, since the banana/tofu mixture tasted quite nice without it. Freezing foods dampens their flavors, though, so I knew that it would not taste as sweet after I froze it if I did not add some sweetener. Corn syrup would be a good substitute here. I considered using maple syrup, but I honestly don't know how well the flavors would work with that substitution. The lemon juice doesn't give a flavor to the final product, it just helps to prevent discoloration.
The miniature chocolate chips give you many more pieces of chocolate per serving than regular-sized chips and have the added benefit of being unlikely to jam up your ice cream maker, which is why I tend to use them in ice creams as opposed to chunks of chocolate. Coarsely chop up some normal chips to mimic the effect, or simply stir in full-sized chips at the end of the mixing. Chocolate and banana always make a great pair, so feel free to add a generous pour of chocolate sauce over each scoop before serving.

Vegan Banana Ice Cream
12-ounces firm silken tofu
2 large ripe bananas
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1 tsp good vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor and blend until completely smooth.
Pour into your ice cream maker, add mini chocolate chips and freeze as directed.
Serve immediately or store in the freezer.
Serves 4.