Over the past few years I have had a bit of a love affair with ice cream. Thankfully, because this love affair has always been with coconut and nut-based ice creams, the affections were requited. My brain has appreciated all of the oh-so-tasty monounsaturated fats (from both cashews and coconut) which help keep my nervous system comfortably padded and stable. Monounsaturated fats help with cognitive function, memory, and the absorption of vitamins A, K, D, and E.
Now, coconut milk is high in saturated fat, long thought to be a main factor in the development of obesity and heart/brain disease. But recent research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has been showing that there is no correlation between certain saturated fats and heart disease or stroke. In fact, some types of sat fats are considered completely non-harmful, like stearic acid (found in chocolate). Lauric acid, from coconut, is still being researched.
Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA). The majority of the fats that humans eat, overall, are long chain fatty acids (LCFA) mostly found in animal products; LCFAs are stored in the body as fat, whereas MCFAs are not stored as fat very easily and are effectively utilized within the system for energy. MCFAs have been shown to improve cognitive function for the severely diabetic, prevent cardiovascular and heart disease, and suppress appetite/improve weight control. PRETTY. RAD.
OK. So coconut milk and cold-process coconut products are magic. They feed our bodies, our brains, and our appetite. The high fat content in coconut milk makes it a great addition to curries and sweet treats, as fats are a huge factor in experiencing flavor. FAT = FLAVOR, people. Fats coat the tongue and help aerate the scent of foods, resulting in a more intoxicating and full flavor experience.
So, of course, a beautifully vanilla-scented coconut ice cream is exactly what is called for in this moment.
BUT WAIT. Not just vanilla ice dreaminess awaits: ice dreaminess mashed between two sweet vanilla Kahlua cookies! This may just be the most delicious cold dessert I have EVER made.
The cookies in this recipe are sweet, crisp, and studded with adorable little chia seeds. They are scented with sweet vanilla bean and sultry Kahlua liquor. I have a compulsory need to add alcohol to every baked good... especially fancy ones: vanilla rum, orange scented cointreau, etc. They're so aromatic and lovely! These cookies also contain a fair amount of protein from brown rice, almond, and oat flours. Yeah, yeah... this recipe is NOT sugar free. I actually use REAL SUGAR. It goes against many principles that I have about nutrition. But, honestly, good cookies cannot be made without crystalline sugar. Cane derived sugars are what make cookies crispy, snappy, or otherwise crunchy. Without sugar a gluten-free cookie will remain soft-edged, simply refusing to firm up. I CAN'T HANDLE THAT.
Renee's notes: The ice cream in this recipe is incredibly simple to make, with dates and maple as sweeteners. I do, however, add a thickening agent: xanthan gum. If you don't already know what xanthan gum is, it's a natural binding & thickening agent derived from the shells of defunct bacteria. It's a simple powder that is most often used in gluten-free baked goods, and dairy-free yogurts & milks. It can cause digestive irritation if too much is used as it is quite potent; Thusly, I add very little of it to this dessert. Feel free to leave it out or replace it with agar agar, which is derived from algae.
Simple Vanilla Coconut Ice Cream
serves 4 generously
1 can of full fat organic coconut milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped of seeds
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
5 medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or raw honey, agave, 1 or 2 more dates)
In a blender, combine coconut milk, pitted dates, scrapings from the vanilla bean, xanthan gum, and maple syrup. Blend on high until ingredients are uniformly incorporated.
Place ingredients in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Once chilled, place in ice cream maker and blend as usual.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, pour ice cream base into ice cube molds and freeze, then mill in a blender to create a Haagan-dazs-like texture.
Vanilla & Kahlua Cookies
makes about 20 cookies
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup oat flour
1&1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup olive or coconut oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons soy milk (or almond milk, rice milk, etc)
1 tablespoon Kahlua liquor
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped of beans
Preheat your oven to 325 F (my oven runs cool, so I heat it to 350 F). Prepare two baking sheets, lining them with parchment or wax paper.
In a medium sized bowl, add brown rice flour, tapioca flour, almond flour, oat flour, chia seeds, brown sugar, coconut flakes, cinnamon, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda. Using a rubber spatula, mix dry ingredients.
Add oil, apple cider vinegar, soy milk, vanilla bean, and Kahlua. Mix ingredients together using a rubber spatula. Let sit for about 10 minutes, allowing the chia to expand and bind the ingredients. Mix again until the dough is sticky and holds together well.
Using your hands, shape about a tablespoon of dough into a ball and flatten between your palms before placing on the baking sheet. Continue using this method until all of the dough is used up.
Bake for 25 minutes, turning once at 7 minutes, and once at 15 minutes. You may want to switch the bottom pan and the top pan after 15 minutes of baking. The cookies will be done when they begin to brown around the edges. The cookies will harden further upon cooling. Cool for 15 minutes before attempting any noshing.
TO PREPARE THINE SANDWICH COOKIES
If you're impatient, like me, stick a couple of cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool them down right quick. Once cool, place about a tablespoon of ice cream on one cookie and gently top with a second cookie. Press down to sandwich the ice cream. Unless you're eating one of these immediately, quickly store all of your ice dream sammies in the freezer. You may want to work in batches, as the ice cream will melt rather quickly.