Use dates and a few pantry staples to make this whole food, plant based ice cream and avoid a perilous trip to the bodega
Creamy vegan peanut butter ice cream, sweetened only with dates and studded with bittersweet chocolate chips. Need I say more?
I let it be known in the Christmas gift exchange this year that I wanted an ice cream maker, and my wishes were answered. In the past, I’ve made ice cream using the granita method, where you put the cooled mix in a container in the freezer, and agitate it with a fork intermittently. I’ve also tried this innovative method from Chocolate Covered Katie where you freeze the mix in ice cube trays, and then blend them in a food processor. You could absolutely use either of those methods here, just make sure to add the chocolate chips at the end if using the ice cube tray method.
Having an ice cream maker is great, though, and I’ve been using it to experiment with a variety of non-dairy concoctions, some more successful than others. (There was one attempt at lime ice cream made from oats and dates that in Tim’s words looked and tasted like something a 5-year-old would proudly give you, saying “look! I made this!”) Luckily, this version tastes like a frozen peanut butter cup and will scratch your Ben & Jerry’s itch. It’s also incredibly easy to make and Tim-approved.
In the pre-Corona era, if we had a craving for ice cream, we would just pop into the bodega across the street (for non-New Yorkers, a bodega is a mini all-purpose grocery/convenient store, and there’s one on almost every block in Brooklyn) and grab a pint. It’s so weird that this feels dangerous right now. We’ve mostly been avoiding the grocery store, and had success with a Whole Foods via Amazon delivery earlier in the week. This morning, the headlines were getting to me, so I decided to brave the grocery store, and basically stock up for the end of days, wearing a professional grade respirator mask. My list of staples included dates and bittersweet chocolate chips, so don’t worry, this is not the last chocolate peanut butter dessert you’ll see here.
Family and friends have been reaching out to us, as cases continue to increase in New York. So many loved ones have offered emotional support, and some have even offered to drive here and pick us up (we declined, because we don’t want to risk spreading the virus). I’m deeply touched by all of the kindness we’ve received. Ultimately, though, we’re ok, and we’re more fortunate than a lot of other people. We have necessities like food and shelter, and luxuries like chocolate and Netflix. As health care workers continue to risk their lives to save others, all we can do is weather out the storm and stay positive.
Chocolate and peanut butter is probably my favorite dessert combination. This ice cream is definitely high in calories, but they’re not the empty variety. I love using dates as a sweetener, because they’re high in fiber and antioxidants, plus they add body and a delicious flavor reminiscent of caramel. Peanut butter is a great addition to vegan desserts, because it adds a creamy richness without using dairy or oil.
If you wanted to make this ice cream with no refined sugars or processed ingredients whatsoever, you could sub out cacao nibs for the chocolate chips, or just leave them out. But I’m a huge proponent of eating dark chocolate, and if you’re apprehensive, convince yourself it’s healthy. I wanted the chocolate chips to be tiny pieces, because I think the texture of big chocolate chunks in ice cream can be hard and chalky. So I pulsed the chocolate in my food processor to make it a bit smaller. This step is optional, or you could use mini chocolate chips, or a finely chopped hunk of dark chocolate (we usually have a bar of Trader Joe’s 72% pound plus in the cabinet, but alas, they were sold out on my last trip). Another note on chocolate chips- I always buy bittersweet, not semisweet. If you look at the ingredients on a package of semisweet chocolate chips, the first ingredient is sugar, and I find they are lacking the deep, intense flavor of chocolate with a higher cacao content.
If you’re stressed about Corona Virus, or quarantined and bored, or just in the mood for a wholesome, tasty treat, make this vegan peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream. You’ll feel better.
Recipe: Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup water
1 can full fat coconut milk
1/3 cup natural peanut butter (I used Trader Joe’s creamy salted. You definitely want an unsweetened variety here. If using unsalted, add a few pinches of salt to the mix.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Put the dates and water in a food processor or blender and let soak for at least 10 minutes. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and coconut milk, and blend until smooth.
Remove mixture from food processor, clean, and add chocolate chips. Pulse until chopped into small pieces.
If using an ice cream maker: Churn the mix in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions. Add chocolate and mix for a minute or two, until incorporated.
If using ice cube trays: Freeze the base in ice cube trays until solid. Blend in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy, then add chocolate and pulse briefly to combine.
If using the freeze-and-stir method: stir chocolate into base. Pour into a container and place in the freezer. Stir with a fork every 20 minutes until mixture is frozen but scoop-able. This should take roughly 4 hours.