Creamy vanilla ice cream rippled with fresh strawberry rhubarb swirls, and studded with bits of homemade brown sugar crumble. This frozen vegan treat is a combination of two favorite summer desserts: homemade ice cream and strawberry rhubarb crumble!
Often times, coconut cream is the main ingredient in vegan ice creams, but I really wanted the fresh flavors of the strawberry and rhubarb to shine without any competition from coconut. This vegan ice cream gets its richness from cashews! Even though there’s one can of sweetened condensed coconut used in this recipe, it’s such a small volume that the coconut flavor isn’t detectable.
To Churn or Not to Churn?
If you have an ice cream maker, then I’d say dig it out when making ice cream, even for the “no churn” recipes. Ice cream makers do the important job of incorporating air and agitating the ice cream so the ice crystals that form during freezing are tiny. Small air pockets and tiny ice crystals means that the ice cream will be smoother, creamier and easier to scoop! If you think about what happens when you freeze water, you get a solid hard mass of ice. Add some fat (creaminess), sugar (flavor and reduces freezing point a bit), guar gum (see the next section) and agitation, you get a very different product: a creamy, smooth, easily scooped frozen treat!
Now if you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t worry. Your ice cream isn’t doomed! For some ice cream recipes, we can agitate the ice cream as it freezes by hand. That is, we’d use a whisk or a blender to beat the ice cream every 30 minutes or so as it freezes. But with a recipe like this one where we have a defined swirl and/or inclusions like the crumble, we can’t do that. So we make the best of it!
We beat the ice cream long and hard in the blender before freezing which gets some air into the mix, and helps emulsify the fat. We then either 1) serve the ice cream *just* as it becomes scoopable, or 2) let the ice cream sit out for 20-30 minutes at room temperature (or an hour in the fridge) before serving so it can soften a bit.
Let’s Chat About Guar Gum:
I’ll start off by letting you know that using guar gum in this recipe is totally optional!
Now, you may have noticed that it’s rare to find ice cream (vegan or not) in stores without stabilizers like guar gum. As much as “stabilizer” or “food additive” may sound unnatural and menacing, guar gum is just a powder made from guar beans.
It makes a big difference in ice cream, emulsifying the ice cream base so that that fat doesn’t separate from the higher water content ingredients (like the plant-based milk and the water in the soaked cashews). When they separate (particularly if they haven’t been well blended from the start and then are frozen, partially thawed, and then refrozen which can happen during the distribution process), you get ice crystals and the ice cream can become hard and grainy.
So while it’s not essential to use the guar gum when making homemade ice cream, it does make for a better ice cream texture. This is especially true if you won’t be eating the ice cream straight away. Each time you take the ice cream out of the freezer and let it sit to soften before serving, the quality is being reduced. By adding guar gum, you’ll find it easier to scoop the ice cream, too.
Tips for Perfect Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream:
- soak your cashews. This is especially important if you don’t have a high-speed blender. For best results, use cashew pieces which are smaller so they soak faster (and are usually cheaper!) I do a quick soak by simmering the cashew pieces for 10 minutes. You may need to do a longer soak for whole cashews (30 minutes), but keep an eye on them so the water doesn’t go dry. Alternatively, you can cover the cashews with water and soak overnight.
- use a mild plant-based milk. We really like using soy, plus it has a higher amount of fat in it compared with, say rice milk. Oat and cashew milks would also be good choices. Milks I’d avoid using would be flax or hemp which have stronger, more unique flavors and may stand out too much.
- this recipe calls for refined coconut oil which has no flavor. It’s important for increasing the fat content so we don’t get ice crystals throughout the ice cream.
- the sweetened condensed coconut milk contributes sweetness and some solids to the ice cream base, without adding much moisture. The more moisture we have, the more water crystals we’ll have in the ice cream giving us more of a sorbet rather than creamy ice cream.
- homemade ice cream is best enjoyed the day it’s made. The longer it freezes, the harder it gets and repeated softening/melting prior to scooping has a negative effect on the texture. Guar gum also slightly reduces the freezing point so the ice cream should be a bit easier to scoop even after 6 hours of freezing.
- the crumble won’t look great when it comes out of the oven. Think: really ugly cookies. But fear not, just trim off any really crispy bits, and crumble the rest! While it may be tempting to reduce the fat or sugar in it, don’t because we don’t want little rock-like bits in the ice cream. We’re going for something that chews easily once frozen and tastes great!
- the recipe for the sauce and crumble makes more than what you need for the ice cream. Use the leftovers to serve over the top!
Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream
and studded with bits of homemade brown sugar crumble. This frozen vegan
treat is a combination of two favorite summer desserts: homemade ice
cream and strawberry rhubarb crumble!
For the Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce:
- 2 cup rhubarb, cut into 1/2" slices
- 2 cups strawberries, sliced
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 4 tsp cornstarch
For the Crumble:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup vegan butter (stick, not tub style)
For the Ice Cream Base:
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked and drained
- 2 cups plant-based milk
- 1 can sweetened condensed coconut milk (210-250mL)
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 5 tbsp refined coconut oil
- ¾ tsp guar gum, optional (see Tips in blog post)
- ⅛ tsp salt
For the Crumble:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon together. Cream in the vegan butter. Squeeze crumble together into 6-7 cookie-like mounds (1/2"-3/4" thick) and place on a baking sheet. Take care not to make them thin, they will spread during baking. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Let cool completely.
- Once cool, press off any over-crisped edges. Crumble the rest into 1/2-1" pieces. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
For the Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce:
- In a medium-sized pot, combine the rhubarb and strawberries. In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the cornstarch, then sprinkle over the fruit. Stir to coat the fruit, then cook over medium heat. Bring the fruit to a simmer, stirring frequently. A sauce will start to form from the juices released out of the fruit, and will start to thicken. Once simmering, cook for 5-8 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened a bit and the sauce is thickened so that it coats a spoon.
- Remove from heat. Blend with an immersion blender, or in a blender until smooth. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge until chilled, about 2 hours.
For the Ice Cream Base:
- Combine all of the ingredients for the ice cream base in a high-speed blender. Blend on high until completely smooth. You shouldn't feel any grit when you rub the ice cream base between your fingers. This can take 3-10 minutes depending on your machine.
For No-Churn Option:
- Pour half of the base into a 9" x 5" loaf pan. Gently fold in 1/6 of the crumble. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the chilled fruit sauce onto the base. Drag a toothpick or pointy end of a knife through the sauce into the white base, creating swirls, cutting down sideways a bit so the sauce drags down into the base and doesn't remain in a layer. Top with the remaining base, fold in another 1/6 of the crumble into the top half of the ice cream, and then swirl in another 3 tablespoons of the fruit sauce.
- Cover the ice cream directly with plastic wrap and freeze until scoop-able, 4-6 hours. If your freezer is very cold, or the ice cream is in the freezer for more than 4-6 hours, leave it out on the counter for about 20 minutes (or in the fridge for an hour) to soften. Serve with remaining fruit sauce and crumbles.
For Ice Cream Churn/Maker Option:
- Pour the base into a container and place plastic wrap directly over it so that a skin does not form. Chill completely, about 4 hours or as per the base preparation instructions of your ice cream maker.
- Follow the instructions of your ice cream maker to freeze the ice cream base. Once the base is ready, pour half of it into a 9" x 5" loaf pan. Gently fold in 1/6 of the crumble. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the chilled fruit sauce onto the base. Drag a toothpick or pointy end of a knife through the sauce into the white base, creating swirls, cutting down sideways a bit so the sauce drags down into the base and doesn't remain in a layer. Top with the remaining base, fold in another 1/6 of the crumble into the top half of the ice cream, and then swirl in another 3 tablespoons of the fruit sauce. Cover the ice cream directly with plastic wrap and freeze until scoop-able, 2-4 hours. If your freezer is very cold, or the ice cream freezes more than 4 hours, leave it out on the counter for about 20 minutes(or in the fridge for an hour) to soften. Serve with remaining fruit sauce and crumbles.