Last week, I cooked a three course dinner that was both gluten-free and dairy-free because one of our friends who joined us is allergic to both. Given those constraints, I started thinking about what to make for this dinner a few weeks in advance. I quickly realized that cooking gluten-free and dairy-free is manageable for savory dishes but when you get to dessert, it becomes a serious challenge.
A challenge I absolutely loved (Top Chef here I come!). Once I decided on the appetizer (pea soup) and the main dish (roast chicken with potatoes and carrots), I started to go over my recipes for desserts. I didn’t want to go the easy way by making a fruit sorbet and call it a day. I wanted to make a dessert that screamed gluten and dairy but without having either of them.
So I chose to make bread pudding, served with ice cream. Yep, I went there.
For the bread pudding, I used my go-to recipe (which I’ll share soon) and substituted regular bread for gluten-free croutons that I bought. I also replaced whole milk with coconut milk. The end result was delicious. The ice cream, however, was more of a challenge. I decided to stick with the coconut theme and I found a recipe by David Lebovitz for a quick coconut saffron ice cream that seemed promising. However, it used heavy cream. So, I decided to replace heavy cream with cream of coconut, which is really coconut milk with lots of sugar and a few thickeners (different types of gum) that turn it into a thick, sweet concoction that’s the basic ingredient in Pina Coladas.
So, I opened a can of coconut milk and a can of cream of coconut, dumped them in a pot, and heated them gently until all the solids melted and it became a smooth liquid. I added a pinch of salt and a bigger pinch of saffron, heated it a little longer to let the saffron steep, chilled it in the fridge, and froze it in my ice cream maker.
I was skeptical on what the final product would be like, especially in terms of consistency. I expected a solid block on ice when I took it out of the freezer the next day. I was amazed when it turned out to be a beautiful, creamy ice cream that you could scoop with a spoon. The saffron had given it a golden yellow color that intensified the illusion that this ice cream was made with actual cream and egg yolks.
The final verdict on the whole dessert? Let’s just say that not a crumb of bread pudding or drop of ice cream was left over in everyone’s bowls.
Quick Dairy-Free Coconut Saffron Ice Cream
If you don’t have saffron, or if you don’t like it, you can omit it. Though I haven’t tried them, other options for additions are lime zest, chopped dried pineapple or ginger, or chocolate pieces. For all of these alternative options, add them to the ice cream right when it’s finished being churned in the ice cream maker.
1 15oz can of coconut milk, unsweetened
1 15oz can of cream of coconut (such as Goya or Coco Lopez)
pinch of salt
hefty pinch of saffron threads (about half a teaspoon)
In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk and the cream of coconut. The cream of coconut is usually separated in the can, with the solid cream on top and the liquid syrup in the bottom. Add the entire contents of the can to the saucepan.
Heat gently over medium heat, stirring frequently until the cream of coconut solids melt and everything becomes a smooth liquid.
Add the salt and saffron and continue to heat gently for 2-3 minutes. The longer you steep the saffron, the deeper the saffron taste of your ice cream will be.
Remove from heat and chill in the refrigerator. Once the mixture is chilled, freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.