You can buy lots of amazing gourmet food online. You can also choose to buy the equipment online that makes it amazing, and make your own. Well, sometimes you can. Like a dehydrator. You can buy a dehydrator to make crackers or fruit jerky, for example, but a pacojet and a homogenizer to make ice cream and blend things ridiculously well are a bit out of the average home cook’s price range. My friend’s Huntington’s Disease research lab can afford a centrifuge, but I’d rather have a roof over my head and pay my rent than bankrupt myself by splitting figs every day (as wonderful as that experience was). For goodness sake, I wouldn’t even be able to afford the figs (even if they were priced at 2 baskets for $5 during fig season in Whole foods in Seattle)!
That being said, this is how all ice cream should be made:
First, it should be homogenized to turn a nut paste (or anything else that’s not already liquid that you’d want in ice cream) into a completely bump-free purée:
Homogenizing my dairy-free vanilla gelato (with macademia nuts)
My blender cannot do this. Even a Vita Mix cannot do this. My blender, however, is so far from doing this that I may as well place nuts in my mouth, followed by sugar, oil and salt and call it ice cream. I hope my blender forgives me for writing that, because as much as I harass it, I do still need it to make my sorry, non-pacojet-ed versions of ice cream.
This is a pacojet:
When you’re done homogenizing you have to freeze the homogenized liquid in a pacojet cup that kind of looks like a travel coffee mug from times when humans thought black plastic was the best way to carry coffee. Except this travel mug screws into the coffee machine-type thing and a high power blade then cuts down into the frozen base. The freezing takes about 4 hours usually. But the actual blending takes and cutting of the nut and fat molecules into creamy perfection takes only about 5 minutes.
The ice cream base for this gelato is macadamia nuts, macadamia nut oil, vanilla bean seeds, lambda carageenan (a seaweed-based thickener, like agar agar), salt and sugar (Modernist Cuisine at Home calls for fructose, I believe, but you could use regular sugar or agave nectar or whatever sweetener you wanted – it’ll just affect the taste of the sweetness). No water. No milk. No eggs. But lots of rich, healthy fats.
You need to be careful with macadamia nuts, because they have a mild flavour, but if you roast them they don’t. So just grind them without roasting or adding salt. I inherited a pre-ground, frozen bag of them at the Modernist Cuisine cooking lab, which saved me from cleaning the food processor. Thanks, Aaron. And you only need to be careful if you don’t want to taste the macadamia. If I’m making vanilla gelato I want to taste vanilla, not macadamia. If I’d been making chocolate gelato it wouldn’t have mattered, probably, since cacao would have bested macadamia for strongest flavour. Vanilla beans are wimpy – aka “subtle” – but lovely.
You can also just make this with coconut cream and skip all the nut hassle, but I like not having to use a milk – rice, hemp, soy, almond, or even coconut, which is the most like an actual milk of them all. Cashews would also work in place of macamadia, which is what raw foodists do most often for raw ice cream. They are proof positive that vita mixes do a bang up job on gelato too. Just not this bang up.
You could really blend anything in the pacojet into stellar gelato as long as it was already pretty rich in fat (water crystals will separate apparently, but frozen mango chunks all by themselves are supposed to be amazing, and there’s a fair bit of water in there). So I wish I’d had more time to place with sorbet recipes in the pacojet before leaving the lab. I figured that any recipe that worked fairly well in my home ice cream maker (Il Gelataio 1600) would be even better in the pacojet.
So despite the overly macamadia-y flavour, I loved my vanilla gelato. I’m going to tell you a secret. My last day in the Modernist cuisine Cooking Lab I made myself a heaping bowl of it combined with a re-pacojet-ed strawberry gelato (with macadamias. It was a bit oily for my tastes but so creamy because of the fat. And all you have to do with a pacojet is re-process the pre-made gelato to get a harden frozen block of ice cream back into something similar to soft serve in 5 minutes). And I topped the scoops of pure nut fats and sugar with my 80 degrees Celcius egg yolk butterscotch sauce. No butter. No scotch. Just 2 egg yolks, 2 tbsp sugar, a pinch of salt and the seeds of half a vanilla bean all whisked together, vacuum sealed and cooked sous vide in an immersion circulator at 80C for 30 minutes. My 87C version was a bit thick, and my 62.5C version was a bit runny. The butterscotch stays clear and amber instead of cooking into a solid hunk like most egg yolks. The wonders of sous vide.
I said it was a secret, because it was really an ice cream binge. I knew I wouldn’t be able to have such amazing dairy-free gelato again for a long, long time. So I indulged and savoured every last bite. I wasn’t particularly hungry that evening for some reason…
And unfortunately, while buying gourmet food and other carefully prepared foodstuffs online is a growing business, I can’t conceive of how someone could ship vanilla dairy-free pacojet-ed gelato to you. When it makes it to grocery store freezer section and retains its creaminess and softness without additional reprocessing, however, I will be the first one in line. It will be much less expensive than buying a pacojet. At least the first 700 times I eat it.