My little brother and I are pretty weird about gift giving. Since our birthdays, which are in February, are only two weeks apart, we tend to view the process as more of a business transaction than anything else. We have a tradition (much to our parents' dismay) of making deals like "How about you just buy yourself something and I'll buy myself something and we'll call it even?" For Christmas we'll sometimes just pick items of similar value off Amazon and have them shipped to my parents house for exchange.
From the minute I opened my Amazon box (sans wrapping paper and with receipt enclosed, mind you), I was completely consumed with the prospect of making fantastic new ice cream recipes. Nearly everything that crosses my path is considered for freezing: a perfectly ripe avocado given to me as a gift by the cute bodega owner's son, a pot of leftover ginger tea, even a savory almond gazpacho recipe I saw on Padma Lakshmi's Food Network travel show, which I thought would make a really interesting savory sorbet to serve along with a grilled shrimp salad.
I'm sure that at one point or another I'll try those recipes out, but for now I've been sticking with the sweet stuff. I just made my fourth type of ice cream last night, and have to say that it is my favorite.
The recipe for this ice cream is based on a quick coconut pudding I often make myself when I'm craving something sweet, but don't want to go to too much trouble to bake or run out to the store. I'd write the recipe out for you, but there really isn't much to it: just a scoop of ricotta thinned with a couple tablespoons of coconut milk and sweetened with half a packet of Splenda. I pop this in the microwave for thirty seconds and then sprinkle a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg on top. The flavors are warm and nutty, and very reminiscent of a traditional Puerto Rican beverage called Coquito. Coquito is to Puerto Ricans what Egg Nog is to everyone else. Made with a blend of coconut cream, milk, spices, and dark rum (lots and lots of dark rum), the drink is traditionally served at Christmas and New Years parties or prepared and given as gifts to friends and family members.
I decided to build off of these nostalgic flavors and turn the pudding into a base for a frozen ricotta ice cream. Ricotta is wonderful in desserts. Not really a cheese, Ricotta is Italian for "re-cooked," a reference to the two-step process of recooking the leftover whey strained from the production of other cheeses like Mozzarella and Provolone. In Italy, a typical store will carry dozens of fresh ricotta. Here, we're usually limited to store brand ricotta, although the fancy stuff is available. If you can find it, use it. It'll make an incredible difference.
A word about sugar:
For the past few months, I've been making an effort to reduce the amount of refined sugars and flours I consume while also keeping the carb count low. You'll see this reflected in many of my recipes where I offer you options for using substitutes like Splenda, ground nut meals, or high-fiber whole grains.
For those with glucose regulation concerns, ice cream can be one of the best low carb treats available since it can be (and actually tastes best) made using whole ingredients like heavy cream, egg yolks, and nuts or berries as flavoring. Keep in mind that when using Splenda (or any other sugar substitute) in custard based or infused recipes, it should be added after any heating has already occurred so as to avoid the breakdown of flavor.
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Coconut Ricotta Rum Ice Cream
The addition of rum to this ice cream is not just for the kick; the alcohol content also serves to keep the ice cream from freezing too hard when stored in the freezer thereby eliminating the need to set on the counter for a few minutes before serving. I like to serve myself a scoop straight from the ice cream maker and then pack the rest right into the empty ricotta container for storage. A dusting of nutmeg and cinnamon on top before serving makes for a lovely presentation. I sometimes like to sprinkle a bit of lime juice on top before serving--it brightens the flavor and makes it taste a little bit like a cocktail!
15 oz of part-skim ricotta
1 can coconut milk (check to make sure no sugar has been added or adjust recipe accordingly)
1 cup sugar or equivalent Splenda sweetener (24 packets/1 cup granulated)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dark Puerto Rican rum
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. In a blender or food processor, combine the ricotta, coconut milk, sugar, cream, water, and spices until smooth. About 3 minutes. Place in refrigerator and chill until cold.
2. Pour mix into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.
3. Once the ice cream reaches your preferred thickness, slowly drizzle in the 1/4 cup of rum into the ice cream maker and allow to process for an additional five minutes.
4. Remove from ice cream maker and either serve soft or pack into an air-tight container and freeze for an hour or two to harden.
Store ice cream in the freezer. It will keep for up to one week (that is, if you don't eat it all first!)