October 31, 2010

La Gringa's Avocado Gelato .... and a vegan version!

Avocado gelatoLa Gringa's Avocado Gelato

Before you say "bleeeeech!", please hear me out.

I have to admit that the first time I heard of Avocado Ice Cream (on the Martha Stewart show 10 or 12 years ago as a matter of fact), I didn't think I would ever try it. I thought that it couldn't be terrible if Martha liked it, but, you know, when there's chocolate, coffee, mango, pineapple, papaya, Cherry Garcia, Coffee Heath Bar, and on and on and on, who needs avocado ice cream?

In my search for gelato recipes (Italian ice cream), Avocado Gelato popped up more often than you would imagine. When I saw Avocado-Coconut and vegan versions, I knew that I had to try it. It had everything some of my readers had been clamoring for: definitely an unusual flavor, lower fat (no cream), no eggs (raw or otherwise), lower or no cholesterol, good fat (avocado and possibly coconut), dairy free (with coconut or soy milk), and vegan-approved, unless the cruel practice of skinning citrus fruit alive is frowned upon. Wow! Who would know that I could ever be so politically correct?

I actually had to try it twice, once with milk (no cream!) and once with coconut milk (no dairy!). The all milk (whole milk) version was more like sherbet. The coconut milk version was more like ice cream, but we liked both. Yes, El Jefe liked it, too! It wouldn't be his first choice, but he wouldn't turn it away.

But, if you truly do not like the taste of avocados, I doubt that you will like this ice cream so don't try it.


Once again, I reviewed dozens of recipes and the readers' comments on them to come up with this recipe. The recipes that didn't call for citrus juice were commented upon as needing it. In most of the recipes that called for it, several reviewers felt that the quantities overwhelmed the taste of the avocados. I tried to find a middle ground.

La Gringa's Avocado GelatoI didn't try to expand the recipe for a full 1 1/2 quarts because .... well, truth be told, I wasn't sure if we would like it. Also, I'm a stickler when it comes to avocados — believing that avocados must be eaten within mere hours of being cut. I wasn't sure if the flavor would change over time in the freezer.

I asked El Jefe if he could pick up some avocados for me when he went to town. "Are you going to make guacamole?" he happily asked. The response, "No, I'm going to make avocado ice cream", was met with a narrowing of the eyes and a scowl. "You...Are...Kidding. Are you sure?" he whined. "Not at all, but we'll see," I responded.

Later on, with Arexy watching me closely in the kitchen, I confessed to her that I was making helado de aguacate. She actually looked frightened, as in: for my mental health, not of the ice cream. ;-D
She later tried it and liked it, or so she said, but I have less faith that she would tell me if she didn't.

Avocados — you never know what you will find inside

Only the best, freshest, and tastiest avocados should be used. Whatever your avocados taste like, that taste is going to multiplied in the flavor of your ice cream. If they are on the over-ripe side with a bit of a musty flavor, they will be fine for guacamole instead. If they are on the under-ripe side with a bit of a grassy or astringent flavor, best not to use them for ice cream. Instead slice them for a side dish or salad and sprinkle with a little lemon juice and salt. If they have a lot brown areas, throw them out.

La Gringa's Avocado GelatoWhich comes first, the avocado or the custard? This is a tough question. I would never peel and cut my avocados in advance. I'm convinced that most people who do not like avocados have been subjected to less than fresh avocados. But on the other hand, even fresh-looking avocados aren't always what you expected from the outside.

What do you do if you've already made the custard and open up your avocados to find disappointment?
Here is the solution that I have figured out for you: Buy a backup mango at about the same level of ripeness as your avocados and make mango gelato in case your avocados turn out to be disappointing. Just follow the same recipe, substituting mango puree, but cut back a little on the citrus juice. No mangoes? Use another fruit like peaches or strawberries. Brilliant?

Avocado tips

Cutting an avocadoWhen you buy avocados, look for ones that are still firm, have no soft spots, and still have their 'belly button.' Missing this means they may be past their prime. It's okay if you let them ripen for a day or two or three at room temperature and the belly button pops off when you cut into the avocado. It will be loose in a ripe avocado. The problem with it being already missing in the market is that you don't know how long it has been that way.

For this recipe, I would suggest using Hass avocados rather than the larger Honduran avocados. Those varieties are generally more watery and tend to have a less intense flavor. The bright yellow ones might also result in a mustard colored gelato which might not be too appetizing. There are exceptions, though. These 'long handled' avocados tasted exactly like Hass, so they would be fine.

Cutting an avocadoAvocados are messy to cut, so what I normally do is to slice the avocado in half, running my knife along the seed, twisting gently if necessary to pull the halves apart. Then I carefully slam my knife into the pit to remove it. Trying to pull the seed out with your fingers or scoop it out with a spoon can get messy and/or squish up the avocado.

Cutting an avocadoI cut the fruit into slices still inside the shell, trying not to cut through the peel. Depending upon whether I want nice, neat slices or smaller chunks, I run the knife crosswise as well through the fruit. Then I take a soup spoon (see photo) run it between the fruit and the shell to carefully scoop out the meat. It's a good idea to turn the pieces over and inspect them to be sure that there aren't any brown areas on the skin side, too.

La Gringa's Avocado Gelato
makes about 1 quart

2 1/2 cups milk* (divided use)
1 cup sugar (divided use)
1 tbsp. fresh zest of lime, lemon, or orange**
La Gringa's Avocado Gelato2-3 tbsp. cornstarch
3-4 firm but ripe avocados (about 1 lb.)***
2 tbsp. lime, lemon, or orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. coarse salt

*milk: I used and recommend whole milk. You may try low fat milk for a lower fat version. For a vegan gelato, use canned coconut milk (recommended) or soy milk or a combination. Canned coconut milk adds a lot of creaminess without adding a lot of coconut flavor, and makes a pretty good cream substitute in a pinch.

La Gringa's Avocado Gelato** Be sure not to include any of the white pith with the zest or you will have a disastrously bitter custard. (Yes, I had to throw the first batch away.)

*** My 3 avocados weighed right at a pound and resulted in a little less than 2 cups of cubed fruit.

1. Mix cornstarch with 1/2 cup of milk in a small bowl and set aside. If using soy milk, increase to 3 tbsp. cornstarch.

2. Mix 2 cups of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, and zest in a 2 qt. saucepan. Over moderate heat, bring to a simmer.

La Gringa's Avocado Gelato3. Stir the cornstarch mixture again and pour into hot mixture, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Bring just to a boil, continuing to whisk constantly, and cook for another minute or two until thick. The mixture didn't appear as thick as the mocha gelato I made using this method, but it passed the back of the spoon test.

4. Put pan into an ice bath to cool quickly, stirring constantly. When cool, put in refrigerator while you prepare the avocados.

5. Cut, pit, and peel the avocados removing any brown spots. You should have about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of avocado chunks. Purée in blender with juice, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla until smooth.

La Gringa's Avocado Gelato6. Add cooled milk mixture and quickly blend well. Don't blend too long as you don't want to add too much air to the mix.

7. Chill mixture in freezer, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 hours. When mixture is 35-40F (2-4C), stir well to ensure there are no icy particles and freeze according to your machine's directions.

8. Serve with a small wedge of lime (or lemon or orange) for squeezing over the ice cream.


See also my ice cream making tips, the raw egg controversy and alternatives, and, if you are in the market for a machine, my ice cream maker reviews. All of my ice cream recipes can be found by clicking the "LG recipes" topic in the sidebar or below.
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