Step One: Admit the Problem + Step Two: Make Tipsy Strawberry Coco-Cream
If there’s one thing I truly love, it’s good, fresh, healthy food. Particularly when the ingredients are locally-grown, supporting the community’s economy, ecosystem and farmers.
When a drive last week took me past the “now picking”sign at my favorite berry patch, I had to stop and say hello, because, yes, they know me well. (And by now you know I have a problem, and can guess where this is going.)
It began with one bucket. Then two. Then I may have picked eleven pounds. They were too beautiful to pass up.
This is only the first of what will likely be many visits this season. Then come the blueberries. The only excuse I can offer is greed. Delicious, delicious greed.
Step one was admitting the problem. The next step was to capitalize on the excuse that “problem” gave me to fill my life with strawberry-infused everything. I was about due for a frozen treat anyway.
So here’s what I have to share with you: strawberries + coconut milk + honey + Port.
This is recipe best prepared with the ripest of strawberries to achieve the brightest flavor possible. I strongly encourage you to hold out for the ones that are so ripe you can smell the sweet just walking through the patch, or the market aisles. Peak ripeness also equates to highest nutritional quality. Ripe red strawberries are sources of manganese, fiber, folate, potassium, and a slew of powerful antioxidants. One cup contains more than 150% of your daily needs for vitamin C, for a total of only 50 calories!
But if you truly can’t wait, and who could blame you, go ahead and snatch a few pints* now. Counteract bland berries using the power of your oven to bring out their natural sweetness. (Instructions in the HGN Notes of the recipe below.)
It’s dairy-free/egg-free/gluten-free/refined sugar-free — don’t let that deter you. It’s rich and creamy, sweet, refreshing, a wee bit drunk and 100-percent sublime. Can you let me off the hook?
Tell me… Have you made a “coco-cream”? What’s your favorite way to enjoy spring’s first strawberries? Do you share my greedy little problem?
- 2 (13.5-ounce) cans full fat coconut milk, shaken, divided
- 1/3 cup good-quality mild-flavored honey, like clover (or maple syrup for vegan)
- 1/4 tsp fine-grain kosher or sea salt
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot or tapioca starch)
- 1 whole vanilla bean pod, split down the middle
- 2 heaping cups fresh ripe strawberries, stemmed and halved if large
- 1 to 2 Tbsp Port wine (depending on how "tipsy" you'd like the end flavor to be)
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine all but 1/2 cup of the coconut milk with the honey and salt. Heat until warmed, and the sugar and salt are completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk reserved 1/2 cup coconut milk with the cornstarch to completely incorporate, and then stir it into the warm coconut milk mixture. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, scrape out the seeds from each of the vanilla bean halves. Add both the seeds and the pod to the milk. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. Be careful not to let it boil.
- Remove from the heat, discard the vanilla bean halves, and pour the "coco-cream" base into a separate bowl. Cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator 4 to 5 hours. (Speed this along by placing the bowl in an ice-water bath.)
- In the meantime, combine the strawberries and Port wine in a blender or food processor, and pulse until there is some liquid but also still some very small chunks. (I recommend beginning with 1 Tbsp, tasting, and adding the second 1 Tbsp if desired.) Set aside in the refrigerator.
- Once the "coco-cream" base is fully chilled, pour it into the bowl of an ice cream maker and blend until thick and frozen, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your particular machine. In the final minutes of this process (at "soft-serve" consistency) slowly pour or spoon in about 3/4 of the strawberry puree to be stirred through by the paddle. It will turn a pretty pink color.
- Transfer the "coco-cream" to a freezer safe container -- I used a 9×5-inch bread tin lined with plastic wrap; you could also use parchment, or stick to a more traditional plastic or glass container. Pour the remaining strawberry puree over the top, and swirl it through with a wooden skewer or small rubber scraper. Place in the freezer until frozen, 3 to 4 hours, depending on the size of your container.
- To serve, allow the "coco-cream" to sit on the counter at room temperature for about 10 minutes to help it soften up for a more manageable scoop. For a more dramatic presentation, turn the cream out, remove the plastic/parchment and cut with a sharp knife into thick slices. Top with more berries, as desired!
- To store directly in the loaf tin, press a piece of plastic wrap down onto the top of the cream, then tightly cover the top of the tin with another piece of plastic plus a piece of aluminum foil. Alternatively, pull the entire block of frozen cream out in its plastic/parchment "sling," and pop it into a similarly-shaped tightly-sealing storage container. Best enjoyed within the week.
If you don't have a whole vanilla bean, add 1 tsp high-quality pure vanilla extract in its place. (We love Penzeys.)
+ Regular white granulated sugar, can be used in the same amount in place of honey if preferred. Maple syrup or agave nectar would work as well as vegan options.
+ Explore boozy alternatives to Port wine. Swap in Grand Marnier or Triple Sec for an orange-y kick; limoncello for lemon; lime juice + tequila for a take on a tropical margarita; or Amaretto to make it almond-y. You could also try a more robust regular red wine -- even Champagne!
+ Strawberries and aged Balsamic vinegar are a great pair. Use in place of the Port, and be delighted. Maybe a pinch of black pepper...
+ Tame it down by eliminating the alcohol altogether. Because it helps soften the berries as they cook down and also helps with the overall creaminess of the ice cream, replace it with the same amount of fresh citrus juice (orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime) or more of your preferred sweetener.
+ Take it to a whole new flavor level. Before pureeing, roast halved strawberries tossed with the Port (or alternative) for 30 to 40 minutes in a shallow baking dish at 375º F. Allow them to cool in the pan, then scrape the berries and their boozy juices into the food processor or blender.
+ Chopped dark chocolate? Yes! Next time...
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn.
*Use this handy recipe conversion guide from Fine Cooking to go from pints and quarts of strawberries to cups.
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