Hazelnuts replace the cream in this vegan ice cream that reminds my family of frozen Nutella. With the right blender and some water you can grind hazelnuts down to a nice smoothness. There are a few optional ingredients but the four basics I usually use are: hazelnuts, medjool dates, cocoa powder, and water. This recipe does take some special equipment, a high powered blender and an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, put the recipe in the fridge for a couple hours instead and it makes a yummy pudding!
Roasting the hazelnuts really brings out their flavor. Besides being wonderfully delicious, hazelnuts are good for you. They are full of vitamins and minerals: manganese, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and some calcium. They also have fiber, protein and their good fats qualify them as good for your heart amongst some folks.
Just some of the many benefits of Medjool dates are potassium, iron, and fiber. It’s nice when your ice cream helps you with your daily fiber intake! I never thought I liked dates at all until I tried the medjools. They are super sweet and delicious and a great healthy sweetener. Dates that aren’t too dry work best for this recipe, as the moist ones blend better. Other liquid sweeteners will work, too. I have alternated sweeteners a lot depending on what I have on hand. For someone who is really obsessed with smoothness, brown rice syrup might be a better bet. I’ve also used raw honey (not vegan) and coconut sugar, and I bet agave would work, too. I like my chocolate hazelnut ice cream on the light side and with as little sweetener as possible, but you could always add more cocoa and sweetener for a darker, richer or sweeter chocolate taste.
Recently my second food processor broke and I made the leap and bought a Blendtec blender. I have been having a great time experimenting. The Blendtec blender is ridiculously powerful which is a good thing because the hazelnut is one tough nut. I tried soaking a batch of hazelnuts for two days and it barely made a difference! I’ve found the best way to get them smooth is to run the blender on the soup setting, which goes on for 80 something seconds and actually warms the mix. Then I put it in the fridge for a few hours which cools it down and gives the flavors time to combine. Another way to get the hazelnuts smooth and creamy is to blend the ingredients, let them sit in the fridge overnight, blend again in the morning and return to the fridge. Make sure the ice cream is cold before you put it in the ice cream maker so it sets up right.
The recipe below makes about 3-4 small servings but can easily be doubled and still fit in the ice cream maker.
Chocolate Hazelnut Vegan Ice Cream
1 2/3 cup hazelnuts
4 cups water
6 medjool dates or 1/2 cup brown rice syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract *optional
1/8 tsp almond extract *optional
Roast hazelnuts in the pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. I have a little toaster oven that I use so I don’t have to heat up the stove every time, although it generally takes a higher temp (400) and a little longer, but either way… Check them to make sure they don’t burn. Let them cool to the touch and then you can rub the skins off either with a towel or your hands. This is the longest part of the process and is the reason why I usually roast a little extra hazelnuts. They smell delicious and irresistible at this stage! Another bonus to having extra? If any of them give you a problem with the skin coming off, those are the ones you eat. Put the de-skinned roasted hazelnuts in the blender with water, cocoa powder, sweetener, and vanilla extract. Run on Soup setting or at a good high speed for at least a minute- until you have a creamy product.
Put into a container and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours, until it’s cool. Put in your ice cream maker and run according to directions. (My Cuisinart runs for about 20 minutes and then I put it in the freezer for a few hours to harden. If it gets too hard, take it out of the freezer fifteen minutes before eaten to let it soften up.)