The Travesty That Is Parve Ice Cream

The Sad Remains of a Killer-Clown Ice Cream Cake.

If you want a thoughtful exploration of Jewish spirituality and awesome nutrition, well, today you’re out of luck. I’ve got parve ice cream on my mind and there’s no way I can wax deep.

Parve (dairy-free) ice cream is the bane of perfectly good meals. It’s a parody of ice cream, a send up, a fraud.

I can’t think of any dessert more gruesome than one which contains parve ice cream, unless it’s the invariably-chocolate cake containing bits of chocolate candies in fussy layers that adorns dessert buffets. Each year, the recipe is republished with a new type of chocolate candy and an additional layer.

Keep in mind this complaint is from a woman who owns The White Trash Cookbook. As they say: De gustibus non est disputandum. Or, one woman’s gross is another’s grand.

Parve ice cream is usually a frozen mixture containing some or all of the following: hydrogenated vegetable oil (essentially, Crisco™ or margarine), high-fructose corn syrup, “whip” (which contains hvo and hfcs), raw eggs, and often, vanillin.

I do not believe that Bubby Bloomberg (the mayor of NYC) should tell people how much salt, soda or cholent to eat, but in all honesty, if hydrogenated vegetable oil was banned tomorrow, I’d secretly cheer. It is an extremely unhealthy substance that does not belong in your home. Sorry, freedom-lovers, in this instance I’m all for big government. I guess that makes me inconsistent.

Homemade or bought, there are probably very few foods that can rival parve ice cream for serious unhealthiness, and to my tastes, suspicious texture and flavors.

Send In The Clowns

For my birthday, someone I care deeply about, who shall remain nameless, you know who you are, gave me a parve “ice cream” “cake”. It was pink and had been stabbed with a plastic clown and balloons, and a little badge heralding a generic happy birthday.

Naturally, I freaked out.

Dear friend righteously responded: I am sorry. I wanted to give you something fun. And, besides, it’s your fault. You posted once that you ate a bunch of candy that contained zinc oxide or something, so I figured, how bad could pink parve ice cream cake be?

Of course, dear friend is right, I did admit to (once) eating a toxic lollipop. I have to be more careful about what I post. Maybe it’s best to come clean: When I was a kid, my favorite treat was a Bonomo’s Banana Turkish Taffy (I used to be allowed to buy one at the swim club.)

I’m not really complaining. I love dear friend, who is far more fun than I am in a host of inventive ways. And, it’s wonderful that people remembered my birthday when I’m so mediocre about remembering other people’s. Meanwhile, my loving friend and I shared the killer-clown ice cream cake (it was really small, honest), and compared notes on our heartburn and stomach aches.

I didn’t beat myself up afterwards, I got right back on the horse, and ate a whole bunch of healthy stuff the next day. And you should too, when similar occasions arise, as they are prone to do.

Meanwhile, there are some non-dairy frozen desserts that are delicious and real.

One of them, which I call Emergency Ice Cream, is made from frozen bananas; therefore, it has to be served immediately—you can’t make it ahead of time, so it’s not good for Shabbos (Shabbat) or simchas (celebrations like weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc.)

Another frozen treat, which I make (with variations) a couple of times during the summer for special guests is this Raw Tropical Fruit Pie. The recipe gives the option to add agave which, as I’ve said, is not a health food. Although you could use raw honey, the agave tastes better and doesn’t overpower the tropical fruit flavors. (Of course, you could just add cane sugar or coconut sugar.) However, if you let your fruit ripen, you truly don’t need any added sweeteners at all (I have never needed to add any).

You can also try this Frozen Chocolate Mousse Pie, or just use the filling for ice cream. The base is ripe avocado and banana. Again, if your banana is very ripe, just a touch of raw honey will sweeten this perfectly.

There are some relatively better-than-fakey-parve, store-bought types of non-dairy ice cream, too. The coconut-milk based ice creams (some brands are better than others) taste great. But they can cause some reactions and in fact, if eaten, should be served in very small quantities. They contain sugar or agave, coconut milk, and sometimes guar gum (a thick binder made from a bean, which can cause digestive upset) or carrageenan (a texturizer made from sea weeds which is considered a “possible human carcinogen.”).

Since both of those questionable ingredients are in regular parve ice cream along with hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn syrup, anyway, I’d bet on the coconut-milk based product though personally I would avoid the kind made with guar gum as it really can cause serious stomach upset. You could always make your own coconut milk ice cream, almond milk ice cream, and so on, in an ice cream maker if you wanted a very rich, creamy frozen dessert.

Here’s a creamy parve frozen ice cream that is as rich as custard-based ice creams. You can make it ahead of time (about one day ahead) but it loses it’s fine texture and flavor if you keep it longer.

Remember: drinking cold drinks or eating frozen or very cold foods during or after your meal slows down your digestion, so wait a bit after eating before serving, if possible. Better yet, serve it for a snack.

HJC’s Maple-Walnut Cashew Cream

1 cup raw cashews (these are often infested, you must check for bugs)

1-2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional

1/3 cup pure maple syrup OR 4-5 pitted, Medjool dates at room temperature, pureed in food processor

1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Soak cashews in water to cover for up to two hours. Drain, reserving some of the water. In a food processor puree cashews, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and maple syrup until smooth, adding more coconut oil or cashew soak water if needed. Place in glass or melamine bowl, cover, and freeze for at least 2 hours. Remove from freezer and pulse until smooth. Stir in walnuts by hand, and place in parfait glasses, small desserts bowls, or back in the larger bowl, covering well.

Remove from freezer shortly before serving. Top individual desserts with more chopped walnuts. If frozen in large bowl, use ice cream scoop to serve.

This is very rich so it generally makes at least 4 and up to 6 servings. Can be made 24 hours in advance, but it doesn’t keep well longer than that.


Mexican Chocolate: Omit walnuts and maple syrup, use dates and use coconut oil. Sweeten to taste with additional raw honey if you like. Add 1 tablespoon raw cacao or regular, unsweetened cocoa powder. Add 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Puree in food processor.

Caramel-Coconut: Omit walnuts and maple syrup, use dates. Soak cashews in coconut milk (not the kind with guar gum and other additives, there are some additive-free brands out there that are kosher. Drain, reserving the coconut milk. Process, adding coconut milk as needed to make ice cream extra-creamy.

Homemade coconut milk by the way, is best and really easy to make. This version is even easier (you can leave out the honey).

Optional: Add a tablespoon (or more) of Sucanat™ to taste, which will lend a caramel flavor.


2 responses to “The Travesty That Is Parve Ice Cream

    • In EY, not sure. In USA, supermarkets and natural foods stores. Make sure it is virgin.
      Like anything else, moderation is key. However, the fuss over saturated fats is overblown. As long as they are not hydrogenated, saturated fats like coconut oil and palm oil (which contain medium chain triglycerides), butter, and free-range (pasteured) chicken and other fowl, beef, lamb, goat fat is okay to eat in small quantities for most healthy people. Of course, if you are vegan, for the virgin coconut oil-your heart will thank you.

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