Vegan Chocolate-Almond Sorbet

Vegan Chocolate-Almond Sorbet | A Sweet Spoonful

I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn’t surprising to anyone. I’d done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited.

Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it’s bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being … but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It’s been awhile since  I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn’t need much convincing.  

Vegan Chocolate-Almond Sorbet

This decadent sorbet recipe is from Shauna Sever’s new book, Real Sweet. I’ve never met Shauna in person, but we’ve known each other online for awhile now. She has a warm, approachable voice and a really contagious enthusiasm for everything she writes about — whether it’s how to make homemade confectioners sugar or how to brown butter. And this book really strikes a chord with me because we use natural sugars most all of the time at home these days. I rarely bake with white sugar anymore, much preferring coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, dates, or a number of natural cane sugars instead. So! A whole baking book devoted to experimenting with the ways in which natural sugars can add layers of deep, complex flavors to everyday sweets? Yes, please.

Vegan Chocolate-Almond Sorbet | A Sweet Spoonful

I think I’ve mentioned the vegan ice creams I’ve developed for The Kitchn before? There was my very favorite, incredibly addicting Vegan Coconut Almond Chip and then, of course, that Strawberry Swirl. For these recipes (and others I make at home), I generally use full-fat coconut milk for the base, but Shauna’s sorbet recipe intrigued me because she uses plain almond milk instead. She warms it with a dark blend of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder, thickens it with a touch of cornstarch, sweetens it with natural sugars and folds in toasty, salted almonds at the very end.

Vegan Chocolate-Almond Sorbet | A Sweet Spoonful

In her recipe, Shauna calls for muscovado sugar which has a really nice dark, damp sweetness (a natural cousin to dark brown sugar, really). We happened to be out, so I used coconut sugar instead, which has a similar dark sweetness that I thought would compliment the cocoa flavors in this recipe beautifully. The result is a flavor-packed sorbet that’s decadent without feeling heavy or overly indulgent, and maybe  just as delicious on a warm, blossomy afternoon in Seattle as it would be on the streets of Bologna. Just maybe …

Megan’s Notes: If you want to make this recipe truly vegan, look for a vegan chocolate and opt for the agave nectar; this wasn’t critical for me, so I used a good 60% bittersweet chocolate and ended up using the agave, but you could certainly use honey instead. Like many homemade ice creams and sorbets, you really need to let this soften for a good 15 minutes before serving or it’ll be quite hard. I didn’t this sorbet to get icy, but if you don’t let it soften, it’s not going to be as smooth and creamy as it deserves to be. 

Vegan Chocolate-Almond Sorbet | A Sweet Spoonful

Vegan Chocolate-Almond Sorbet
If you’d prefer to use a different toasted nut here, hazelnuts would be wonderful as would peanuts. I also found myself thinking about little flecks of white chocolate folded in with the almonds at the end, and next time around I’m going to make that happen. 

Slightly adapted from: Real Sweet

Makes: 1 Quart

2 1/4 cups (18 ounces / 510g) unsweetened almond milk
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup (170g) coconut sugar (or muscovado sugar)
2/3 cup (67g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon light agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for salting almonds
4 ounces (113g) dairy-free bittersweet chocolate (60-70%), chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup (75g) raw almonds, chopped

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the almond milk with the cornstarch. Whisk to dissolve.

In a large (4-quart) saucepan, whisk together the remaining 2 cups of almond milk, sugar, cocoa powder, agave nectar, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring mixture to a low boil. Boil for 1 minute. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Continue whisking 1 minute more, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and add chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the sorbet base through the sieve. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours. Whisk vigorously to smooth out any lumps. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Toast the almonds: place a dry, medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and toast until pale golden and fragrant, about 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle with fine sea salt. Cool completely.

When the sorbet is finished churning, fold in the cooled almonds. Pack into an airtight container and freeze until firm. Let soften for about 15 minutes before serving.

 

Comments

  1. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Finding the best gelaterias in italian cities is a MUST! I did the same thing when we moved to Sicily for a few months...I think I ate my weight in gelato every week!

  2. Gemma

    Now you definitely need to come and stay with us so that I can introduce you to Mary so you can try all of her gelato and speak to her about the time she spent at that same famous gelato school in Bologna!

    1. megang

      Oh Gemma, I know. I obsess over your Mary's IG photos and all of the wonderful sounding flavors. We realllllly do need to come and visit you. Hope you guys are doing well and enjoying the week so far. Warmer weather in Seattle lately and lots of blossoms. Spring is coming! xox

  3. Lu | Super Nummy Yo!

    I could never make up my mind about which flavor to get at the gelaterias in Italy. I wanted to try them all! Also love the almond milk and coconut sugar in this recipe. I have those more on hand these days than dairy milk and cane sugar, so this recipe's a keeper :P

  4. Shauna

    Hooray!! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, my sweet friend. It all looks amazing! xo

  5. Meeta

    Although I am not vegan I love the use of some of the ingredients like here the almond milk. Looks wonderful.

  6. Carole

    Oh, we are kindred spirits! When we were in Ifaly my motto was "I can deal with the extra pounds when I get home. I'm not passing by any gelateria without getting one." And I didn't. The scoops were small so if I ate three different kinds in an afternoon, so what?! There's nothing like it in the US and I have no regrets. I'll love trying your recipe. Thank you.

  7. Caitlin @ teaspoon

    I love gelato almost as much as you do, but lately have had to hold back because I can't handle too much dairy. But this... this looks like my kind of treat! And with natural sugars, even better. I love your way of traveling- I do pretty much the same thing. Map out where we are going to eat and figure out the rest of the day accordingly!

  8. Ashley

    I came back from Italy thinking the exact same thing. We loved the gelato and had fun eating our way through Rome. When we came home, I went through a phase where I was making ice cream every week.

  9. Angela Brown

    Beautiful recipe! I've been in search of a good chocolate vegan ice cream! I'm going to try this one out this weekend :) I just recently discovered your site and am enjoying skimming through your recipes. I look forward to popping back soon. Feel free to stop by my site sometime :)

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