Thursday, August 23, 2012

Milking a Coconut and Making Ice Cream

Years before I ever suspected we were going to one day become expatriates ourselves, I devoured David Lebovitz's book, The Sweet Life in Paris, about his adventures as a well-known American pastry chef moving to a city renowned for its food scene. Afterwards, I came away thinking that a) living abroad might be fun; and b) I am too gauche to live in Paris. I still bop around Lebovitz's food blog, so I can continue daydreaming about food and European expat life. One day, I stumbled upon a Quick Coconut Ice Cream recipe that had "make this" written all over it.

When I move back to America, I think one thing I'll miss is fresh coconut milk. It really lends such a fabulous flavor to curries (I recommend Thai Choice Yellow Curry Paste) and, as I discovered, ice cream. Many wet markets here make coconut milk fresh every day, and a ¼ cup costs about US$0.30. The 4-person stand pictured below does very brisk business.

Step 1:
Cut coconuts in half with big, scary knife.


Step 2:
Hold coconut half against rotating grinder wheel to take off outer brown husk.

Step 3:
Throw coconut into top of machine where it goes through the shredder and drops into a big tub.

Step 4:
Gather shredded coconut into a muslin cloth or cheesecloth and bring it over to the press.

Man gathers shredded coconut in muslin cloth

Step 5:
The press squeezes down on the bag, and the coconut milk drips out into a bucket.

Step 6:
Transfer the coconut milk from the bucket to a pitcher for easy dispensing into plastic bags tied closed with a rubber band.

Fresh coconut milk

When I move back to Austin (hometown of Whole Foods Market), I suppose I'll have to just get used to buying this instead.

Not-as-fresh Coconut Milk

While I was at the wet market, I also stopped by the baking stall to pick up a package of Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar made from boiled down palm tree sap) to act as the sweetener. Before making the ice cream, I had to chop the disk into fine chunks just to speed up the process of dissolving it in the hot coconut milk.

Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar)

Palm Sugar is a a little hard to find in America, but I did see it on the shelves of the International Foods aisle at Whole Foods. A Indian or Asian market may be another source.

This Palm Sugar is much more expensive than buying it from the wet market in Malaysia.

The ice cream I made was fantastic. (The recipe is at the bottom of this post.) The tropical flavor of the coconut and the deep richness of the palm sugar had me practically licking the custard before it was cool enough not to burn my tongue. Waiting for it to chill and throw in the ice cream maker was torture. It's vegan, too, if you care about that sort of thing. I would show you a picture, but I ate it all before I could whip out my camera.

I realize that not everyone has the time to source exotic ingredients or the equipment to churn their own ice cream. Luckily, I found a place in Austin, Texas where you can get your fix. Lick Ice Cream on South Lamar makes small batch, organic ice cream using local ingredients (except for the coconut, I assume). There were three vegan coconut flavors on the menu the day we visited. For their Fresh Mint and Chocolate Chunk ice cream, I swear that they must steep fresh mint leaves in hot cream to capture that incredibly bright flavor. No peppermint extract here. A word of warning though — while my palate was delighted with the artisanal flavors, my kids were less enthralled. I think they were wishing for candy crush-ins.

Lick Honest Ice Cream — Creamy goodness in every bite

Artisanal flavors

adapted from David Lebovitz (who adapted it from Delicious Days by Nicole Stich)
⅔ cup (160 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
2 ounces (60 g) palm sugar, or ¼ cup white or unrefined cane sugar ("normal" granulated sugar)

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and chill the mixture thoroughly. Once chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Makes about 1 pint.

Related Post
I Scream!!

This post is part of Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom? and Foodie Tuesday on Inside Journeys.


  1. If you could just send over a Mexican Marigold Blueberry Swirl I would be forever in your debt. Just sounds like too crazy of a combo to pass up!

  2. I just got back from Hawaii and I was amazed to find fresh coconut milk in the grocery cooler right between regular milk and soy milk. We bought a 1/2 gallon carton and blended it up with some super sweet pinapple and ice. Not as good as ice cream but almost!

  3. Yum! I love coconut--ice cream, milk, water, fresh, whatever :) You are inspiring me to get to our local shop for a scoop asap! Fun to see the process in your photos.

  4. Anything with the word coconut grabs my attention. Coconut is one of those flavors, I've found, that people either love or hate. I LOVE it. I'm interested in how they hold the half nut against the grinder to remove the brown husk - I've never quite known how to get that completely off. Good idea. Thanks for the recipe - yummy!

  5. I used to make ice cream all the time in Montreal but we didn't bring the machine with us when we moved. Your coconut ice cream sounds absolutely outstanding! May have to go in search of some here in Singapore.

  6. I don't have an ice-cream maker however this post has just about convinced me to go out and buy one!

  7. So I want to try the grapefruit ginger, caramel salt lick, too hot chocolate, strawberry basil and fresh mint and chocolate chunk! YUM!

  8. That palm sugar pic was so interesting! I've never seen that before. It's been later in life that I enjoy coconut more than I used to. But, ice cream? Yes, please! :)

  9. what a delicious looking recipe,i'll have to try it sometime, thanks for sharing.

  10. Scary knives and grinders -- could be hazardous making this stuff. But it does look so very delicious. Would be lots of fun to see it made. If I've ever had coconut ice cream, I don't remember it, so I suppose I haven't. Seems like it would be a memorable experience.

  11. I want to try this! I have never been a big fan of coconut, but i'd love to try it fresh.

  12. I wish we had those machines to separate the meat from the husk and extract the juice. I have to do it with a knife, taking care not to cut myself, the grate the coconut or put it in a blender, and add water to make the milk. Long process! Making the ice cream sounds simple enough. I'll have to try it next time. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Michele, and for linking up this week.


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