Egg creams sound so dreamy, right? All I picture is sidling up to a soda fountain counter in my boyfriend’s letter jacket ordering one. That’s probably why I’m one of the only people I know that is obsessed with Johnny Rockets in my twenties.
(By the way, I find the controversial-ish history of the egg cream really fascinating!)
A traditional egg cream, of course, has nothing to do with an egg. It’s basically whole milk, seltzer, and chocolate (or vanilla) syrup all mixed up and served with a smile. But an egg cream does foam up as if you were using egg whites! Why is that?
Well first, we start with sparkling water. Sparkling water aka seltzer is dissolved carbon dioxide bubbles in water as we chatted about before with these divine cream puffs. Generally, most of those bubbles disappear from the water as soon as the pressure is released and poured into a glass. Well what happens when we change up the environment of that liquid in the glass and make it a bit friendlier for those carbon dioxide bubbles?
At their most most basic level, proteins are chains of amino acids that twist up into low-energy confirmations based on the side chain groups of the amino acids which are either hydrophobic or hydrophilic. Ok, hold on. Don’t zone out yet—this is the fun part!
Biological systems like blood or muscle tissue or MILK(!) are water-based. Therefore, those amino acids that have hydrophobic side chains need to hide a little bit until they’re more comfortable with the environment. AKA, they all huddle together on the inside of the protein creating a little hydrophobic pocket. That’s why proteins are naturally-occurring emulsifiers. Hydrophobic carbon dioxide bubbles suddenly have a place to go now that they don’t have to rush out of the water into the air. Ta-da! We’ve got foam expansion in the milk.
But fat does completely ruin this foam structure, so be sure not to stir too vigorously!
So, how does this change when we switch from mammalian milk to coconut milk? Coconut milk is a mixture of coconut water and meat of the coconut. (And mixture is a generous term. The two naturally separate without extra emulsifiers because there is so much fat in the meat of the coconut) Coconut milk has a great deal of fat compared to regular milk, but coconut milk has a similar level of protein to milk—especially if you use a reduced-fat coconut milk. While the proteins are slightly different in nature because the coconut is a plant, not an animal, the rules still apply. Hydrophobic, carbon dioxide harboring pockets and all. Actually, the increased fat content of the coconut milk adds a wonderful mouthfeel to the egg cream when mixed all together. And, bonus! For those with special diets, this egg cream is vegan.
And there you have it! A coconut egg cream! Plus I added mint because chocolate and mint are buddies. I bet adding malted milk would be wonderful as well. Oh! And this is kind of Easter-y because of the association of Easter with eggs, right? I’m gonna go with it. But I digress. Enjoy!
Mint Chocolate Coconut Egg Cream
Minty Coconut Milk
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (full-fat or only partially reduced-fat will have a better mouthfeel than non-fat, but it’s up to you!)
20 leaves fresh mint
For 1 egg cream
¼ cup prepared mint coconut milk, cold
½ ounce crème de menthe, optional though recommended (if looking to omit the alcohol, use a splash of mint extract instead)
⅔ cup seltzer, cold
2-3 tablespoons chocolate syrup (I recommend this one!), see note below
- Pour the coconut milk into a larger container or into a blender. Blend on medium-high with either an immersion blender or a regular blender until emulsified. Add the mint leaves and blend until the leaves are tiny green flecks. Seal and store in the fridge until chilled and ready to use.
- To make the egg cream: put a spoon in a glass. Pour the coconut milk into the glass followed by the crème de menthe. Stir to combine. Pour the seltzer into the glass hitting the back of the spoon as you do to create more bubbles. This should create a big foam. Pour the chocolate syrup carefully into the glass along the edge where the spoon is hitting the side of the glass. Use your spoon to gently mix the liquid not disturbing the foamy top. Do not lift your spoon up to mix. Keep along the bottom of the glass. This will create the effect of keeping your foam white while adding the chocolate to the liquid portion of your egg cream. Insert a straw, and serve!
*Note: if you want to taste the coconut milk and more mint, use only 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup. If you want a richer, chocolate-y flavor, add 3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup.