Gelati, gelato. Summer has to be just around the corner. Grilling and Folk Life are happenin’, it’s Memorial Day weekend and at my house the ice cream freezer’s humming. A bumper crop of Montmorency cherries in the front yard will ripen in the next few weeks while two or three quarts from last year loiter in the freezer (along with some ’09 rhubarb sauce). I need gelato and I need to move last year’s cherries out of the freezer into someone’s belly. Party here on Sunday, I know what they’re having for dessert.
I’ve made gelato several times recently – it was delicious and easy. Truly easy: fifteen minutes or so to make the custard; later on whip the cream, fold it into the custard and then freeze it. Done. Local sour cherries will be available in a few weeks if you want to try this at home. And the chocolate gelato is seasonal any time.
Is gelato just the Italian word for ice cream? Are they the same thing or different? Yes and no. One source said yes and gave these reasons: gelato is made with more milk, less cream and contains 5-7% fat compared to 10% in most ice cream; it’s churned more slowly than ice cream resulting in less air being whipped into the mixture, creating a denser, ‘creamier’ texture; finally, it’s not kept frozen solid and is softer when served. These differences might explain why some of us think we prefer gelato. Another source, The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen Cookbook, says nah, gelato and ice cream are basically the same, but gelato tends to be prepared and consumed within a day or two, not preserved as ice cream is. When all is said and done, give me a bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream, or . . . gelato in a cone on a sunny afternoon. I’m a happy camper either way.
Our 20-year old ice cream maker is hand-cranked and churns the mixture slowly, which turns out may contribute to a creamier gelato. Turn your ice cream maker to low and slow if that’s an option.
Sour Cherry Gelato Recipe
Montmorency cherries are especially delectable, but substitute any sour cherry you like.
Sour cherries preparation: Place 2 C sour cherries, 1/4 C sugar, pinch of salt in a small sauce pan and simmer for 4 – 5 minutes/ Optional to add 2 T Triple Sec or Cognac at this point, simmer for 2 more minutes and remove from heat. If you want finer bits of cherry, blend or food process briefly. Refrigerate until later.
Basic Gelato Recipe, from The Seasons of the Italian Kitchen Cookbook. The addition of sour cherries is an innovation which worked out well.
Whisk together 4 egg yolks and 2/3 C sugar until pale yellow and thick/ Slowly add 1 C milk, stirring gently to avoid buildup of foam/ Stir in salt and a strip of lemon peel/ In a double boiler, with water boiling lightly, stir continuously with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the cream thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 8minutes/ Foam disappears at moment of thickening/ The stirring constantly is important – you don’t want the eggs to have a chance to scramble/ The result is a thickened, creamy custard/ Place the pan in ice water in order to stop cooking immediately/ Stir and allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl and refrigerate it all, including the lemon peel, for several hours.
When ready to proceed with freezing whip 1 C heavy whipping cream to soft peaks/ Gently fold whipped cream into the cold custard along with the sour cherry sauce/ Very gently/ When blended, place it all in an ice cream freezer and proceed according to directions.
Chocolate Gelato Recipe
Make the basic gelato recipe as described above minus the lemon peel. Melt 6 ounces of chocolate with 3 T milk, stir together until smooth and stir into the still warm custard when it’s finished. Or, next time I’ll add the 6 oz. of chocolate directly to the custard right after it’s done and still piping hot. Either way, chill it all for several hours. Proceed with folding in whipped cream just before freezing as described above. Coarsely grate or chop some of the chocolate and sprinkle it over when serving. Add chopped filberts to chocolaty custard – it would add great crunch. You know, like Ben & Jerry do.
Use a locally produced chocolate if you possibly can, like Theo’s for example.
To make an espresso/coffee version, add 4 T instant espresso to the warm custard before putting it into the fridge. Or . . . espresso + the chocolate, or . . . the chocolate + the cherries. Don’t get me going. The final essential ingredient? Some sunshine.