This year you can really impress your guests on Independence Day without taking them to an expensive ice cream store. Surprise them by making a dessert that goes far beyond the standard picnic fare. A creamy, cool bowl full of rich gelato will leave your guests wondering when you were able to sneak off to culinary school!
But wait! You may be asking, “Isn’t gelato just the Italian word for ‘ice cream’?” Nothing could be further from the truth. Gelato lovers will passionately defend the merits of their beloved Italian confection for its superior smooth, dense, velvety texture and lower fat content. Whereas ice cream contains more heavy cream than milk, gelato boasts a more figure-friendly fat (and calorie) profile by using more milk than cream.
So how, you may wonder, does gelato end up tasting so much creamier than ice cream? The answer is simply that it’s made via a more gentle, patient process. Ice cream is churned faster, resulting in a great deal of air being whipped into the mixture. This also causes it to freeze faster and develop a texture that can’t compete with that of its counterpart. Gelato, on the other hand, is slow churned so that very little, if any, air is incorporated. The end product is thus much more dense, with a richer, silkier feel. Beyond the dreamy consistency of their bases, most gelatos out pace their competition with the quality of their ingredients.
Gelato is made in very small batches with few, if any, artificial ingredients. Instead, its unforgettable flavors are derived from fresh fruits, cocoa, and nuts, lending a sense of vibrancy and authenticity to each tasting experience.
This seductive dessert experience is one you can bring home to friends and family when you use this basic gelato recipe as a blank canvas for your flavor inspirations:
Basic Vanilla Gelato
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1) Turn your stove burner on to low-medium heat. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan, stirring carefully to avoid scorching. Warm until foam forms at the edges and then remove from heat.
2) Next, combine egg yolks and sugar and beat until foamy, but not stiff. Gradually pour the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture so that the egg mixture is not heated by the cream all at once.
3) Pour the entire concoction into the saucepan, and set your burner on medium. Do not overheat, as lumps in the egg will form.
4) Stir the mixture and heat until, when you lift the spoon from the pan, the back of the spoon remains coated. At this point the mixture should have a runny custard-like texture.
5) Strain the mixture into a bowl and allow to chill overnight. If adding fruit or other flavorings, do so at this stage.
6) Use mixture in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s directions. When gelato is done, place in a sealed storage container and let it harden in the freezer over night.
Now that you have a solid basic gelato recipe, try your hand at coming up with new flavors. Traditional flavors, like hazelnut or pistachio, can be made more exciting with the addition of chocolate, real nuts and caramel. Espresso and chocolate flavors can be added to make a mocha, or even tiramisu gelato. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of combinations with which you can experiment.
Not only are you likely to create a new summertime tradition, you’ll probably find that going forward, you’ll be awash in requests every time you have a gathering of family and friends.