Beat the heat, and the boredom, with gorgeous ices

 

Last summer, having just returned from a delightful trip to Italy where we simply had to sample as many flavors of gelato as possible, it set me thinking (again) of making my own when I get home. This tends to be an annual ritual, and I have to say, there is no beating homemade. This summer, well, we can all dream of Italy, but we can still make our own gelato!

So what is the difference between ice cream and gelato anyway? Well basically gelato is lighter than classic ice cream, as more milk and less cream is used. In classic ice cream it’s equal quantities of cream and milk, in gelato it’s half the amount of cream to milk. Also the Italians do have a passion for creating unusual and somewhat unique flavor profiles. Their hazelnut is to die for! 

If you are not a dairy lover then maybe a sorbet will help fend off the heat. Basically frozen sieved fruit and fine sugar, no milk or cream required. Very refreshing, particularly in the citrus flavors – lemon, lime, mandarin, etc. 

When my son was little I used to make our own frozen lollipops – simply fill some lollipop molds with fresh fruit juice and freeze it. No sugar required! Perfect for children on hot summer days and perfect for parents so they know how much (or should I say how little) sugar they’re consuming. 

But back to the delicious gelato and ice cream – I have a couple of recipes to share with you that can be adapted to pretty much any flavor profile that suits your fancy. 

Let’s start with a classic vanilla ice cream: 

Ingredients- 

1 vanilla pod or 2 Tsp vanilla bean paste 

400 ml heavy cream 

400 ml whole milk 

4 large egg yolks 

125g caster sugar (superfine sugar) 

Method- 

  1. Halve vanilla pod lengthways (if using) and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and pod (or paste, if using)  to large, heavy based pan with cream and milk. Heat gently until bubbles appear round the edge. If using a pod, remove at this point. 
  1. Meanwhile beat yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale. Gradually mix in the hot cream mixture. Return to the pan. Cook over low-to-medium heat, stirring continuously until custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon (do not overheat or it will scramble). 
  1. Pour through a sieve into a bowl, cover with cling wrap; leave to cool. 
  1. Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine until frozen. Empty into a freezer proof container. Cover and freeze overnight. This recipe makes approximately 1.3 liters. 
  1. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE AN ICE CREAM MACHINE- put the mixture in a freezer proof container and freeze for two hours. Turn out into a bowl and beat with an electric whisk; return to the freezer. Repeat every two hours until the ice cream is the desired level of hardness.  

Many other flavors can be added to this – chocolate chips, chopped strawberries, blueberries, Heath bar chips, etc. Your imagination is your only limitation. 

Now for gelato, and we will look at pistachio because that is one of the most well known flavors, but also because you never see vanilla gelato in Italy (!) 

Ingredients- (to make approx. 600ml) 

300ml whole milk 

150ml heavy cream 

3 large egg yolks 

75g caster sugar (superfine) 

4 tbsp pistachio paste 

1 tbsp vanilla extract 

Method- 

In a heavy based pan, heat the milk and cream until just steaming. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar until pale.  Gradually mix in milk mixture. Return to the pan and cook over low-to-medium heat, stirring, until custard thickens. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix pistachio paste and vanilla extract. Add hot custard mixture, stir, cover and cook. Transfer to freezer proof container, cover and freeze for 4 hours. Remove from freezer, break up with a fork, blitz with an electric whisk until smooth. Return to the container, freeze until solid.  

Actual pistachio pieces can be stirred in before freezing to give a more nutty texture. 

And of course other flavors can be used instead – coffee, puréed fruit, coconut cream….to suggest but a few. 

Finally, a sorbet, for which you can use any combination of fruits you like, but here is a summer berry recipe: (makes approx. 750ml) 

Blitz 350g strawberries, 350g raspberries, 250g blackberries, 150g of superfine sugar and 2 tblsp lemon juice with an electric whisk until smooth. (Works just as well with either fresh or frozen fruit, but if using fresh make sure it is as fresh as possible.) Strain through a sieve and discard seeds. Empty into freezer proof container, cover and freeze until solid. Break up with a fork and blitz again until smooth. Serve straightaway or freeze again. 

You may remember we discussed the pros and cons of the new trend of frozen desserts (ice cream without the dairy) previously and I would still recommend those if you are of the tendency to eat a whole pint on your own! However the pure indulgent taste of homemade real ice cream cannot be beaten – just eat it in moderation! 

Enjoy and stay cool! 

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