Some of you will have been following my misadventures in ice-cream making – and know that I have ended up with iced cream. Or creamy ice. Not good. The revelation came when sofabrother asked me if I have been making a custard – before I freeze my mix. Well I be damned – I have not. Nor did I know you had to. But, this turned out to be just the advice I needed. Because my next attempt came out gorgeous.
I backed up his tip by some research, wanting to be sure I had not missed out on any other frozen wisdom. And learned about the relationship freezing point and sugar, freezing point and alcohol, floating eggs and sugar content in sorbet … and more of the like. I also discovered the difference between the ice-cream and gelato (less fat in the Italian version). And, as the latter is my preferred icy treat – took Mario Batali‘s advice and used only whole milk. No heavy cream. “It coats the palate”, he said – and I hate that.
I also used the best ingredients I could find – 85% Lindt chocolate, a good cocoa and full cream milk (we have had some disasters in the past involving baking efforts and low fat). My eggs were large and free-range, and even my sugar (light brown) came from a freshly opened pack. I was taking no chances. (Though paradoxically – for sorbet making – slightly overripe fruit is the way to go.)
I adapted (get me!) my recipe from one by Ina Garten. Hers had a 70% chocolate, more cocoa and cream in it .. and alcohol. But I am not a fan of booze in my sweets or sweets in my booze. I would, however, serve a glass of Amaretto with this. I think they would play nicely together.
2 3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (use a good one, you will thank yourself)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 extra-large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
large pinch good salt (kosher is great as it has no additives)
2 tablespoons Mexican coffee flavor liqueur (or something like Kahlua)
- Heat the milk and 1/2 cup sugar in a large saucepan, until the sugar dissolves and the milk starts to simmer. Add the cocoa powder and chocolate and whisk until smooth.
- Place the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or use a hand beater and beat on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and very thick.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
- Once combined – pour the egg/chocolate mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Don’t allow the mixture to boil! And don’t cook it for two long – it will thicken to the consistency of a dense cheese sauce. I let mine catch at the bottom, but fortunately realised it and was able to pour the good stuff off the top. I ate the rest and it was delish – but I am glad it didn’t go into my mix.
- Pour the mixture through a sieve (a must do to sort out lumps) into a jug/bowl. Stir in the teaspoons of vanilla and pinch of salt (this is also where you would stir in 2 tablespoons of a coffee/nutty liqueur if using). Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard and chill completely. I left mine in the fridge for 6 hours.
- Pour the custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn until it is thick but not freezing to the sides.
- Decant into a clean container, cover and put into the freezer immediately.
To serve: Allow the gelato to thaw slightly before plating. I could have served my gelato straight from the ice-cream machine bowl when it finished churning – it was so perfect. And might pull this trick out at a dinner party trick down the line. But a couple hours in the fridge improved the texture even more. It is so rich you may want to offer guests some raspberries for a hit of tang. But I love it in spoonfuls from the container.
Note on the ice-cream maker. I have a small Krups one that cost me about $120. It is for home use only – and it very easy to use, store, clean etc. I keep the bowl in the freezer so it is icy when I need it. The trick is to dry the freezer bowl completely before you put it in to chill – or you get little ice particles that break off in your creme.
PS: I used the separated egg whites to make some simple meringues. Find that recipe here. They were chewy with a hint of treacle spiciness from the brown sugar. The nephew and nieces devoured them.
(Images of gelato and meringue x 2 copyright campariandsofa, image of the custard courtesy Home Cooking Network. It should be noted that taking photos of chocolate gelato is not easy … can look like something completely different.)