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Weekend Recipe: Gelato

Here is a story of how to make gelato at home. It's just not the recipe with instructions. I grow more Italian as I age, so I'm going to explain it to you, instead, the way I would if we were making it together. If you insist, you can just follow the parts that are bolded.

To begin somewhere in the middle, you should start this about 24 hours before you want to eat it. But 9-12 would do in a pinch. As with most ice cream recipes, you can add crunchy things or fruit in for the last few minutes of churning. But I am going to recommend that you don't. More on that farther down. 

You need a heavy medium-sized saucepan, and another one that's a double boiler, or that you can fit a stainless steel bowl onto. You also need a (slightly larger than) quart-sized container that you can refrigerate and freeze, with a good lid. A whisk. A rubber spatula. A wooden spoon. Plastic wrap. And the usual measuring things. 

This is very easy to do, but requires a little genteel patience. 

My basic batter calls for a quart of half and half

but I have used two cups of heavy cream and two cups of milk. Don't use lower than whole fat milk. Honestly, you're going to have a lovely satisfying serving of this, much better than if you make some thin low-fat thing that you'll want a whole lot of in order to feel sated. 

Plus, 6 egg yolks. Separate your eggs cold, then let the yolks sit out for a bit while you get the other stuff together. Freeze the egg whites, and after you've made this twice, you have enough to make an Angel Food cake. :-)

1 cup of sugar. And some flavoring, including vanilla extract

What could be easier? 

If you want to start fancy right off the bat, you can soak a couple of vanilla beans in the cream (refrigerated) overnight, heat it, and then scrape them or take them out or whatever you prefer to do with those. I did this with spearmint leaves the other day. 

The finished gelato had a nice subtle minty flavor, balanced with some vanilla extract and a capful of Cointreau. 

So what else might you soak in a quart of milky cream overnight? Orange peel would be interesting; you could finish it with some sliced almonds, maybe, and have it with a shot of amaretto, if you like. You need to be patient and let it soak the whole 24 hours, though, otherwise, just flavor it the regular way. 

But to start with vanilla and catch up later, what you do is this:

Heat the cream in the medium saucepan until it is at scalding temperature, and remove whatever matter you may have fancifully tossed in last night for flavor. (Which you didn't need to do, but if you did.)

While that is heating, whisk together 6 egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar in the top of a double boiler. The water beneath it should be just simmering. When the eggs and sugar have been stirred for a few minutes, it will look lemony-pale, and the texture will have changed somewhat. Make sure it's heated, but not boiling. And then,

Add about a half cup of the hot cream into it and stir that in, then use the rubber spatula to add the egg yolk with cream mixture to the rest of the hot cream in the other pan.

Stir this for 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Let it simmer, but not go crazy boiling. I like the wooden spoon for this part in particular. After 10 minutes, the mixture will coat your spoon. 

Take it off the heat, and add some plastic wrap right on top like you do for boiled custard or pudding. Set a timer for 10 more minutes. 

After 10 minutes of cooling, pull off the plastic wrap, and if it does have some batter stuck to it, use the rubber spatula that's been rinsed to get most of it back in the pan and then lick the rest off. It will be tasty. It may look a little separatey, but it should be fine in the end.

Stir in a tablespoon of vanilla extract, or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and 2 1/2 of almond extract, or you can use peppermint or whatever you like. A little vanilla added in with other flavorings gives it more body. You can add grated orange zest with almond or vanilla; that's nice, especially if you steeped orange peel in your cream overnight. Or you can dissolve enough instant espresso powder to make about 1/4 cup, and stir that in. Still add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. 

Now this is the second part that requires patience. Put the batter into your quart container and refrigerate it for (at least) 4 hours. Make sure, during this time, that your ice cream freezer is ready to go. I got a new one last year from Costco, 

and I leave the part with the antifreeze stuff in it in my freezer all the time so I'm always frozen treat ready. 

After (at least) 4 hours, put the batter into your ice cream maker and set it to go. (If you want to make this without an ice cream maker, you need quadruple patience, but it can be done. The texture won't be the same, but it'll taste nice. Stick your container in the freezer for half an hour. Take it out and stir it a lot. Repeat until fully frozen. As it gets more frozen, you'll be tempted to stir less, but keep going, anyway, until it's solid when you take it out.) 

After the ice cream maker is finished, you could stir in some chopped nuts or cookies or fruit, but don't. The texture is so nice as it is. Instead, serve some of that stuff on top of it as a nice garnish, or on the side, okay? It'll still be good that way. So just scoop the prepared gelato back into your now rinsed container and put it in the freezer for another 4 hours or more before eating it. Be patient. You can eat it right away, but you'll love how it feels in your mouth if you wait until you put it in the freezer for awhile first. 

A quart of gelato makes 8 half cup servings. If you used cream, it's rich enough, you don't need more than that. Garnish it with something that's both interesting and tasty, like this.

 Or you could put just a half serving on top of a piece of cake. Garnish it anyway, because food is always more pleasurable that way. :-)