I've lived in Flagstaff, AZ, since 2003, where I'm an active member of the Coconino County Sheriff's Search & Rescue team and an avid hiker.
Taste of Italy
Before our trip to Italy, we decided to try some store-bought gelato at home in Arizona so we'd know what we had to look forward to overseas. What we sampled—-a whole pint each, actually—-was just as delicious as ice cream, but different somehow. What that difference was, though, we couldn't quite put our finger on.
And then there was that appealing, fancy name, which comes from the Italian word gelare, meaning "to freeze." We were hooked, for sure.
Needless to say, we found a lot of flavorful gelato during our two-week vacation, and when we returned home we wanted to continue enjoying it. However, given the higher prices in the United States, we wondered if it might be possible to make it ourselves. Quickly we discovered, yep, we sure could. Not only that, we could use the ice cream maker we already owned. Let me show you how it's done.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
2 hours 35 min
6 to 8 servings
- 3/4 cup of sugar (divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (e.g., Nutella)
- Medium mixing bowl
- Medium saucepan
- Fine strainer
- Electric mixer or whisk
- Wooden spoon
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Plastic baking spatula (for scraping mix out of the bowl and gelato out of the ice cream maker)
- Ice cream machine
- Separate plastic container (for chilling the finished gelato)
- In a saucepan, heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup of sugar on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
- In a bowl, whip the egg yolks and the other 1/4 cup of sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.
- Pour 1/2 a cup of the warm milk mixture from the saucepan into the whipped egg mixture in the bowl and stir it up, then add that back into the saucepan.
- Reduce the heat to very low and continue stirring until the mixture is thick enough to stick to a wooden spoon. This may take up to 10 minutes.
- Strain this mixture with a fine strainer into a bowl, then stir in the vanilla extract and the Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread until it dissolves.
- Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or even overnight.
- Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker, following the directions for your machine.
- We recommend transferring the gelato to another container and chilling it in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving.
- Optional: Top with chopped, toasted hazelnuts.
Step-by-Step Photo Guide
I've provided the overview of the instructions above, but now I'll share a step-by-step pictorial guide so you can follow along as Jeremy and I make the gelato.
Step 1: Make the Milk Mixture
Start by mixing the 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of cream, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan and warming this over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Step 2: Make the Egg Mixture
Now separate 4 eggs. For this recipe, we need only the yolks. (Save the whites for something else; see What to Do With Leftover Egg Whites for five recipe ideas.)
Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.
Now it's time to whip it up.
We decided to try this by hand with a whisk. (Why not burn some calories before eating all this gelato, right?) Basically, we just wanted to experiment and see if we could do it the non-electric way. But we gave in to tired wrists and finished up with the electric mixer.
Note: If you're making gelato with a helper, they can always be stirring the mix on the stove while you do this part (or vice versa). Or, if you're a pro in the kitchen, you can probably do both things at the same time. Otherwise, you might want to do the eggs first and then heat the mix on the stove. Whatever works best for you.
Step 3: Pour Some of the Heated Mix Into the Whipped Eggs
Pour or maybe ladle (or dip in a measuring cup) about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the egg mixture and stir it up.
Step 4: Add the Egg Mixture Back to the Saucepan
Pour what's in your mixing bowl back into the saucepan and reduce the heat to low.
Stirring almost continuously—although you can get away with a short break now and then—cook the mix until it's thick enough to stick to the back of the wooden spoon. This might take up to 10 minutes.
Step 5: Strain and Add Vanilla and Nutella
Strain the gelato mix back into the bowl. We put some cheesecloth in our strainer because it didn't seem fine enough.
Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and the 1/2 cup Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread until it dissolves. (Feel free to sample a spoonful of Nutella in the process!)
Step 6: Chill the Gelato
Now it's time to chill!
Put the bowl in the refrigerator for anywhere from two hours to overnight. Or you can put it in the freezer for a shorter time, just don't let it actually freeze.
Step 7: Pour the Mix Into the Ice Cream Maker
Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker, following the directions for your machine. You may notice that your gelato mixture has developed a little film as ours did.
Then it's time to churn until the texture looks right; about 15 minutes.
Step 8: Transfer the Gelato to Another Container
You don't want to store the gelato in your ice cream maker bowl.
Using a plastic spatula so you don't scratch the interior of the freezer bowl, scoop the gelato into some other container for chilling and, if it won't be eaten in one sitting, for storing. We use a former ice cream tub with a handle.
While gelato is best served on the softer side, we recommend chilling it in the freezer for a while before eating ... if you can wait. If you don't, it'll be like soup really quickly.
We had to try a little within about an hour after churning it, but the rest we left in the freezer overnight, and it was perfect the next day with that elastic kind of texture it had back in Italy.
Our Gelato Experience in Italy
Now that I've shown you how to make delicious homemade gelato in a standard ice cream maker, I'd like to share a bit more about our experience with gelato during our Italy trip.
I admit it: We ate gelato pretty much every day while we were in Italy. Sometimes, um ... twice. We were there for two weeks and, yes, the scale showed every bit of that indulgence when we got home.
But, you see, there were so many flavors we had to try. And gelato was actually much cheaper than most other food or dessert in the places we visited, so it was a money-saving measure, too!
So, you see, we had our good reasons.
No Shortage of Gelato Shops
Everywhere we went—the Amalfi coast, Verona, Venice—we never had to walk far to find a gelateria (one of the few Italian words I learned besides prego), so temptation and opportunity were everywhere. Occasionally we'd even find two shops right across the street from each other.
Sometimes we ate our frozen treats in cups, sometimes in cones, but they always came with a little edible, crunchy wafer on top and sometimes a dollop of fresh cream, the latter in Venice.
Temperature Difference Between Gelato and Ice Cream
Although gelato is a frozen treat, it seemed to us that it was always less cold than the ice cream and frozen yogurt we were used to back home. The glass of the gelateria display cases wasn't that cold to the touch, and the gelato started to drip and melt as soon as it was handed over to us. So, we'd be licking and licking as we fumbled around for our money to pay for it. (Jeremy usually ended up with a drip on his shirt.)
I later found out that, yep, gelato is traditionally kept at a warmer temperature—about 15°F warmer—-than ice cream. Ice cream is usually stored at around 10°F, but at that same temperature, gelato would be too hard and lose the texture everyone looks forward to. By the same token, if ice cream were kept at the temperature gelato "likes," it would be like soup.
Gelato vs. Ice Cream: Which Is Better?
Depending on where you get your gelato, you may or may not detect a distinct difference between it and ice cream, and it really depends on the ice cream, too. Some say gelato is more flavorful, while ice cream is creamier. Some say gelato has more of an elastic, milkier texture than ice cream.
What do you think? Which would you rather have?
For more about the differences, read Ice Cream vs Gelato: What's the Difference?
More Gelato Recipes
- Pistachio Gelato Recipe
Here is a made-from-scratch pistachio gelato recipe with helpful hints. It's a tasty, gourmet treat; perfect for learning the basics of at-home gelato-making.
- Lemon Gelato Recipe
Italian lemons have an intense flavor, which makes them a great base for gelato.
© 2013 Deb Kingsbury