During the hot days of summer, few desserts are more popular than ice cream, but gelato has increased in popularity tremendously over the course of the past few years. Although describing the difference between gelato and ice cream to the readers of the Italian Tribune might seem redundant, there are still some folks out there who believe that gelato is simply the Italian word for ice cream. Although technically, that is correct, there is far more to it than just a name. Gelato is denser and richer than ice cream. Its flavor is intense and when gelato is served, it tends to form swirly folds rather than round scoops like ice cream.
There are two factors that account for the difference and they truly make all of the difference in flavor. First, there is the fat content, which really does nothing for flavor. American ice cream has a much higher butterfat content than gelato, as much as 20%, while gelato is only 3.5%. The second reason is the amount of air in the mixture. Butterfat affects the texture – the higher the content, the more air is absorbed during churning. American ice cream can double in volume during churning, but the extra volume is air. Gelato is therefore denser and richer in flavor and since that richness is less dependent on fat, gelato melts faster.
Pistachio Ice Cream
Makes about 3 ½ cups
1 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
½ tsp almond extract
4 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
Finely grind 1 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor. Add the milk to the nuts and bring to a boil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Remove from heat and add almond extract.
Whisk the egg yolks and remaining ½ cup sugar in medium bowl. Gradually whisk the mixture into the hot milk. At this point, the mixture will have a custard-like consistency. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over a low flame, stirring constantly until the custard thickens (about 10 minutes) – do not allow the custard to reach a boil, so carefully watch the temperature. Remove from the heat and then strain it into large bowl. Chill until cold for about 2 hours.
Stir one cup of the cream and chopped pistachios into the custard. Process the mixture in an ice cream maker. Transfer to container and freeze for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.
Authentic Stracciatella Gelato
Makes 2 pints
20 oz whole milk
2 oz skimmed milk powder
3 oz sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
2 oz good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Warm the milk in a large saucepan with one teaspoon of vanilla extract and two teaspoons of the sugar and the milk powder. Stir well to ensure everything is incorporated. Lower the heat and simmer for five minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Place the egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk for at least 10 minutes until the eggs are light, fluffy and have increased in volume. Put a mixing bowl large enough to hold the custard into the freezer to chill. Gently reheat the milk to warm, but not hot or boiling as you risk curdling the custard. With the mixer running on medium speed, slowly pour the liquid over the beaten eggs.
Return the custard to the milk pan, place over low flame, stirring continuously to cook slowly and gently until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a metal spoon.
Pour the custard into the chilled down bowl and continue to stir until the custard is cold enough to put back into the refrigerator. Cut a circle of greaseproof paper and lay this on the surface of the custard (this prevents a skin forming). Put the custard into the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.
Put the custard into the freezer for thirty minutes. Take it out and beat with either a fork, hand whisk, or electric hand mixer to break the custard down to a smooth consistency. Do this three times. While the gelato is cooling for the third time, prepare the chocolate.
Melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over a low flame. Once melted and smooth, transfer to a zip-lock bag and seal well, pressing out all the air. Cut 1/4 inch off the corner of the bag. Slowly drizzle the chocolate into the gelato, allowing the chocolate to swirl throughout. Freeze again for a fourth time and break up the mixture. Return to the freezer for at least 2 hours. Make sure to store the gelato in a plastic tub with a tight fitting lid.