Making Gelato at home

Making Gelato at home takes time and commitment. It is not difficult, but needs some advance planning. Here is a basic recipe to make your own Dulce De Leche Gelato.

The first step is to make a base. This can be plain (which will be used in most flavors) or chocolate.

1. Combine 2 cups milk and 1 cup heavy cream in a saucepan, with a cooking thermometer attached. Place over medium-high heat and cook stirring occasionally, until it reaches 170F.

2. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whisk 4 egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar, until mixture is thick and pale yellow.  Temper the eggs by adding the milk mixture one soup spoonful at a time, while whisking constantly.

3. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 185F. At no point the custard should bowl or form skin on the top.

4. Pour the custard through a mesh strainer into a large bowl. Let cool at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight. At this point, your freezer bowl (if using one) should be kept in the freezer overnight.

5.The following day, blend half of the custard mixture with ½ cup of Dulce le Leche (I use Nestle) but you can make your own with condensed milk. Blend until smooth, then whisk in the remaining custard. Pour into the ice cream machine and let it churn for 30 minutes (or as directed by your particular machine).

6. Warm ½ cup of Dulce le Leche in a microwave safe bowl. Drizzle it over the churned Gelato and let it churn for another 5 minutes. Transfer to an air tight, freezer safe bowl. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

7. Enjoy with a cookie, over a dessert or by itself!

Tips on making homemade Gelato

          I have been making my own Gelato from scratch since last summer. It is a two-day labor-intensive but very rewarding process.  I have a new appreciation for it now that I am making my own. First thing I learned was Gelato is relatively healthier than ice-cream. Whereas ice-cream is made with 100% cream, Gelato is 1/3 cream and 2/3 whole milk. Also, one of the ingredients for Gelato is egg yolks, so it is not a strict vegetarian dessert.

Gelato making process is very similar to that of custard. In fact, some places in U.S. serve Frozen Custard, which is a similar concept.

It tastes best fresh but needs to be consumed within a week of preparation. Obviously, if you add preservatives and store in commercial refrigerators, different rules would apply. In casa mia, Gelato è servito fresco.

Gelato can be made at home in small batches only. I have a small machine that makes 2 Quarts max. I usually make 1 Quart at a time which fits comfortably in the freezer bowl and the storage containers. It serves 8-10 scoops.

I use only fresh ingredients – no frozen fruits, or pre-ground nuts. You can definitely taste the flavor of the ingredients. Occasionally, I do cheat and use grated coconut flakes or dulce de leche from a can. I have also tried alcohol in my Gelato and it tastes goooood!

Lastly, ice in Gelato is bad. When I go quality testing (for fun) at other Gelato shops, my two pet peeves are – creaminess and iciness. The texture of the Gelato should be creamy (like Greek yogurt) but not thick like ice cream. Often, you can taste bits of ice particles in the Gelato (a drawback of the kind of machine you are using for churning or freezing), which is a huge turnoff. I am in love with Gelato, not Sorbetto!

My next post will give step-by-step instructions on how you can make your own Gelato at home.

Declaring my love for Gelato

Revealing my secret today-I have always had a thing for Gelato! To me, it is better than ice cream. It tastes softer, creamier and richer in flavor. Moreover, some of my favorite flavors – pistachio, hazelnut, mango, fig – are more readily available in Gelato, than ice cream.

This quest for Gelato has taken me on a long journey. In 2008, I travelled to Italy, where a large portion of my meal budget was spent on Gelato. On my first evening in Rome, as I was walking past a café, I ordered myself a large scoop of mixed berry gelato. I had to ask the cashier twice when he billed me for 10 Euros (approx $20 at the time).  Well, I was hooked right from the first bite. For the next seven days, I substituted breakfast, lunch and many dinners, with chocolate, hazelnut, lemon, strawberry, pistachio, coffee, stracciatella and many more flavors of Gelato.

After I returned home, I searched for all Gelato vendors in Atlanta. I tried the fresh stock at Whole Foods, Alon’s Bakery and Paulo’s. I even ventured into the frozen isles of upscale grocery stores. Not many options available and whatever I did try, it didn’t come close to what I had in Italy. Needless to say, I have been looking for the perfect Gelato in every city I visit.

Europe by plane is not Europe at allSpring of 2010, my boss and I were in Tucson, Arizona attending a Human Capital conference. We ate dinner one evening in a local shopping center and decided to have dessert at a Gelato parlor next door.  It was packed on a Sunday night and rated highly in the area. During our conversation and my declaration for the love of Gelato, my boss mentioned a place in Hilton Head in South Carolina, called Pino Gelato that he frequently visited. It was next door to his vacation property and he claimed it was one of the best he had tried. I had to find that out for myself!

Next thing I knew, I was talking to the owners of Pino Gelato in Hilton Head, tasting their product, touring their facility and learning about how to purchase a license from them to open a store of my own in Atlanta. The owners, John and Ramona were very passionate about their Gelato and managed their operations hands-on. Even the other license owners I talked to were very happy with their business.

I decided to put the business idea on hold for the time being, but not my love. Once I returned from Hilton Head, I bought an ice-cream machine, a food thermometer, a coffee grinder, several air tight plastic containers and the Ciao Bella recipe book.

Which takes me to my next post on Tips on making homemade Gelato

Chateau du Sucheta

On March 20, my neighbor Daniel Sklar wrote: Sucheta served a lovingly prepared three-course meal for four. 

She began the evening with an aperitif of red wine.  Her husband, Dipak, served as sommelier.  She expertly had on hand a nicely chilled non-alcoholic cold duck (a type of sparkling wine made from Visit SmileyCookie.com!burgundy and champagne) for the non-drinkers.  This was a nice touch.

A tasty salad was served as the first course.  Fresh baby spinach leaves were mixed with baby carrots, golden raisins, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, dried cranberries, and shredded cheeses.  The salad was tossed with a dressing made of apple vinegar and three cheeses.  A sliced avocado, ripe and of just the right softness, was added to give a wonderful creaminess to the starter.

The second course was a Sucheta specialty:  homemade roasted butternut squash ravioli.  A filling of pureed butternut squash, mascarpone cheese, parmesean cheese, and cinnamon was prepared.  Next, fresh pasta was made with semolina, rolled out with a pasta maker, and used with the squash filling to make individual ravioli.  The ravioli was cooked quickly in boiling water, drained, and immediately served with a light sauce of sage-infused olive oil and toasted walnuts.  Scrumptious!

The third course was a homemade chocolate mousse tart served a la mode with homemade dulce de leche gelato.  The bittersweet chocolate was a perfect compliment to the flaky crust.

The verdict:  elegant, tasty, and fully satisfying.  Sucheta has done it again!