A week or so ago, I was the recipient of a new professional ice cream maker. It was an extremely lovely present, but as I looked it over and read the manual panic began to set in. Don’t get me wrong, I really was ecstatic with this wonderful gift – grateful that my family knew exactly what I would love. But…now, I thought, they expect me to produce lots and lots of lovely ice creams, gelati, and sorbets! I had assumed I knew the basics, but the more I investigated, the more complex it became and the more questions I had.
I’m eyeing David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop, and have on order Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati: The Definitive Guide by Robin and Caroline Weir. I am hoping the latter will answer a lot of my questions. What exactly is the difference between gelato and ice cream? Are there always eggs in these desserts? How significant is dairy fat content and how do you prevent the resulting dessert from crystallising? Many of these queries will have to wait until the book gets pushed through the letter box.
Meanwhile, I’ve been experimenting and doing a little internet research…. I’ve learned several things. First, not all gelati are made with a base of egg custard. Gelato also has a lower fat content than ice cream and as a result has a more intense flavour. The major problem is that the high fat content makes the iced dessert creamy. Without that dairy fat (or its presence in low quantities) the liquid tends to crystallise. Sucrose – sugar – needs to be converted to an “invert” fructose-glucose mixture with high temperatures and an acidic catalyst, a similar process that happens when making jam. This also cuts down on the crystallisation. In addition, inclusion of liquors for flavour also serves to keep the iced dessert from freezing solid like an ice cube as alcohol does not freeze at normal temperatures achieved in home freezers. As you can tell, there is a lot of kitchen chemistry going on here!
My first batch (seen in the picture above) was made with single (light) cream which resulted in a really intensely flavoured gelato, which (in texture) was a tad bit like a sorbet. That same intensity of flavour plus a creamier texture, but paler colour was achieved by using double (heavy) cream. The latter (obviously) upped the calories. I would say, it is your choice of what cream to use. Both were delicious!
- 300ml raspberry puree made from mashed fresh or defrosted frozen raspberries
- 60ml (2oz) Cassis
- 200ml water
- 100g sugar
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 60ml honey (or substitute high-fructose corn syrup or glucose)
- 300ml single (light) or double (heavy) cream
Purée and sieve mashed raspberries to remove the seeds. Mix with the Cassis and keep refrigerated while you make the sugar syrup, converting the sugar to an invert state.
To make the sugar syrup, heat the water, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot. Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. It should reach the “Jam” stage on a candy thermometer, approximately 102 degrees C (234 degrees F). It should have reduced significantly and produced a thick syrup, the consistency of honey. Turn off the heat, add the honey immediately so it can be incorporated smoothly into the syrup. Cool the mixture completely.
Combine the berry mixture and the cooled syrup, stirring or whisking to get it smooth. Refrigerate this mixture for about 4 hours or overnight before adding the cold cream and putting it in your ice cream machine and processing according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove the churned gelato from the machine and put in a container in the freezer for several hours. Remove before serving to allow the gelato to get to the perfect texture for scooping.
* * *
You may also want to have a look at Creamy Berry Gelato by fellow ice cream machine experimenter, Sandra (@Please Pass the Recipe).