In their November 6, 2005 special magazine Living section (which is primarily about food--a definition of "living" with which I heartily approve) in a one page article titled Molto Pistachio, the writer Jill Santopietro explains the variations of what is called gelato in Italy by demonstrating how the recipe for pistachio gelato varies by region:
"In Italy, gelato varies as much from maker to maker as it does from region to region. Sicilians have long been renowned for lighter gelato made with milk and no eggs. In 16th-century Tuscany, Bernardo Buontalenti, the Medicis' architect, is said to have popularized gelato made with a sweetened milk-and-egg custard. And in northern Italy, where dairy products are more plentiful, gelato tends to be thicker and richer, with more egg yolks and cream."
So there you have it--milk in the South and increasing quantities of cream and eggs appear as you move further North. Why couldn't all the books about frozen desserts that I've combed for an explanation provide such a concise explanation? Thank you, Jill.
I'm going to make the kind that is all milk (no eggs or cream) to see how it compares with all the other frozen desserts I've made which have all had an egg (or egg yolk) custard base. The milk only recipe has two tablespoons of cornstarch in it, which is what many people use to make pudding without eggs or cream (which, if we are on a defining kick, is probably what differentiates "pudding" from "custard"). My friend Deb (Saul, the future chef's mama) has a fine version of chocolate pudding that I've been lucky enough to sample that is made this way and I'm hoping that the gelato equivalent will be intensely flavorful without being nauseatingly rich.
If any other (local) person would like to make the central Italian version (7 egg yolks) and/or the northern Italian version (9 egg yolks and 1/3 C cream), I'd love to do a side by side comparison. Drop me a line if you are interested and I'll e-mail you the recipes for the other versions.
Sicilian (Milk, no eggs, no cream) Pistachio Gelato
Makes 1 quart
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups shelled, toasted, unsalted pistachios, finely ground.
1. In a small bowl, pour 3 tablespoons of the milk over the cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining milk to just before the boil. Whisk in the salt, sugar and cornstarch mixture until the sugar has dissolved, about 8 minutes.
3. Transfer the pan to an ice bath. When cool, stir in the pistachios. Refrigerate overnight.
4. Strain, pressing on the nuts to release all the liquid. Churn in an ice cream maker until thick. Freeze or serve immediately.