Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The gelato conundrum

Sigh. Sometimes the internet provides me with too much information. Thus I find myself with a gelato conundrum: when can I say "I made gelato" with confidence and not worry that what I made was really "ice cream"? (I know, clearly, things must be going pretty well in life if this is what I'm worrying about.)

There are many different definitions of what makes a frozen concoction into gelato rather than ice cream which include:
  1. no cream
  2. just enough cream to make American milk have the fat content of Italian milk (which apparently is a little bit fattier)
  3. no egg whites
  4. no eggs at all
  5. or just special equipment that freezes the stuff with less air mixed in
I can't do anything about #5 since I'm not about to invest in yet another piece of specialized (and no doubt imported and expensive) equipment.

Thus far I've made "gelato" with no cream (whole milk and evaporated milk) and no egg whites (the chocolate orange gelato) and with the just enough cream and no egg whites (pine nut honey gelato--recipe below) combinations. Both were very good and rich and intense. But so was the stuff that I've made that I've thought of as "ice cream"-- the lemon, the cinnamon.

What do you think? Is the term "gelato" merely being used to impress and sound sophisticated while "ice cream" sounds more homey and comforting? Does it imply an intensity of flavor that one does not usually get with stuff called "ice cream"? Is is really about the inclusion of egg whites? Or has the two words become synonymous?

While you are thinking about your response to the above questions, might I suggest you have a scoop of Pine nut honey gelato?

Pine Nut Honey Gelato
adapted from The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book

1.5 cups 1% milk (that's what I had in the house so I adjusted the cream quantity accordingly to try and mimic Italian milk fat content)
1 C cream
4 egg yolks
1 C toasted pine nuts (you can get these pre-toasted at Trader Joes if, like me, you have a short attention span and a tendency to burn nuts when you try to toast them)
2/3 C honey
1/4-1/2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
  1. In a food processor chop the nuts, salt and vanilla extract until it forms a paste. Add the egg yolks and process some more.
  2. In a pan, heat up the milk and cream and honey until hot but not boiling.
  3. With the food processor running slowly pour 1.5 cups of the hot milk/honey combination down the feed tube. Then add the egg/milk/honey mixture back to the pan and cook gently, whisking continually, until the custard coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.
  5. Freeze in your machine. Then put in a container and freeze until firm.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of honey and a few whole pine nuts sprinkled over the top.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought of gelato as having a particularly intense flavor and a denser, creamier (for lack of a bettier word) texture than American ice cream. So much of it is about the experience for me, though--the variety of flavors to choose from at the gelateria, the tiny scoops, the walk around the piazza. That said, there is a gelateria in the basement of the National Gallery that I could swear was imported from Florence.

I'll just have to taste yours for myself! Yum.

Kate said...

ooooh! another reason to go to DC! Maybe I'll make it down there when it is spring there and still the dregs of winter here. I might even be able to convice the kids to let me explore the gallery for a little while if there is a gelato bribe involved.

And now I'm considering putting a small ice cream scoop on my Christmas list....:)

Edward Vielmetti said...

Kate, you might want to look around your house and see if you have a melon ball scooper to use as your gelato scooper - that would be appropriately clever reuse.

Kate said...

nope, don't have one of those either! I don't know that I've ever made melon balls.

Anonymous said...

We would love to have you out here, Kate!

Ulterior Epicure said...

Hi. Gelato, to my understanding (and I've traveled the world I.S.O. the best) does not contain egg, nor cream... only milk. As well, the "creaminess" is all in the churning and the specific low, but not frozen, temperature at which it is stored and served. It has less air, and is not hard frozen, therefore more creamy. The higher temperature also minimizes the "numbing" of the tastebuds which allows for you to taste the flavors more - which accounts for the "intense" flavor that you can't get with ice cream.

That said, can you adapt your recipe to exclude eggs and cream and just use milk? If so, I'd love to get a copy of it! In the meantime, I'll do a little experimenting on my own. Thanks for the post!!