Gelato is ice cream’s smoother more flavorful Italian cousin. In Italy there are gelaterie shops everywhere. The trend came to the US several years ago, but there are still many people I meet that are not familiar with gelato. It is best made in small batches. It has less butterfat than most ice cream and there are a few secrets to making it smoother. Most recipes for gelato use only egg yolks, no whites. The yolk works as a stabilizer in the process. The other secret is to cook the custard and then after straining let it sit for for several hours after pasteurization is complete for the milk proteins to hydrate, or bind, with water (milk) in the mix. This hydration reduces the size of the ice crystals, making a smoother texture in the final product.
I have an Italian gelato machine. But you do not have to have one to make good gelato. It does help if you have a machine which stirs while refrigerating, but you can still get good results with an old fashioned ice cream machine. My machine is made by Lusso and I call her Lucille.
Here is the recipe:
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup dried culinary lavender flowers (the best place to buy them is in a health food store)
Zest of one lemon in large strips (use a vegetable peeler not a zester)
7 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Purple food coloring paste (buy this in cake decorating section of a craft store) optional
Bring milk, lemon zest and lavender flowers almost to a boil
Turn off heat and allow to sit for 1 hour
Strain and discard lavender & lemon peel
Add cream with a whisk
Reheat strained milk & cream until bubbles form around edge of the pan
Beat the egg yolks with with sugar and a pinch of salt in a stainless steel bowl that will fit over a saucepan of water. Beat vigorously until the mixture is yellow and creamy (about 3 minutes)
Add a ladle of the hot milk/cream to the egg/sugar mixture and continue to whisk, then add the remaining milk/cream mixture very slowly
Maintain a simmer in the bottom of the double boiler, do not allow it to come to a rolling boil
Beat by hand or with a mixer while cooking for about 15 minutes, do not allow it to boil
When the back of a wooden spoon is coated with the mixture and you can draw a line with your finger it is ready.
Stir in the vanilla and pour through a strainer into another bowl that will fit into a larger bowl fitted with ice
Whisk in the coloring if you want to use it
Place plastic wrap over the entire top of the mixture, touching it all the way around. This creates a seal and will not allow a skin to form.
Place the bowl with the mixture in it into the bowl of ice and allow to rest until all of the ice melts.
At this point you can place it in the refrigerator to chill further, as long as over night.
Process according to your machine’s directions. Put into plastic containers and freeze or serve immediately