It’s summertime and that means BBQ with friends, Sauv Blanc on the patio, and lots of cold treats.
It’s no secret that I have a huge sweet tooth and despite chronic issues with cold sensitivity, I can put away ice cream like a champ. So, what’s even better than ice cream? Gelato! And what flavor tops the charts? Chocolate Hazelnut.
Arm me with a spoon and some sunscreen…I’m ready for summer!
What’s the difference between Gelato and Ice Cream?
The short story is gelato has less fat and less air than ice cream. Generally, they have the same ingredients – cream, milk, sugar, and eggs (usually just the yolks that get cooked into the custard). The proportions are often different to create unique textures. Gelato typically has a higher ratio of milk to cream whereas ice cream is the opposite (hence, the higher fat content in ice cream). Gelato is also churned at a slower rate which means less air gets incorporated. As a result, it’s a denser, creamier experience.
There is a fantastic gelato place in Phoenix called the Gelato Spot. I love seeing all the colors and flavors filling the stainless steel bins. It’s an absolutely gorgeous display! For years I frequented the shop and splurged on cute containers filled with creamy goodness eaten with the world’s tiniest plastic shovel spoons (you know what I’m talking about). And, of course, that sparked the need to make it myself. For science? For convenience? Pshh, for pure gluttony.
Years ago I received an ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. Hands down it’s my favorite attachment and probably my most used and abused. Fun fact: I’ve made so many batches of ice cream and gelato that it started leaking blue goo (5 years later or so). I’m now on my second ice cream bowl and it’s already taken delicious custard to gelato heaven many times over. Making gelato is remarkably simple, but like most great things, it takes time.
There is an excellent ice cream and gelato recipe book called The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz that I recommend to anyone with an ice cream maker. Like all the best cookbooks, it has both incredible recipes and gorgeous photos. Even if you don’t make a single recipe, you’ll appreciate the art. But my favorite recipe in the book? Gianduja. It’s a classic Italian flavor of chocolate hazelnut that is the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, nutty, and chocolatey to hit all the tastebuds.
I’ll be honest. The recipe for Gianduja is a royal pain. There are a lot of steps. It requires stages that are, ideally, done in two consecutive days. But by day 3, you’ll be praising the heavens when you’re scraping the bottom of your fourth bowl of this stuff. It’s that good.
Recently Dan had a colleague who was in town for work. He came over for dinner with us and I had whipped up a batch of Gianduja for dessert. Unbeknownst to me, Dan’s colleague had just returned from two weeks in Italy, devouring gelato at least once if not twice per day. His bar for gelato was high and I was panicking. But after the first bowl he looked at me and said, “There’s more right?” and praised the flavor and texture over his second helping. See? It’s that good. Follow the steps, no substitutes or shortcuts, and you’ll win over hearts at the table.
First, you need to gather as many bowls as you can find. There is a lot of moving mixtures from one bowl to another in this recipe. Don’t panic, just keep up with the dishes and you’ll be fine!
Step 1: Prepare the hazelnuts. Depending on the hazelnuts you purchase, you may have to remove the skins before chopping. The last time I was at TJ’s I came across this magical bag of peeled, roasted, and unsalted hazelnuts. All the work done for me!
You’ll chop them to smithereens (such a great word), preferably in a food processor or chopper. I find that my Ninja works wonders for this job. You’ll end up with a bowl full of finely ground hazelnuts, almost to the point of hazelnut butter, which, by the way, is going to be the new almond butter. You heard it here first, folks.
Meanwhile, on the stove warm the milk, cream, sugar, and salt. Do not boil. Once warm, remove the saucepan from the stove, stir in the hazelnuts, cover, and let steep at room temp for an hour. Think “hazelnut hot tub.”
While all that steeping is happening, you’ll get to work on the chocolate. Chop it up into pieces and place into a bowl. Heat the rest of the cream in a saucepan until it just boils. Pour it over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Then set a strainer on top of the bowl and set it aside.
Once it’s been an hour, you’ll need to strain the hazelnuts and start making the custard.
Using a strainer and a large bowl, pour the hazelnut mixture and then squeeze the mixture with your hands to get out as much of the milk as you can.
The recipe from the book will say to discard the hazelnut mixture. Don’t. That’s blasphemy. If you’re like me, you couldn’t possibly toss $7 worth of sweet, toasted hazelnuts in the trash. Put the mixture in a bowl and leave it on the side – we’ll come back for it later, I promise.
Pour the liquid into another saucepan and rewarm it on the stove. In a separate bowl (see what I mean about the dishes?) separate the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Then pour the warm, but not hot, hazelnut milk mixture into the eggs, whisking the whole time.
It’s important NOT to do this the other way because the eggs will cook and you’ll have gross hazelnut scrambled eggs and no gelato. And that would be sad.
Then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly with a heatproof spatula until the liquid thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
Remember that bowl with the chocolate? Assuming that you didn’t get hungry and ate it all, pour the warm mixture through the strainer on top of the chocolate. Add vanilla and stir with a spool over an ice bath to cool gradually.
Once cool, cover the mixture and place in the fridge for 18-24 hours. And if that ice cream bowl isn’t in the freezer yet, put that in there too.
Now that you’re well-rested from the first day, you’ll be excited to know that Day 2 is a breeze by comparison.
Set up your ice cream maker. Get it turning, pour in the custard, and walk away. Typically my machine takes about 10-15 minutes until it’s ready, but follow the instructions on yours to be sure.
Just before it’s finished, toss in the chocolate shavings until they are mixed through. Pour the gelato into a freezer-safe tub (glass snapware works wonderfully) and put it in the freezer overnight.
Eat the gelato. All that hard work? Two whole days?! After that first bite you won’t even care. Enjoy the fruits of your labor…and for goodness sake, have a second bowl! You earned it!
Bonus: Remember that hazelnut mixture that was put to the side? Mix in about two teaspoons of flour, spread it out in a thin layer on a silicone baking mat, and bake for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Let cool and crumble over the top of the gelato.
Gianduja Gelato (from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)
- 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped finely
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 oz dark chocolate, chopped very fine or grated
Rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible, then finely chop them in a food processor or blender.
Warm the milk with 1 cup (250 mI) of the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan.
Once warm, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Put the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) cream in a medium saucepan until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set a mesh strainer over the top.
Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan, squeezing the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts* (I like to save them for a crumble topping)
Rewarm the hazelnut-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add chocolate shavings during last minute in ice cream machine. Allow to freeze overnight and serve the next day.