I was pretty nervous to serve my guests garlic chocolate gelato last night. That’s why I made three flavors, so that if they didn’t like the garlic chocolate they could delight in the obvious goodness of gianduja chocolate chip, for example. Or take global comfort in the spicy delicacy of cardamom pistachio, from India and Italy with love. The good news is that I had plied all 5 of them with enough wine throughout dinner to loosen their lips, so I’m pretty sure I got candid comments between creamy bites. Curious what they thought? Well first let’s talk about the “safe” flavors.
I fell hard for gianduja gelato when I lived in Piedmont, the global capitol of said flavor. If you’re not sure what it is, think really, really amazing Nutella times ten whirled into a cono piccolo of gelato and just see if you don’t scarf that down in less than two bites in the middle of Piazza Castello on a sweltering July day. I make it pretty regularly using a recipe I’ve modified only slightly (duck instead of chicken eggs) from David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop. The key is to use fresh hazelnuts that you roast yourself which adds a complex beurre noisette richness to the silken cream. It’s a people pleasing powerhouse of a gelato flavor; you can’t go wrong here.
Cardamom pistachio is a more recent addition to my gelato repertoire. My absolute all-time favorite gelato flavor is pistachio, and this past summer I discovered Stramondo pistachio cream with which to make said gelato. I am officially in gelato heaven every time I taste a dollop of this flavor, albeit a very expensive heaven since I’ve been using an entire 8 oz jar (at $30) to make one small batch. I’ve always thought cardamom and pistachio married well with one another, so this time around I figured I could get by with half a jar of pistachio if I infused a bit of cardamom into the mix early on. I was right- according to a dozen unsuspecting tasters in two different laboratory tastings (aka parties at casa Salty), the flavor combo was a resounding success. The only problem is that I still have half a jar of the pistachio cream and I find myself sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to steal spoonfuls from the fridge. This wouldn’t be so bad in itself, it’s just that the cat hears me open the fridge and clink through the silverware drawer and he thinks I’ve come to my senses and decided to proffer him yet another serving of soft food. When I don’t come through, he proceeds to trip me the entire way back upstairs, and by then I’ve woken the entire household from falling on the stairs and cursing.
The real tour du force of the gelati triumvirate was of course the aglio cioccolato. I served it two nights in a row to two different sets of tasters. The first night I lacked confidence in the flavor, so I warned everyone what they were about to taste and offered the garbage can as a spittoon, should the need arise. No one took me up on the garbage can, and our collective initial skepticism was gradually replaced by increasingly fervent spoon-clinks from dish to mouth. Several of the dinner guests proclaimed it their favorite of the three when it was all said and done. Since we had a new set of guests the next night, I tried my experiment again, this time with no warning as to what taste they could expect. The scoops look unassumingly chocolate from the outside, so I shut my trap and let them eat. “Mmmmmm, what is this, Linda- bacon and chocolate?” I shrugged with a smile. Another taster: “No, not bacon, I think she put some salted caramel in there, maybe one of her Japanese salts or something.” At that point I gave them a hint- think vegetable kingdom, very common, just not in dessert. They were stumped, but just like the night before, everyone made quick work of their scoops. When I revealed at the end of dessert that it was garlic, there was only one naysayer of the bunch, but that’s ok because he naysays everything and he doesn’t even like chocolate gelato in the first place. The moral here is that I will be making gelato al aglio cioccolato again- it will go into the permanent files and I’ll dredge it up again when the garlic looks sweet and purple as it does right now.
A quick note about the garlic: I’ve had the idea of sweet garlic pairings ruminating in my head for awhile, and I chose this gelato to showcase it in largely because I was finally able to locally source purple Italian garlic this time of year. Its russet purple skinned bulbs have a pungent sweetness that richly complements Mediterranean cuisine; consequently I thought it would be the apt choice in a dessert. If you wish to recreate this gelato, I would pay special attention to the type of garlic you have available and use something on the sweeter side, if possible.
Another quick note about gelato-making: I do not have a gelato or ice cream maker. The primary reason for this is because when I make gelato I always make at least three flavors so that my guests can experience variety, and also because flavor preference is so personal that I feel people should get a selection in hopes that I’ll serve one that they really really love. With the vast majority of artisan (as opposed to professional) ice cream makers, you have to freeze the bowl overnight prior to making your gelato. Since three bowls will not fit comfortably in my freezer (not to mention being cost-prohibitive) I elect to hand churn my gelato. It really isn’t hard, especially since you’ll likely be in or around the kitchen anyway since you’ve taken the time to make three gelato flavors, most likely you’re making a nice dinner to precede dessert. After I’m done chilling the custard, I always put the bowls in the freezer for an hour, remove them, stir the gelato to separate it from the edges of the bowl, then blend with the hand mixer for about 15 seconds. I do this three times (over the course of three hours it’s really only about 10 minutes of active time) and then let the gelati freeze completely. The results are better than most commercial gelato I’ve ever found, perhaps with the possible exception of some of the amazing gelato they produce at Slow Food-endorsed Grom. Of course if a little birdie were to get me a professional ice cream maker for Christmas that I could use to churn out multiple flavors daily without re-freezing, I doubt you’d find me complaining :)
Recipes follow for the pistachio-cardamom and aglio cioccolato gelati. The gianduja can be found in David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop.
Gelato al Aglio Cioccolato
- 1 c whole milk milk (I use raw, non-homogenized non-pasteurized milk for its superior flavor. If you do not have a source for this, either ask me in the comments section of this post and I can steer you in the right direction, or at the very minimum use utterly (should I say udderly) fresh, organic milk)
- 1 c heavy cream
- 2 cloves sweet garlic such as purple Italian garlic smashed but with skins left on
- 2 egg yolks (duck yolks impart a richer flavor)
- 1 egg
- ¾ c sugar
- 2 oz semisweet chocolate chopped
- 2 oz bittersweet chocolate chopped
- Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan just to the point ofboiling and add the garlic. Remove from heat and steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the garlic and reheat the milk and cream along with the sugar.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg and yolks until well-combined. Once the cream mixture is almost boiling, gradually whisk it into the eggs, constantly beating so that the eggs do not curdle. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and gently boil over low heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat, pour into a bowl that contains the chopped chocolates, and stir until chocolate melts. Lid the bowl and refrigerate to cool completely before churning. (You can speed the cooling process by putting the bowl in an ice bath, but my preferred method is to make all three of my custards the night before I plan to serve gelato, chill them overnight in the refrigerator, then begin the churning process the next morning.)
Note: This gelato is thickened in the Sicilian way, using cornstarch instead of egg yolks
- 2 cups whole milk (I use raw, non-homogenized non-pasteurized milk for its superior flavor. If you do not have a source for this, either ask me in the comments section of this post and I can steer you in the right direction, or at the very minimum use utterly (should I say udderly) fresh, organic milk)
- 15-20 cardamom pods
- 1/3 c sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 oz Stramondo pistachio cream or other high-quality pistachio cream. Those cans you find at the grocery store for $6 will not produce fine results in this recipe, you will want to splurge here, it’s worth it.
- Heat all but 1/8 c milk along with cardamom pods in a heavy-bottomed saucepan just to the point of boiling. Close lid, remove from heat, and let steep for 20 minutes. Fish out cardamom pods and add the sugar, returning to heat.
- Mix remaining milk with cornstarch and add to the heated milk just as it begins to boil. Stir thoroughly to prevent clumping and continue to stir constantly until custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. This can take anywhere from 1-3 minutes over medium low heat.
- Remove from heat, pour into a bowl with a lid, and refrigerate to cool completely before churning. (You can speed the cooling process by putting the bowl in an ice bath, but my preferred method is to make all three of my custards the night before I plan to serve gelato, chill them overnight in the refrigerator, then begin the churning process the next morning.)
- Once the custard is thoroughly chilled, add the pistachio cream, mix completely, and either start the churning process outlined above or freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.