Guilt-Free Hazelnut Gelato

After I spent time in the City (see: last post), we travelled up to Saratoga Springs for a few days (the town in which I’ll be attending college). Located just north of Albany, the area is beautiful: wooded, historic, yet modern – and with a beautifully concentrated downtown center. Although we had a few unspectacular meals there, we ended the trip (within our last hour there) with a visit to the aptly named Cafe Gelato. There, I had a wonderful hazelnut gelato that I’ve been craving to have again ever since.

So naturally, I planned to make it myself. However, this was tricky; I wanted to make a light ice cream – something fitting for summer. And I didn’t want massive amounts of heavy cream and egg yolks to mask the flavor of the (expensive) hazelnuts. So, I did a lot of research (here and here and here and here and here). I read through forums on molecular gastronomy (in this case, using things like locust bean gum and xanthan gum in ice cream) and found websites that sold the aforementioned gums and stabilizers in mixed quantities – ready to use. But they were upwards of $15, and, more importantly, I would have to wait for the mix to ship before I could make my ice cream; I really wanted it now.

I ended up finding a recipe here for pistachio gelato. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good starting point. It used only whole milk and cornstarch, two things which are readily accessible at the supermarket, unlike agar and carrageenan. Obviously, I replaced the pistachios with hazelnuts (which I found skinned at Dash’s Markets – something that saved a lot of time). Knowing that the gelato would be icy (no cream, no eggs, no fancy stabilizers), I substituted 1/4 cup of the sugar for corn syrup to inhibit too many ice crystals from forming. And, although I didn’t do this this time around, I’d certainly add a tablespoon of alcohol – say, Frangelico – to make the gelato easier to scoop. And, lastly, I threw in a scoop of Nutella to heighten the hazelnut flavor and lend the gelato a bit of color.

After making countless custard-based French ice creams, this gelato was pleasingly simple and quick to make. The base tasted great too. I was worried though – it was nowhere near as thick as my ice cream bases usually are. The worry lasted through churning too; it didn’t “perk up” and gain volume until the last 10 minutes or so of the process. But now, with excellent gelato in the freezer, any fears I had had were assuaged. One last note: this gelato is a bit icy; it’s understandably not as rich as typical French ice creams. But the flavor is magnificent and, after scooping, the texture really isn’t an issue. And with the knowledge that this gelato is essentially whole milk (not cream and egg yolks), it’s hard to complain.

And, if need be, it can be dressed up to be a full-fledged dessert. (Snip a very small corner of a snack-sized plastic bag off with scissors. Put a tablespoon or so of Nutella in the bag and work it to the corner. Pipe decoratively onto the plate.)

Eugenio's Cafe Gelato on Urbanspoon

Ingredient List

For the Hazelnut Gelato

  • 1 Quart of Whole Milk
  • 3/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1/4 Cup of Corn Syrup
  • 2 Cups of Skinned Hazelnuts, Roasted
  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 tbsp Nutella
  • Frangelico (optional)
  1. Scald 3 cups of milk (heat until steaming). Stir in the corn syrup and then remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and 2 teaspoons of salt, then whisk in the remaining 1 cup of milk.
  3. Place the 2 cups of skinned hazelnuts in a blender or food processor. Pulse until finely crumbled.
  4. Place scalded milk back on medium-low heat and stir in the cornstarch slurry mixture. Heat through for 8-10 minutes until slightly thickened.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine the milk mixture and ground hazelnuts. Stir occasionally for 30 minutes until slightly cooled.
  6. Cover: place plastic wrap on the surface of the ice cream base and aluminum foil tightly over the bowl. Refrigerate overnight (not only to cool the mixture, but to thoroughly steep the hazelnuts).
  7. The next day, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Then strain once again through cheesecloth, squeezing gently to extract all of the hazelnut flavor.
  8. Churn the hazelnut base according to your ice cream churner’s directions. Enjoy!

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June 2011
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