You say you can’t make a pilgrimage to San Crispino for the melt-in-your-mouth gelato they are famous for. You’d like to be sitting on a stone bench in Piazza Navona or perhaps at the gelateria where the two brothers who founded San Crispino opened their first location, in 1992, on Via Acaia in the working class San Giovanni neighborhood. But you know that’s not going to happen; not this year anyway.You could go to the store, but that’s just ice cream, isn’t it?
Gelato is a term more commonly used by English speaking people to refer to Italian ice cream originally called mantecato. The four primary differences are; fat content, key ingredients, texture and taste. Gelato contains less butterfat - 4-8% compared to 10-18% in American style ice cream with key ingredients being whole milk, sugar, flavorings (especially fresh fruit) and sometimes skimmed milk powder to add viscosity and help stop ice crystals from building up. Most standard gelato recipes do not use cream or eggs but when cream is used, it's often a good idea to ensure there are strong flavorings in the recipe to avoid the gelato becoming too bland.
Gelato is not as frozen in texture when served - it's more of a semi-frozen ice cream and is generally best eaten fresh on the day it's made. The taste of gelato is generally agreed to be purer on the palate, especially gelato made with water (sorbetto). The method of making gelato is not really any different to that of the standard method for all quality ice cream; i.e. freezing the mixture while being stirred. It's this method that ensures ice crystals don't build up. Gelato also has quite a low % content of air in the ice cream. Too much sugar in a gelato recipe will mean it won't freeze properly and too much alcohol (used in extract flavorings)in a gelato recipe will stop ice crystals from forming, so getting the balance right of ingredients such as these can take a bit of experimentation.
This first recipe is for a classic chocolate gelato; low butter fat and no eggs. You can, however, achieve the creaminess that eggs add to a recipe by adding the cornstarch listed in parenthesis.
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
(3 tablespoons cornstarch)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
7 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the milk, sugar and vanilla and slowly heat to dissolve the sugar stirring constantly. Do not allow to skald or boil. Add the chocolate and continue stirring to melt and infuse. Remove from heat and set in a pan of ice water to cool completely.
From this point, use a normal ice cream freezer according to the directions that came with it.
Now let’s compromise and go on to the really good stuff. This one is for true Chicago style, Italian Ice Cream instead of true gelato.
6 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups of sugar
12 egg yolks beaten
2 Tbs. good instant coffee
6 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate
6 oz. of chopped semi-sweet chocolate
In a large saucepan combined egg yolks, 3 cups of milk and sugar.
Cook and whisk over very low heat until mixture sticks to the metal utensil. Be very careful not to cook the eggs.
Before adding the remaining 3 cups of milk, the instant coffee and add 6oz of semi-sweet chocolate until melted.
Remove from heat and gradually mix in the remaining 3 cups of milk.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight or place the saucepan in an ice bath until completely chilled.
Chop up 6 more ounces of chocolate and whisk into the mixture.
Freeze in a 5 quart ice cream maker according to the directions that came with it.