When making the perfect gelato, much depends on the size of the ice crystals. Most amateur chefs do not have the machinery to churn out literally the creamy consistency that is the hallmark of a great gelateria. But with an old-fashioned ice-cream maker, a good recipe, and a good understanding of the basic gelato rules (sugar is an anti-freeze, fats act as the opposite), the home chef can make gelato at home.
"You can make anything into gelato," says Maestro Gianpaolo Valli, of Bologna's Gelato University, the six-year-old educational offshoot of the Carpigiani company, which produces a majority of the world's gelato machines. In Valli's more than 20 years as a gelato master, he has acquiesced to some rather strange requests, including creating a tasty salmon gelato, a pesto gelato for an Indian chef and three different kinds of beer gelato for a German gelateria. An aspiring Dutch gelato maker in a recent class at Gelato U. suggested that she might like to learn how to make hash-flavored gelato (with all the taste but without the intoxicant).
Valli has also experimented and invented his own delicious combinations, such as pear and parmesan gelato, pineapple and basil, rosemary and lemon.
Below are three of the maestro's personal favorites, all of which can be made in small batches with home ice-cream makers.
Italian custard cream
1 liter milk
300 grams sugar
180 grams egg yolks (about 10)
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
One vanilla bean
5 coffee beans
one inch cinnamon stick
Beat eggs into sugar in a pot, add milk, stir in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Put the pot in ice water, bring to room temperature. Strain. Freeze in ice cream maker.
200 grams lemon juice
300 grams sugar
500 grams water, in which the zest of one lemon without the pith has been soaked for one hour and strained out
Mix ingredients with a hand blender. Freeze in ice cream maker.
Fragola (strawberry) sorbet
500 grams strawberries
260 grams sugar
240 grams water
Cut up the strawberries, sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar, let them sit for an hour. Add water, mix with a hand blender. Freeze in ice cream maker.