August 19, 2010

La Gringa's Mocha Gelato

LG's Mocha Gelato The true color was darker,
but this night time photo with a flash doesn't show that

What is gelato? Gelato is Italian ice cream which is generally less high fat than American or French ice creams, often using a higher milk to cream ratio or even no cream at all. It is sometimes, though not always, made with no eggs. It is not made from gelatin, which is what you might initially think from the name. Gelato is a little denser than American-style ice cream because less air is introduced in the making. Ice cream cookbook author David Lebovitz has a good article that explains the different types of gelato from different parts of Italy in What is Gelato?

After reviewing many gelato recipes, I adapted this recipe primarily from a Gourmet Magazine Mocha Chip Gelato recipe which called for using 1% milk (bleech!). I used about 3 parts whole milk and to 1 part cream. Most gelato recipes called for whole milk, some that I viewed used 2% milk. Some of the reviewers skipped the cream completely in recipes, used half and half in place of cream, or even used skimmed milk. You're on your own there! Let your conscience be your guide. (I have no conscience when it comes to ice cream.)

I really changed the recipe a lot. Based on the reviews, I reduced the proportion of cornstarch and increased the coffee. I didn't have any chocolate so I upped the cocoa considerably. I used Penzey's Dutch Process High Fat Cocoa* which gives an amazingly good chocolate flavor without the harshness that some cocoa has. I prefer to use part cocoa and part melted chocolate when I have some. I also increased the recipe as it only called for 1 3/4 cups of milk. It seemed a lot of work to do for such a small quantity of ice cream.

*Yes, that is the name on the package: High Fat Cocoa. Pretty gutsy in this day and age, don't you think? ;-) Just a note for the tropics: Though refrigeration is not recommended for cocoa, I store cocoa in a plastic bag in the freezer. I have had cocoa go moldy in the pantry because of the high humidity.

Without telling El Jefe much about the recipe other than it was Italian ice cream and didn't have eggs, I asked what he thought of it. His review had me laughing, because it was exactly what I expected him to say:
"I was excited: "gelato"? I've never heard of that. Italian ice cream. Wow. But it wasn't as rich as you usually make. It was fine. But I would choose pineapple ... or caramel cappuccino or .... I wasn't excited. I think it needs eggs. It was okay but I think you have to make it a little richer."
He also said that he couldn't taste the coffee, so next time I think I'll use regular coffee steeped in part of the milk.

Not exactly a rave review, huh? The resulting ice cream was dense as gelato should be and it was very smooth, a really excellent texture. I thought it was good, but not fantastic. Though much lower in fat than most of my recipes (even as modified), I don't think it tasted like a lowfat ice cream.

Note that with the lack of eggs and less fat, this ice cream will freeze very hard by the next day. Taste and texture as well as scoopability will definitely improve with a few seconds (10-20) in the microwave at 50% power.

I think this ice cream could really benefit from some luscious add-ins, but then, of course, you'll be upping the calorie content, too. The next time, I'll have to try one or more of the variations that I dreamed of (below) but just didn't have the ingredients. I think some add-ins would give it enough kick that El Jefe wouldn't notice the lower fat content. But for those who have been clamoring for gelato and egg-free or lower fat recipes, here you go:

La Gringa's Mocha Gelato
Makes about 1 quart

3/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups milk (divided use)

3 tbsp. instant coffee

2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder

3 tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup cream

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1. Stir together 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Whisk together sugar, cocoa, coffee granules, and 3 cups milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking often. Stir cornstarch to mix again and whisk into coffee-cocoa mixture. Return to a simmer, whisking for 2 minutes. Mixture should be thick.

3. Remove from heat. If you have any lumps, strain the mixture through a sieve.
Stir in vanilla, salt, and cream.

4. Set saucepan in a large bowl of ice water to cool, whisking frequently so that a "skin" does not form. When room temperature, place in freezer for an hour or two until thoroughly cold, stirring occasionally.

5. Freeze according to your machine's directions.


Cinnamon Mocha: Add 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon with the vanilla.

Double Coffee Mocha: Add 3 tbsp. Kaluha or other coffee liquor during the last 5 minutes of freezing.

Double Chocolate Mocha: Chop finely 4-5 oz. of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate. Add half with the vanilla and stir until melted. Stir the other half into the finished ice cream.

Mocha Chip: Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips or broken chocolate chunks.

Toffee Mocha: Add 3/4 cup Heath bits, or better yet, real Heath bars broken into pieces. (The second night, I topped the gelato with Heath Bits and it was an improvement.)

Toppings: Sprinkle with sliced almonds, pecans pieces, or chocolate covered coffee beans.


See also my ice cream making tips, the raw egg controversy and alternatives, and, if you are in the market for a machine, my ice cream maker reviews.

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