My mother-in-law has been asking me to make her gelato for over a year now, and she is in town visiting this week because Jess is defending her PhD (yayayayayayayayay!!!). Mother-in-law knows best, so..... here we go!
What's the difference between gelato and normal old ice cream? Come on, no one knows. People will tell you that there is a difference in milk to heavy cream ratios, or churning times, or freezing temperatures, or the effectiveness of different emulsifiers. But when you ask them what those specific differences are, they will only be able to give you ballpark figures. You will also find that people call many frozen concoctions ice cream, when they may in fact truly be frozen custard, frozen yogurt, or even sorbet. To me, and according to most ice cream and gelato recipes I've seen in cookbooks, and it should be noted that trends have changed over the years with the innovation of new and improved ice cream making devices, the main difference indeed is that gelato has more milk and less cream than ice cream. Furthermore, traditional gelato does not have eggs, whereas ice cream does. These two main differences contribute to smaller ice crystals being formed throughout the mixture, resulting in a denser and less icy end product. You will therefore find that a gelato recipe will become quite hard in the freezer, but can still be easily scooped, whereas ice cream often becomes a solid block of ice, and is more prone to freezer burn.
This gelato in particular is super easy and repeatably turns out nice and creamy. Fresh strawberries and the addition of a few herbs give it all the sweetness it needs, so I don't really add any sugar, but most people have a bigger sweet tooth than mine, so I have included sugar in the recipe to make it more of a crowd pleaser. Adding fresh strawberries lends it a nice and chunky texture, and topping it off with mint gives it a nice and floral finish.
Butter Count: Heavy Cream
3/4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups fresh strawberries
1 cup basil, packed (optional)
1. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch into a stainless steel saucepan. Place it over medium heat and slowly whisk in the milk and heavy cream.
2. Whisk constantly for about 15 minutes until the mixture has thickened such that when you dip in a wooden spoon and remove it, you can slide your finger across the back of the spoon and leave behind a clean line. When the mixture has thickened, pour it into a bowl and cool completely.
NOTE: I like to do this by placing the bowl in a second bowl that has an ice bath in it, but you can also do it in the refrigerator as long as you cover the surface with foil or plastic wrap completely so that it doesn't develop a skin.
3. Puree the strawberries and basil (if using) in a blender until very smooth. Transfer the strawberry liquid through a fine mesh sieve into the completely cooled cream base, pushing the mixture through with a rubber spatula. Stir the mixture until uniformly pink. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap in direct contact with the surface and place in the refrigerator for no longer than 4 hours.
4. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. I like to churn until the mixture is so cold that it actually stops the ice cream maker motor from turning anymore, but that's probably not very good for my ice cream maker.
5. Serve immediately, or transfer the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to a week, if it lasts that long!