Caramel Swirl Almond Gelato for the win…rich frozen custard (lighter in fat than regular ice cream) with a salted caramel sauce ribbon. Yum!
Pleasing to my tummy
It’s summertime, and besides peach or berry cobbler and watermelon salad with mint and feta, one of my favorite things to make is homemade ice cream. It’s incredibly easy to make…at its most basic all you really need is heavy cream and a sweetener (that’s the base). After that you flavor your base as you please (vanilla beans, chocolate, mint…) and add mix-ins if you’d like (chocolate chips, nuts, cookie crumbles). You then churn the base in an ice cream maker, then freeze until it hardens (called ripening). Easy peasy.
Nobody told me how things would change as I aged. Sure, there are the obvious changes in skin tone (does it have to sag like that!) and hair color (which my hairdresser assures me no one will know about…don’t tell anyone I told you). But I didn’t know my tolerance for sweets would diminish (hence my overfondness for dark chocolate), and that dairy products would become a problem…if I have something dairy that hasn’t been cooked or processed by bacteria (think puddings, hard cheeses, or yogurt), then…uhm…pass the antacids this way, please.
I don’t have a problem when an ice cream base is cooked into a custard first (that’s also why I can tolerate cooked puddings and the pastry cream in Boston Cream Pie). In fact, this type of custard base (a version of Crème Anglaise for you purists) is in the same family as pastry cream, just with less eggs, more sugar, and without the cornstarch thickener. The added benefit is that frozen custards are richer in flavor and have more body than non-custard-based ice creams. With that added richness comes added calories, and that’s where gelato comes into our story.
Gelato…all the flavor, not all the calories
Think of gelato as the lighter (in calories, not in texture) Italian cousin of ice cream…its base has twice as much milk than cream (2:1, to be exact) so it has a lower butterfat content than typical ice cream. You’re not sacrificing any of that ice-creamy goodness though…gelato is still smooth and rich, especially if you’re using a cooked custard base (which I am). Win! Savory Simple had a recipe for Vanilla Milk Gelato that fit the bill for a custard-based gelato nicely. Normally I’d be using the vanilla beans called for in that recipe, infusing them into the milk/cream mixture. However, I had run out, so I had the brainwave to use some almond extract in with the vanilla extract (just to up the flavor profile a little)…that addition gave the gelato lovely buttery-almond notes. I also decided to add a caramel swirl (adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce)…I thought it would complement the almond flavor better than chocolate (gasp!). The method for adding the caramel swirl came from Epicurious. So, presenting…
Caramel Swirl Almond Gelato
Caramel Swirl Almond Gelato
- Ice Cream Maker
- 2 cups milk (16 oz, 454g)
- 1 cup heavy cream (8 oz, 227g)
- 4 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4oz, 150g), 150g
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- Salted Caramel Sauce, see separate recipe
- Heat the milk and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until the yolks lighten in color slightly.
- Remove the milk mixture from the heat and pour slowly into the egg yolks while whisking (called tempering. I usually ladle about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture, the idea being you heat the eggs slowly to avoid curdling them) Pour the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan, scraping the bowl.
- Return the saucepan to the heat and, stir until the mixture thickens slightly, approximately 3-4 minutes. Don't allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Strain the custard into a clean bowl and cool using an ice bath (1/2 ice cubes, 1/2 water, reaching halfway up the sides of the bowl). When cooled to room temperature, cover and chill in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. (Chilled custard can be kept several days)
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and prepare the gelato according to the manufacturer's instructions, until it's smooth and frozen, about 25-30 minutes.
- Transfer one third ice cream to a 2-quart airtight container and drizzle one third of the caramel sauce over it. Repeat layering with remaining ice cream and caramel sauce. Freeze ice cream until hard, at least 8 hours, and up to 1 week.
…and how about that Salted Caramel Sauce?
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup sugar (200g)
- 1 Tbsp corn syrup (20g)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream (6oz, 170g), warmed
- 4 Tbsp butter (2 oz 57g), salted (or unsalted, if you'd prefer)
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large saucepan, melt sugar and corn syrup with enough water to look like wet sand (about 1/4 cup), then bring to boil over Medium heat until the caramel has a deep amber color (about 10-12 minutes). DO NOT STIR during this process, but wash down sides of saucepan with a wet pastry brush. Watch it carefully…the caramel will turn dark very quickly at the end!
- Once deep amber color is reached, remove from heat and stir in butter (mixture will boil up, so STIR it to keep from bubbling over). Return to heat and stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2 minutes.
- SLOWLY add the warmed cream, stirring constantly (mixture will boil up again). Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils, so keep stirring!
- Remove from heat and stir in salt. Cool to room temperature before using (caramel thickens as it cools).
- Cover any remaining caramel tightly and store for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stove to desired consistency (and to keep it from separating)
Tales of an imperfect chef
I don’t keep whole milk in the house, and using my customary 1% milk didn’t reduce the flavor or texture at all. I did make the mistake of letting my attention wander a bit and I let the custard base boil after tempering in the eggs. The base broke, but after straining and chilling, the base froze like a dream…a rich, buttery, sweet dream. As for the caramel sauce, after burning the sugar or having the sugar syrup seize on me in the past, I’ve learned to initially add a bit of water and a tablespoon of corn syrup to stabilize the mixture. Also, here I didn’t let me attention wander…the syrup can go from just lightly amber to a black mess in less than a couple of minutes. Be diligent and be warned!
[Side note: If you want to leave out the almond extract, feel free…just up the vanilla extract to 1-1/2 tsp. Better yet, infuse the milk & cream with a vanilla bean, halved and scraped, letting it steep in the warm milk 30 minutes. Remove the spent bean before tempering the mixture into the eggs.]
[Another Side note: For those of you wondering why I didn’t add toasted almonds to my gelato, it’s because my husband doesn’t like nuts in his ice creams. I would have totally done it otherwise.]
[Another-Another Side note (sheesh!): The ice cream maker I’m using is a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment for my KitchenAid Stand Mixer. If that’s not available, this Cuisinart does a great job also.]
Caramel Swirl Almond Gelato has got to be one of the best ice creams (ahem…gelato!) I’ve ever made, and I’ve made a fair few. The addition of a drizzle of extra caramel sauce (and maybe a drizzle of hot fudge, too…you didn’t think I’d completely be without chocolate, did you?) just adds to the experience. Most importantly, it makes my tummy happy, in more ways than one!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!