MoM August ’08 Taste of Italia: Chocolate Almond Gelato

As promised, we are going to kick off this month’s Magazine of the Month, the August ’08 edition of Tastes of Italia, with Chocolate Almond Gelato.

“Gelato?” You say. “That’s just ice cream, right?”

Oh, no. And I wouldn’t say that out loud either because among certain circles you’re bound to stir up trouble. Gelato connoisseurs feel just as strongly about the dessert as New Yorkers feel about the Yankees: It’s a religion unto itself.

Gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, is different. Made with the basics of milk and sugar, just like our beloved ice cream, gelato typically calls for more egg yolks and is lower in fat. It also has a lot less air, making it much more dense than ice cream. Gelato needs to be served at a warmer temperature, so it can soften for scooping. Here’s a blurb from the World of Ice Cream comparing gelato and ice cream (their misspellings are fixed for your reading satisfaction):

GELATO: less fat + no air added = richer, creamier taste

Premium ice creams are made with fresh cream (not condensed or powdered milk), real eggs, and natural flavorings. Quality ingredients aside, lesser ice creams also have more air whipped in. As much as half the carton may be air, in fact. More air–or “overrun”–means softer ice cream that scoops more easily and melts more quickly. Premium ice creams have very little air added; gelato has no air added at all. (There’s a minimal amount of air that’s incorporated naturally because of the churning process.)

Gelato and some premium ice creams are so dense that they require a slightly higher serving temperature, a perfect point where your scoop is firm but not hard and not so soft that it melts immediately. Gelato recipes usually include more egg yolks, more milk and less cream. It actually has less fat than regular ice cream, but gelato’s low overrun makes for an extremely dense, rich and creamy treat.

Anyway, so there you have it. Gelato, the lesser fat, creamier and tastier version of ice cream. You know, for a website that’s all about ice cream, they sound pretty sold on gelato being superior. Maybe they should change their name to World of Gelato.

But I digress.

Chocolate Almond Gelato
3 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup ultrafine sugar
1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds (reserved for topping)

Overall I was really shocked at how fast this dessert came together. First that quick and snazzy Granita, now this! The Italians are on to something here…

I started off toasting the almonds. Years ago I would have been way too lazy to do this, and then in the end I would have been terribly disappointed: Toasted almonds change in texture to a version that is softer in nature, even after they are refrozen in the final product. When you bite down on the toasted version, I don’t get a sense of “crunch” so much as I do a “pop” and then a spongy feel that goes really well with the gelato. An untoasted crunch would be way too distracting and unsettling – as if there was something in your gelato that should not be.

So toast them.

Place milk, eggs, chocolate, sugar and 1/4 cup of toasted almonds in a saucepan and whisk until the sugar and chocolate dissolves. Simmer until mixture thickens and begins to boil.

You will note in the picture below we aren’t getting a full boil as you would with water. It’s more like the molten effect of a chocolaty hot tub.

Once it boils, remove from the burner and add vanilla. Place in refrigerator for 2 hours or until completely cold. If the mixture thickens too much in the refrigerator, thin with a little milk to get a looser consistency before pouring this into the ice cream machine.

Place in a frozen dessert machine and make according to instructions. Top with remaining almonds.

Unfortunately I don’t have any personal finished product pictures, as I couldn’t stop eating it while it was churning around in the ice cream maker.

My bad.

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