Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cherry Garcia Gelato & More

Can I say Cherry Garcia without being sued by Ben & Jerry's? I hope so. Such liberties I take ;-).
Unlike the many Paleo recipes that call for an extraordinary number of eggs, I used a more traditional approach, and find it tastes - and behaves - just like real gelato. The vanilla and honey custard is so good I could have eaten the whole bowl before I even churned it, or added the chunks of chocolate and sweet cherries. (I was having more camera flash issues & the ice cream melted by the time I got a halfway decent shot. So I had to eat it.) Makes a little over 1 qt.

Gelato di Crema base
3 c organic whole coconut milk, a little less than 2 cans, and not Light - you'll end up with ice milk
4 large pasture-raised egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 c raw honey

Cherry Garcia ingredients
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract or 1 whole vanilla bean
4 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 c frozen sweet cherries, halved (measure them halved, not whole)
Optional: 1 TB Absolut vanilla vodka

In a heat-proof bowl, beat the honey and egg yolks together with a fork until smooth and set aside. 

In a saucier or heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the coconut milk over medium-low, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming, until tiny bubbles form around the edges. Do not bring to a boil. If you're using a vanilla bean, split the bean lengthwise, use the tip of your knife to scrape the seeds into the milk as soon as you start warming it, and steep the bean as well. Remove the bean right before the next step, tempering the eggs:

Slowly stream a small ladle of hot milk into the egg-honey mixture, whisking constantly. Do this twice more to make sure the eggs are warmed up enough that they won't scramble when you add them in. 

Pour the honey-egg-milk mixture back into the pan and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not bring to a boil. To test, run your finger along the back: it should  leave a clean furrow and hold its shape. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract if you're using that instead of the vanilla bean.

Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl.

As you can see, the strainer is necessary to catch any little clumps of milk and bits from the raw honey, and to ensure a smooth gelato. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to make sure a skin doesn't form.

You want it to completely cool to room temperature before covering with cling wrap, because otherwise condensation will form on the underside of the plastic and you'll end up with big beads of water in your gelato, which will then form ice crystals when you freeze it. Not good. When it's completely cooled, cover tightly and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

As soon as you've poured the custard into the ice cream churn, add in the vodka, if you're using it. The vodka also helps keep ice crystals from forming, keeps it more "soft serve" consistency, which I prefer, and doesn't add an alcohol taste.Stir in the cherries and chocolate chunks by hand with a metal spoon right before transferring to your freezer container. The ice cream with soften a little as you stir them in, but firm up nicely in the freezer. Freeze for 6 hours.

Speaking of hardening up, without additives, homemade ice cream does freeze harder than commercially made ~ just leave it out for a few minutes to soften before scooping. It won't hurt it to soften and re-freeze as long as it doesn't get really melted.

* * * * * *

The base recipe, gelato di crema, is extremely versatile:
  • Use maple syrup instead of honey and stir in chopped, toasted pecans before freezing for Maple Pecan 
  • After the base is chilled and before churning, whisk in 3 TB key lime juice and 2 tsp grated zest for Key Lime
  • Drizzle 4 oz melted bittersweet chocolate slowly into the ice cream maker as it's churning, so the chocolate freezes on contact and gets broken into tiny little bits throughout for Stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip)
Special Note for Dog Owners!! If your dog has food allergies and is not diabetic, this basic gelato recipe is a perfect little ice cream treat on hot summer days, and sooo much healthier than the commercial additive-filled crap. Since the honey is predigested by bees, they tolerate it quite well, but too much will give them diarrhea (sorry but it has to be said!), and the eggs will... well, you know about dogs and eggs, so keep the portion small.

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