I was trying to get an ice cream post in before the end of National Ice Cream Month and it was a tough decision as to which one to include. Our family favorites are as diverse as our personalities. I could have chosen anything from rum-raisin to butter-pecan to key lime, strawberry or double fudge brownie or simple vanilla. When I was a child my favorite ice cream flavor was chocolate. Nothing else would do. Sometimes I would settle for vanilla, but only if it was dipped in chocolate. This gelato combines chocolate and hazelnuts in one of the most best flavor combinations ever. Gianduja is a confection with origins in Torino, Italy. It’s made from the local hazelnuts, which are ground with milk chocolate and formed into bars. Although I sometimes think of gelato as leaner and softer in texture than ice cream, this version is rich and satisfying. I added a little Frangelico liqueur to boost the hazelnut flavor (and keep the texture soft). As the mixture finished churning, I drizzled warm, melted bittersweet chocolate into the ice cream machine to create delicate shards of chocolate pieces in the finished gelato. They add just a little crunch to this otherwise smooth frozen confection. It’s a pretty nice way to consume hazelnuts and two kinds of chocolate. Give it a try and let me know if you don’t agree.
(makes about 1 quart/liter)
1 1/2 cups (185 grams) hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup (250 ml.) whole milk
2 cups (500 ml.) heavy cream
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces (115 grams) milk chocolate, finely chopped (look for one with 30% cocoa solids)
5 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and warm (to create the chocolate shards, if desired)
Rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible, then finely chop them in a food processor. Warm the milk with 1 cup of the cream, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Once warm, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Cover and steep at room temperature for 1 hour. Put the milk chocolate pieces in a large bowl. Heat the remaining 1 cup of cream in a medium saucepan until it just begins to boil. Pour it over the milk chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer atop the bowl. Pour the hazelnut-infused milk through a strainer into a medium saucepan, squeezing the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much of the flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnuts. Rewarm the hazelnut-infused mixture. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath. Stir in the liqueur once the mixture is cooled. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator (preferably overnight), then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you wish to add the chocolate shards, drizzle in the melted bittersweet chocolate during the last minute or two of the churning process. The warm chocolate will harden as it hits the frozen ice cream and create streaky, random-shaped chips of firm chocolate.
(minimally adapted from “The Perfect Scoop” by David Lebovitz)