I was at an all-day gelato academy, learning about the processes and techniques that go into making 'artisan' ice cream. It was both interesting and informative; for example, did you know that in the UK, our annual ice cream consumption is in the region of 11.5L per head whereas in New Zealand, it's over 26L?
One of first questions that arose was 'what's the difference between ice cream and gelato?' While you might think the latter is just the Italian name for the former, several factors set the two apart. Legally, ice cream has to have a minimum fat content of 10% whereas gelato is usually only about 6-8%. Gelato has a higher number of natural raw ingredients, hence it's much shorter shelf life than ice cream. In addition, gelato tends to be denser in consistency and is served at a warmer temperature, which arguably results in a more intense flavour and velvety texture.
Easy eggless gelato base mix
3 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp alcohol (rum, vodka etc. - dark spirits add a much richer flavour to the above vanilla mix but if you don't want to taste the alcohol, use vodka
Place 450ml of milk in a saucepan with the sugar and gently heat. Mix the remaining milk with the cornflour in a small jug. When it begins to steam, add the cornflour mix and stir continuously as it thickens. Once it comes to the boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook through for 5 mins, being very careful not to burn the milk. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract and alcohol.
Chill overnight or even for 48 hours. This allows the mixture to 'age', which will improve the texture and the flavour of the mix. When ready, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Mint Choc Chip
This basic mix is great for a variety of combinations and flavours. So far, I've tried our the following variations:
Mint choc chip: use 1 1/2 tsp of mint extract instead of vanilla and add 75g chocolate chips five minutes before the end of the churning time in the machine.
Chocolate: Add 75g high quality cocoa to the milk in the saucepan and allow to melt before adding the cornflour. You may need to adjust the sugar to taste depending on how bitter you like your chocolate! I also find a teaspoon of ancho powder added while the mixture is cooking enhances the chocolate's earthiness.