30 August 2012

blueberry gelato

God, I miss Italy.

Of all the amazing experiences we had there, the thing we talk about most is the gelato. We ate it every day for two weeks. Often, we had it twice daily. My favorite gelato duo, melone and pistachio, gave me an excuse to double my order.

There's no such thing as bad gelato in Italy. Even if it's only so-so and made from non-fresh ingredients, it's still great. Gelaterias showcase their selections and label them in Italian, of course. This only adds to the allure for a non-native speaker.

It's easy to figure out that "limone" is lemon and "cioccolato" is chocolate. As both are red, there's a 50/50 chance that "amarena" is cherry and "fragola" is strawberry. "Tiramisu," "cappuccio" and "panna cotta" obviously refer to other well-loved non-gelato Italian flavors. But how would you know that "nocciola" is hazelnut, or that "ananas" is pineapple? And aside from the color, how could you be sure that "pesca" is peach and not fish, which the word also means?

I don't really remember seeing blueberry (or "mirtillo") gelato, but if I had, I'm sure I'd have ordered it. As we've been knee-deep in fresh, locally grown blueberries here, I took on an ambitious project of making my most complicated ice cream concoction yet. The result was heavenly in texture and taste. But it's way too much work to make again!

4 cups blueberries
5 egg yolks, room temperature
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup water

In a saucepan, dissolve ½ cup of sugar with ¾ cup of water over medium heat. Add the blueberries and bring it to a simmer for a couple of minutes, until the water turns into a blueberry sauce. When the sauce is cool, blend it at high speed in an electric blender.

Then proceed to make the custard. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar. Then add ½ cup of the heavy cream and beat until a creamy white mixture forms. In a saucepan, heat the milk and the remaining heavy cream over medium heat. When bubbles begin to form at the edges, turn the heat off and take ½ cup of the heated milk. Then slowly pour this ½ cup of hot milk over the yolk mixture, while stirring the mixture constantly. Once the eggs are tempered, turn on the heat again, pour the custard into the saucepan with the milk and continue cooking. Stir constantly using a wooden spoon.

Check if the custard is getting thick enough. To test: the custard must coat the back of the wooden spoon When you notice a clear trail, the custard is ready. Quickly pour the custard in a bowl, over another bowl with ice. Wait until the custard cools down, and then put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, covered with plastic wrap.

When the custard is cold, make the blueberry gelato using your ice cream machine. This recipe makes more liquid than my ice cream machine can hold. Don't make the mistake I did by trying to fill the ice cream maker to the top, or else you'll have overflowing purple juice all over your kitchen!