Have you ever seen that show on PBS called I’ll Have What Phil’s Having? I watch it on Netflix. I’m always hungry afterward. Oh wait but that’s pretty much every cooking show! While watching an episode where he visits this famous gelato shop in Italy, I decided I had to make the vanilla crema gelato.
After some research and experimenting a little, this is what I came up with. A delicious and easy recipe that can be made with or without churning! I know, right. My mom gave me a Cuisinart countertop ice cream maker for Christmas a few years ago. Before I had an ice cream maker, though, it was so discouraging to come across an ice cream recipe and be like “Oh darn, don’t have one of those.” I was determined to also come up with a no churn option.
Gelato is an Italian ice cream that is made from milk, cream, and sugar. It is lower in fat but higher in sugar than ice cream. Italy has laws that actually regulate how much butterfat is in it. Technically my recipe is probably not considered gelato if it is not churned but I won’t tell if you won’t.
The crema (No, I am not misspelling it.) means it is a custard base that has whipped cream folded into it. It makes the gelato so light but creamy and decadent at the same time. It is terrific all by itself or on top of a warm slice of cake or pie or with some easy caramel sauce. Mmmmm.
Here’s how to whip up some Vanilla Crema Gelato:
First, whisk 1/4 cup of sugar into 4 egg yolks. Whisk them really well for a few minutes until they lighten in color. Set them aside for now.
Next over medium heat stir 2 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of sugar together. Cook the milk until the milk warms, bubbles foam on the top and the sugar is mostly dissolved. This will take about 3 minutes or so.
Now to combine the eggs and milk to complete the custard base. This is a bit tricky. We don’t want to make scrambled eggs. To prevent this, temper the eggs by whisking about 1/2 cup of the warmed milk into them. You want to whisk the eggs quickly while pouring the milk slowly.
Then add the egg and milk back into the saucepan with the warmed milk and sugar . Place the saucepan back over medium heat, cooking and stirring it for about 5 minutes. The foamy bubbles will start to dissipate and the mixture will thicken.
When the mixture thickens it is ready. To test this turn the spoon over and run your finger through the sauce. If the line stays, it is ready. If it not, it needs a little more time. Remove it from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or the seeds from a vanilla bean.
Now that the custard base is cooked it needs to cool before it is churned. I like to move it to a shallow dish for this part and then place it in the fridge for about 2 hours.
Time to Churn:
Then gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard base. Don’t mix too much. You want to see some ribbons in it. The churning of the ice cream maker will mix it more.
Now pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to the ice cream maker directions. Mine takes about 20 minutes. You will now have a nice creamy gelato but it will be slightly too soft still. To firm it up, just move the mixture to a sealable container and pop it into the freezer until it hardens. I am impatient so I don’t wait too long!
No Churn Option:
I promised you a no churn option. This is what you do but it is a bit time consuming. Don’t hate me. After your custard base is made, allow the mixture to cool in the fridge for about an hour or so. You just don’t want to put a piping hot mixture into the freezer. After it is cooled, move it to the freezer. Stir the mixture every 30-45 minutes for about three hours or until starts to get firm. You will need to mix it up really well when it’s fully firm to break up any pieces and may need to put it back in the freezer to firm up to your desired consistency.
You know me, I have to give you some options for more flavor too. If you don’t want just vanilla, here are some ideas for flavor combos and add-ins:
Buttered Pecans- Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of pecans to the butter and toast just about 2 minutes then sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Low and slow so as not to burn. The pecans soak up the butter and just taste phenomenal with the creamy gelato. Let them cool and add them during the last 5 minutes of the churning process.
Crumbled Cake, Cookie Pieces or Candy Bar- Crush up some cake, cookie pieces or a candy bar and just like the pecans, add during the last 5 minutes of churning.
Mint Chocolate Chip- After the custard base is cooked add a 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract along with the vanilla. Continue with the additional steps and then add in mini chocolate chips during the last 5 minutes of churning.
Caramel, fudge, or fruit puree ribbon: During the last 5 minutes of churning or even after its fully churned add in your desired sauce for a beautiful ribbon of flavor.
I could go on for a long time with these so I am going to stop there and go have some delicious gelato that is waiting for me in the freezer. What are you waiting for go get your gelato on!