A Classic Gelato Base

This is the standard gelato base that I will be updating as I experiment. I put together this recipe to approximate the fantasy ideal of what most people imagine this Italian ice cream to be. That is lower in fat, at least dairy fat, and having a dense, silky-smooth, glossy texture provided by the inclusion of a lot of egg yolks. As you can read about here, this actually describes only one style of gelato, even in Italy.

The most important practical thing to know about making gelato is that it is best served either right from your ice cream maker or after only a few hours of hardening in the freezer. It just doesn’t keep well for long periods of time in a home freezer. You will find that the next day it can be hard as a rock and will need to be thawed a little before you can scoop, let alone serve it. The only problem with this is that if you do it more than a few times the process of melting and re-freezing starts to ruin both the taste and texture of what is left in the container. For that reason my recipe is for one pint rather than a quart. Just double everything if you with to make more.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup  heavy cream
  • 1 1/3 cup  whole milk
  • 5 large  egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup  sugar
  • 1 teaspoon  vanilla extract

 

Instructions

  1. Place 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a medium size bowl in your freezer to pre-chill for no more than than 1/2 an hour. If you do this at the start of making this recipe that should be enough time.
  2. Mix together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of cream and sugar until smooth in a blender.
  3. Add the milk to a heavy bottomed, medium, saucepan (preferably one with a pouring lip), and bring to a rolling boil on a medium heat. Boil, stirring for 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the burner. Turn the blender on at a low setting and in a very, very, thin stream pour in the hot milk. It is critical that this is done very slowly so as not to end up with scrambled eggs. Do this through the access hole in your blender lid as opposed to just having the lid off, otherwise you risk making a surprising and regretable mess. If you would prefer a more traditional method read this.
  5. When the milk is fully incorporated with the eggs, turn off the blender and pour the mix back into the pan you used to heat the milk.
  6. Thicken the mixture into an egg custard by stirring constantly, over a medium heat, until you measure 170º F/77° C on a good instant read thermometer. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, thicken it until you can run your finger over the back of the spoon or spatula you are stirring with and leave a trail that doesn’t immediately fill back in.
  7. Remove from heat and immediately pour the mix into the bowl that contains the heavy cream you have been chilling in the freezer. Whisk together until smooth. The purpose of this step is to rapidly lower the temperature of the mix and stop it from continuing to cook.
  8. Pre-chill the mixture before freezing it in your ice cream maker. Read about the various ways of doing this (or not) here.
  9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker. It should take 15 – 30 minutes.
  10. Serve right out of your maker or within a few hours of storing in your freezer. Store remainder in a freezer proof container. A layer of cling wrap smoothed on to the top of the gelato before you close the container, will help keep air out and frost from forming.

Download a pdf of this recipe here.

Notes and Variations

Feel free to flip or even out the proportions of milk to cream. With a two to one cream to milk ratio I would call this a frozen custard and with a one to one proportion, I would call this an ice cream. But what’s in a name?

The number of egg yolks used is completely up to you. In one pint I wouldn’t use fewer than two or more than 6. The more yolks you use, the denser, smoother and glossier the result be. Unfortunately it will also be that much higher in cholesterol.

For a true vanilla gelato I would use 1/4 vanilla bean split and scraped and added to milk when you boil it. You can still add or not as you prefer, the teaspoon of vanilla extract later as the recipe above calls for.

If you prefer a sweeter result you can add up to 1/4 cup more sugar to the recipe above. In the interest of experimenting with texture, instead of adding more table sugar try adding 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup. This should help it stay softer in your freezer. Add the corn syrup to the milk when you go to boil it. Another thing we could try to soften the stored texture, is the addition of one tablespoon of an 80 proof alcohol that compliments the flavor you plan to make; for example Meyers rum, bourbon, vodka or maybe a liqueur that you like. Add this right before you pour the mix into your maker.

A Classic Gelato Base

Bob Clark
Mix Prep Time: 20 min
Freeze Time: 20 min
Total Time: 40 min

4 thoughts on “A Classic Gelato Base

    • Hi Kent

      The “The What is Gelato?” question rears its head! I looked at a bunch of different sources before putting together this recipe, and honestly they are all over the place in terms of butterfat and eggs. What would you consider a more classic set of ingredients and quantities?

      Bob

  1. Have you heard of corn starch based ice cream? Traditional (Sicilian) gelato uses that kind of ice cream base instead of egg yolks.

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