The most popular ice cream in America is Vanilla – not a surprise, since it multitasks like a working mom. Boring it’s not and there’s so much you can do with it. With accents of contrasting flavors and textures, it’s a perfect blank canvas to build on. I had a lot of fun playing around with vanilla and came up with two versions. This first one is the richer (or fancier) of the two, thanks to a mere half teaspoon of my favorite (can’t live without) orange liqueur and pure vanilla extract. It doesn’t taste orange (at all) and melds perfectly with the vanilla, elevating the flavor. When I sampled it with strawberries, I thought, yum, jackpot! Then I moved on to a grilled fresh peach…and oh my! This vanilla motivated me to come up with a sister flavor, Rich Double Chocolate Gelato (coming soon) – a scoop of each in a bowl was dreamy…like being in your ultimate comfort zone, only heightened.
This vanilla gelato is made with 78% milk and 22% cream, and I remind you to always use pure vanilla extract. To make homemade gelato, you’ve got to have an ice cream maker machine . It’s such a small investment for such an extreme pleasure.
There’s nothing complicated or difficult about making gelato – although planning ahead is a prerequisite, because it takes 2 days. First day…the cylinder bowl is placed in the freezer for 24 hours…and the custard is made and chilled in the fridge overnight. The second day it’s ready to churn, which takes about 30 minutes (depending on your machine). Then you should allow up to 3 hours for it to harden in the freezer. It’s well worth the time and effort.
Rich Vanilla Gelato
Makes about 1 quart
2 1/4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar, divided
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon orange liqueur (I use Gran Marnier)
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
Freeze the ice cream maker cylinder bowl for 24 hours prior to use.
Add the milk, cream, and half of the sugar to a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches a simmer (about 8 to 10 minutes). Pour the mixture into a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup and set aside. Reserve the saucepan for reuse.
In an electric mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and the remaining sugar on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until thick and pale yellow. With the mixer speed on low, slowly pour the hot mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and attach a candy thermometer. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the thermometer reaches 175 to 180 degrees F. (do not allow the mixture to boil). The mixture should thicken enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium-size bowl. Stir in the liqueur, vanilla and salt. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.
Pour the custard into the frozen cylinder bowl and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Working quickly, remove the gelato from the cylinder and place in freezer container. Cover the gelato, placing a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the gelato – secure the lid and freeze to harden, about 4 hours. Allow the gelato to soften slightly before serving. To store, cover the gelato in the same manner and freeze for up to 1 week.