It's still the "fag end" of winter here, and we are still being subjected to fairly regular polar blasts coming straight off the Antarctic; the mountains are still covered in snow and, despite the emergence of daffodils and some early blossom, warm, sunny spring weather still seems a little way off. But for all that, no matter how cold it is outside, the dessert of choice for me is still usually something frozen - give me a bowl of sorbet or ice cream over an apple pie any day! I infinitely prefer, no matter what the weather, a cold dessert to a hot one. There is, however, one notable exception - my all-time-most-favourite dessert (the one I would ask for if I was on death row, heaven forfend) - and that is my Dad's steamed pudding. There is just something about a dish which is made with a father's love that tastes better than anything else on earth. (Note to self: see if I can get Dad to show me how to make it and share the recipe, so that I can share it with you.)
But I have digressed. Such is my passion for frozen desserts that I always have several tubs, in varying flavours, in the freezer at any one time. What's more, that passion seems to have grown immeasurably since I discovered how ridiculously easy it is to make your own. Not only is making your own sorbets and ice creams incredibly easy, you also know exactly what is in them - no artificial ingredients (thickeners, stabilisers, emulsifiers, things you can't pronounce - ick!) - just beautiful, fresh, natural ingredients (fresh, seasonal fruit, free-range eggs, cream, milk, maybe some vanilla). Little wonder that home-made ice creams and sorbets taste soooooo good!
So that I can enjoy my frozen desserts all year round, I freeze fruit during the summer for turning into sorbets and ice creams during the winter. I poach or roast fruits like apricots, peaches and nectarines, then bag them up in whatever quantity I need for a batch of ice cream, taking care to note on the bag what sugar went into the preparation of the fruit. Berries I simply freeze, free-flow, and then bag. I do all this, rather than making big batches of the ice cream or sorbet when the fruit is in season, because frozen desserts don't really keep so well much beyond about 3 months - it's not really that they "go off" so much, but they tend to get icy and the texture changes. So I find it is better to freeze the fruit, and make batches of dessert as I need them.
Given my love for frozen desserts, I was very excited that one of our assignments this month for the Cooking Italy group was gelato - any flavour we liked, using this recipe from PickYourOwn.org. Immediately, my imagination started to run wild - I had some roasted peaches in the freezer, and some amaretti biscuits leftover from some Sweet Potato Ravioli I had made a couple of weeks ago (post for that coming soon - promise), so Roasted Peach and Amaretti Gelato sounded pretty darn good to me. Sadly the roasted peaches, turned out to be poached peaches, and since they were already in a vanilla-infused sugar syrup I decided to turn them into a sorbet instead, rather than risk upsetting the sugar-balance of the gelato (sugar doesn't freeze, so playing around with the quantity of sugar will affect how soft or firm your ice cream becomes). So instead I opted to use up a bag of frozen raspberries from the freezer for a Raspberry Gelato. I do still have roasted apricots and roasted nectarines in the freezer so they will get their turn next!
Now, before I go on, a word about ice cream makers. I know that I have told you this before, but if you don't already own an ice cream maker, go and get one - contrary to what you may think, you don't have to spend a fortune. You can get one for as little as about $40 (which will do a perfectly good job), and then the frozen confections which will come out of your kitchen will be limited only by your imagination. I keep the bowl of my ice cream maker in the freezer at all times, so that I am always good to go when the urge takes me.
So what, you might ask, is the difference between gelato and ice cream - the best explanation I have found is this one given by David Lebovitz - but the simplest facts that I have been able to discern from a variety of sources is that gelato generally has less air and less fat than a traditional ice cream, resulting in a product which is more dense in texture and in which the flavour is not masked by the taste and texture of fat coating the palate.
This gelato is as simple as making an egg custard, pureeing some fresh fruit, and then letting the machine do the work - churn away. The result is lusciously fruity, and with a greater ratio of milk to cream is not overly rich. Incidentally this recipe uses 8 egg yolks, and in case you were wondering what to do with 8 egg whites (they can be frozen), I can recommend either Nigella's Prodigious Pavlova or Giada's Egg White Frittata with Lox and Arugula, both of which just happen to call for, yes you guessed it, 8 egg whites. Talk about serendipitous!
Raspberry Gelato Recipe
Adapted from recipe on
Makes approx. 1.5 litres
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup skim milk powder
8 large free-range egg yolks
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups raspberries
(if using frozen, thaw first)
Begin by setting up an ice bath - place a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
Separate the egg yolks into a medium bowl. The whites can be discarded or set aside for another purpose. Whisk the yolks until thickened.
Next heat the milk, sugar and powdered milk together in a large saucepan, bringing it to a gentle simmer and stirring to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Then pour the warmed egg yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan containing the remainder of the milk.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
Strain the custard into the bowl of cream, and stir over the ice bath until the custard is completely cool. Add the vanilla extract. Pour the custard into a jug (that will make pouring into the ice cream maker easier later on). Cover with cling film, pressing the cling film right down onto the surface of the custard so that the whole surface is covered. Refrigerate to chill thoroughly - at least about 8 hours, but preferably overnight.
Now you're ready to make ice cream. Puree the raspberries for a couple of minutes in the food processor or blender, and strain if you prefer to remove the seeds. Remove custard from the fridge.
Set your ice cream machine churning and pour in the custard followed by the raspberry puree. (You could mix the custard and fruit together before pouring into your machine, but I found that my churn did a good job of mixing them for me.) Churn according to manufacturer's instructions, then serve straight from the churn, or freeze for a couple of hours if you prefer a firmer texture.
Visit my Cooking Italy page to learn more about the group, find links to other participants in the group, and links to all the recipes I have so far contributed.
Interested in making more frozen desserts? Then, I recommend The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz - you will also find loads of great recipes and information on his website.