Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gelato and the dog days of summer

Editor's note: Please excuse the poo-like effect of this photo.
I lost all my natural light due an impromptu family hike.
It really, truly tastes much, much MUCH better than the above would leave you to believe.
Thank you

Defying all that is wise, sensible and healthy, I bought an ice cream maker a couple of weeks ago. There are just so many great sounding, refreshing and, yes, sometimes-low-fat-and-good-for-you frozen desserts that call for one. So I caved.

This, of course, really is madness for a couple of middle-age people watching their weight, cholesterol and occasional adult acne break-outs. Well, actually the Wonderfully Patient Spouse is the one watching his cholesterol. I'm genetically golden if I do say so myself -- blessed with inherited low blood pressure, low cholesterol and what not. But still.

But still. We have an ice cream maker. And just recently I found a terrifyingly easy and terrifyingly tasty chocolate hazelnut gelato recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentis that I made for my wonderful co-workers last week. We're having it again tonight, part of a Sunday night dinner with Number 1 Son and his beautiful bride. (They celebrated their 1-year anniversary August 8!)

2 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c sugar, plus another 1/4 c set aside
4 egg yolks
1/2 c Nutella
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 c roasted hazel nuts, chopped

This is so easy it will make you cry: Heat the milk, cream and 1/2 c of sugar over medium-low heat till the sugar is completely dissolved, stir occasionally.

While this is happening, beat the egg yolks and 1/4 c sugar together till you have this wonderfully thick, pastel yellow goop.

Temper the egg yolk mixture with some of the heated milk, then mix the remaining milk and egg yolk good together in the milk saucepan.

Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until the back of the spoon is coated with your custardy mix. Note: This has always been one of my favorite things about making custardy things. There's just something so cool about this chemistry of heat, egg and liquid.

Remove from heat. Pour liquid through a strainer into a bowl* and add Nutella and vanilla.

Stir till the Nutella is thoroughly dissolved (it will still be a little streaky). Chill liquid at least 24 hours. Then rev up your ice cream maker, add the liquid per manufacturer's instructions and away you go. This. Is. The. Best. Ever. Stuff. Ever.

Top with roasted hazelnuts. Note: Do NOT skip the roasted hazelnuts. Please. I beg you.

* I am not sure why you strain the liquid except maybe to get rid of some of the foam that develops. A little dividend for the cook I guess.


I think our dog, Ben, reaches the apex of canine happiness during the month August, especially on the weekends when he can slip outside early in the morning and then move from sun spot to to shade to sun spot throughout the day. He dozes; he wakes, watches and listens as life goes on around him in the neighborhood; then dozes off again. Periodically, Ben shares his opinion of a particular pedestrian or cyclist with a series of low, urgent "Uffs," staring sternly as the offending individual disappears down the street.

Then, satisfied his world is safe and intact, all family is present and accounted, Ben lowers his head and finally flops back into the cool grass. His eyes flutter, open/shut, open/shut, until he slowly drifts off again, dreaming of whatever dogs dream in the waning days of summer.

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