Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sour Cherry Gelato

As a confessed ice cream addict, it's no surprise that I also made it my job to sample my fair share of gelatos (er, gelati) on my trip through Italy in 2010.  While being sure to sample a wide variety of flavors--from banana, to coconut, to fig and tiramisu--surprisingly, my favorite was sour cherry, er amerena.

I say surprisingly because I probably never would have knowingly chosen a scoop of sour cherry, and most likely did so as a result of my generally non-existent Italian tourist language skills. But luckily for me this turned out to be an awesome mistake, and not only is sour cherry delicious on its own, but was also the perfect complement to any other flavor I paired it with.

After the success of last month's Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk ice cream, I thought revisiting this Italian treat would be a great way to use the rest of the hand-picked sour cherries I'd actually had the forethought to freeze back in June. (score!)

I'm still a little skeptical that one can make gelato at home; although gelato is typically made with a higher milk-to-cream ration that ice cream, the other key difference is that it's churned at a lower speed, and thus has less air incorporated, giving it that dense and creamy texture you just don't get with ice cream. So, while this is pretty much impossible with a home ice cream machine, I'm still calling it gelato.

Buon Appetito!

Gelato Root Beer Float!
A couple of notes: In my Jeni's ice cream cookbook, I remembered her mentioning that using chopped pieces of fruit will often simply result in frozen chunks of fruit...unfortunately, I remembered this as I was chewing frozen pieces of cherry in my gelato. If you want to avoid this but still have some extra fruit flavor and color, you may want to puree the reserved cherries and mix them in after churning, rather than adding chopped pieces. Also, I'm usually super lazy when it comes to vanilla, but this is one recipe where using an actual vanilla bean rather than extract really adds a lot--and you know what I'm going to say here--Get them at World Market on the cheap!!

Sour Cherry Gelato
     from NPR

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean, split
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup superfine sugar
Pinch of salt
4 1/2 packed cups pitted sour cherries, also known as pie cherries, cut in half
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1. Place the milk and heavy cream into a large saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and add the pod to the pan as well. Bring the milk and cream just to a boil but take care not to let the mixture boil over. Remove the pan from the heat.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg yolks with the superfine sugar and salt until light and thick. Whisk a small ladleful of the hot milk and cream into the eggs, whisking quickly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Add 4 or 5 more ladlefuls of the milk mixture, one at a time, whisking all the while. Pour the egg-milk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk and cream, and whisk to combine thoroughly. Cook the custard on medium-low to medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 20 minutes or until it is thick enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let the custard boil. Remove from heat, and pour the custard into a heatproof bowl. Remove and discard the vanilla bean pod. Cover the custard with plastic wrap, making sure to press the wrap right onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

3. Place 3 cups of the cherries and the granulated sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring the cherries to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the sugar has melted and the cherries are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Pass the cooked cherries through a food mill fitted with the disk with the smallest holes. If you don't have a food mill, puree the cherries in a food processor or blender, then strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. You should have about 1 1/4 cups of liquid. Put the liquid in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is slightly thickened and reduced to about 1 cup. Remove the cherry syrup from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

4. Stir the cherry syrup into the cold custard and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled.

5. Freeze the cherry custard in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is just about done, mix in the remaining 1 1/2 cups cherries. Transfer the ice cream to a tightly lidded container and freeze until hard.

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