Well, the photo above is what one of the steps looks like, anyway, and it's so much more exciting than the end product in terms of beauty. The shattered caramel is stunning, and crushing it up (and the process of making it in the first place) is soooo Breaking Bad. That show comes back for its fifth season on Sunday, a.k.a. tomorrow, as if you haven't been counting the months, days, and hours like we have.
If you're not obsessed with this show, I don't know what to say to you.
But back to today's topic: gelato that tastes like caramel. I'm not talking about a ribbon of caramel in vanilla gelato--this is wall-to-wall caramel goodness. Oh it is tremendous, and it makes me pose the question: Why aren't Jeff and I making gelato every couple of days? Eating gelato in Italy a few years ago turned us against American ice cream. We'll eat it, sure, but hovering near both of our heads are thought balloons that say:
No stores or restaurants around here know what they're doing. Well, a couple of them kind of do, but they'll charge us seven or eight dollars for two paltry "servings," or else they'll put it in a carton and sell it to us rock hard.
Let's make it ourselves. Gelato is time-consuming but not that huge of a deal if you don't mind lots of waiting around, and the results are...Actual Gelato. The recipe is from Making Artisan Gelato by Torrance Kopfer. An enraged Jeff bought the book after we had been burned one too many times by local so-called gelato providers. It contains precise instructions and glorious photos that will make you bash your head against the kitchen counter with gelato need.
Necessary equipment: an ice cream maker (you've put the metal bowl in the freezer the night before), a thermometer like the one you see below (it takes some of the guess work out of making caramel and the custard), a food processor, a fine mesh sieve, and an immersion blender.
Let's do it. My notes are in italics.
for the caramel
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
for the gelato
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 batch caramel, ground
- 4 large egg yolks
- pinch salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
To make the caramel: Place the sugar, water, and the corn syrup in a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir together until the mixture resembles wet sand. Ours resembled really watery sand.
Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook until the sugar turns a light amber color and just begins to smoke (around 350 degrees on a candy thermometer). Getting to 350 took a surprisingly long time for us, and the thermometer's bulb never quite submerged into the caramel, so Jeff had to do a lot of this:
Remove from the heat and swirl the pan around as the caramel continues to darken to a medium-dark tan color. Immediately and carefully pour the hot caramel onto a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
I was mesmerized by the shininess!
Allow the caramel to cool completely (this took maybe an hour) before breaking it up into small pieces with a rolling pin or by hand (see top photo).
When completely cooled, place the broken-up pieces of caramel into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it has the consistency of coarse sand or kosher salt. Set aside until ready to use.
To make the gelato: Pour the milk into a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan and add the ground caramel. Stir to combine. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it registers 170 degrees.
In a nonreactive, medium-size bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt until foamy and slightly thickened. Save the whites to make these!
Carefully temper the egg yolks with the hot milk mixture by slowly adding about half of the hot liquid to the eggs, whisking continuously. Pour the heated egg mixture into the saucepan with the hot milk and return to the stove top. Stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula, cook the mixture over medium heat until it registers 185 degrees or is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon or spatula, making sure the mixture does not boil. Remove from the heat. Emulsify the mixture with an immersion blender, if not completely smooth, before incorporating it into the cold cream.
Pour the heavy cream into a clean, large stainless-steel or glass mixing bowl set over an ice bath.
Pour the heated custard through a fine-mesh sieve or strainter into the cold cream. Add the vanilla. We forgot to add the vanilla. Oops! Still delicious.
Stir until fully incorporated. Stir occasionally (about every 5 minutes or so) until the mixture has fully cooled. This should take about 30 minutes. Remove the mixing bowl from the ice bath, dry off the bottom of the bowl if necessary, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
When ready, pour the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's specifications.
This took longer to process than the chocolate gelato, for some reason, and we felt we were truly pushing our Cuisinart ice cream maker's limits in terms of the metal bowl staying cold. 45 minutes or so. But our patience paid off!
As Jeff and I stared into the ice cream maker, waiting for gelato to happen, our cat Hypatia stood between our feet and gazed up at us adoringly.
Hilarious Pache close up!
Finally we had gelato! We put it in room-temperature ramekins (bad idea, should've been cold), took one or two perfunctory photos, and ate the hell out of it, never once noticing the gelato cookbook's instruction: PLACE IN THE FREEZER TO FULLY HARDEN BEFORE SERVING.
Except not oops; it was fabulous.
We placed the rest of the gelato in a plastic bowl and covered it with plastic wrap, pushing the wrap directly onto the gelato. It kept in the freezer for three days. Incredibly, it retained its stretchy, never-quite-solid texture. A triumph!