Gianduja gelato, or Italian hazelnut and milk chocolate ice cream

Food & drink
Hazelnut and milk chocolate ice cream

If you’ve read around this blog a bit, you’ll know that I’m not in the game of gratuitous self-promotion, but the other week, I astonished myself and the rest of the family by making an utterly sublime vanilla ice cream.

I know it was good because the whole lot disappeared over the course of a couple of days, and I overheard one of the kids asking for that specific ice cream over the other tubs of commercial stuff in the freezer.

Huge result.

Flushed with success, I decided to have another go, and on the basis that a vanilla ice cream is a blank canvas, albeit a very elegant one at that, I tried my hand at something more complicated.

Gianduja gelata is an Italian classic, a hazelnut and milk chocolate ice cream brimming with flavour.

The most important ingredient here is the nuts.  Toast 185g of hazelnuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until they start to turn golden, then remove them onto a kitchen towel and rub them thoroughly to remove as much of the skin as possible.  Use a food processor to chop the nuts very finely.

Now to start getting at the hazelnut’s flavour…warm 250ml of cream, 250ml of whole milk, 150g of sugar and a quarter teaspoon of salt in a saucepan, and then add the chopped hazelnuts, stirring so that the nuts are fully soaked.  Cover the pan with a lid or a plate and let it stand for an hour or so, so that the nuts steep in the cream and start to give it a wonderful hazelnut flavour.

The backbone of this ice cream is milk chocolate.  Much milk chocolate is terrible – be sure to seek out a good quality chocolate, with a reasonable amount of cocoa solids in it, at least 30%.

Hazelnut and milk chocolate ice cream, Italian style

Chop 115g of milk chocolate up finely and put them in a large bowl.

Bring another 250ml of double cream to just under boiling point, and then pour it over the chocolate, stirring to help the chocolate melt.  It should eventually look smooth and mocha coloured. Leave to one side for the time being.

Pour the hazelnut-infused cream through a sieve straight into a pan.  There’ll be plenty of cream soaked into the ground nuts, so push them down firmly in the sieve with your hands to extract as much of the cream as possible.  When you’re done, throw the nuts away and gently rewarm the cream.

Whisk together five large egg yolks in a bowl and then slowly pour the now warmed hazelnut milk and cream over them, whisking all the time to stop the eggs scrambling. Transfer the egg and hazelnut cream mix back into the pan and heat through, stirring and scraping all the time with a spatula until the mixture thickens.  You’ve now got a hazelnut flavoured custard.

Pour the custard through a sieve into the chocolate mixture, add an eighth of a teaspoon of vanilla extract and plunge the bowl into a sink of cold water to help it cool more quickly.

Put the mixture into the fridge and chill until thoroughly cold before churning in an ice cream machine.

There’s one last trick.

This ice cream is incredible if it has stracciatella in it.  All this is is dark chocolate, but it gives the hazelnut and milk chocolate ice cream another dimension entirely.

To add stracciatella, just chop up 140g of dark chocolate, melt it and very, very slowly pour it into the ice cream machine just as the ice cream is about ready.  You need to aim for a tiny, thin drizzle, so that the chocolate solidifies on impact with the cold ice cream and breaks up into thousands of tiny shards.

This recipe is from David Lebovitz’s excellent book, The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas and Sweet Accompaniments