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Gelato Tips & Techniques

38 posts in this topic

could you advise when guar gum would be more suitable than using xanthan gum

products being frozen/thawed.


Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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In my decade or so of adult life, I've developed into a fairly serious hobby home cook and occasional bread baker. But I've mostly avoided making sweets. However, in the past year, I've become obsessed with them: I made fruit pies like crazy in the summer, and the holidays involved a cookie extravaganza. In the fall, I began baking "personalized" cakes, as gifts for friends on their birthdays. The cakes were meant to express what I think is interesting and beautiful about the person in question. For one friend, who had a local micro brew tasting party, I made a bitter caramel cake, to pay homage to his layered, round, warm masculinity, and also to complement his favourite milk stout.

Throughout my experiments, what I've wanted most is to make gelato. I'm absolutely obsessed with the stuff: it's such an ingenious platform for exploring flavour, in a really pure, unadulterated way! My main obstacle was lack of (expensive) equipment. But, now, thanks to my wonderful and amazingly indulgent boyfriend, I am the proud owner of the "Gelato" by Lello ice cream maker.

As a New Year's resolution of sorts, I've decided to combine my gelato making education with my personalized cake making. As I learn to make gelato, I am going to try to develop flavours dedicated to my loved ones. Sometimes, I will make other things, like cakes, to accompany the gelato. This weekend, my dear friend" J" is celebrating her 30th birthday. I am pretty sure that I want to use a really wonderful Milk Oolong as the star. In a way, it resembles a no-nonsense black tea. But it also has an unmistakably direct, assertive, ultra natural nutty sweetness. It's so interesting, because it isn't actually sweet -- it doesn't taste like it has a drop of sugar in it -- but it still manages to say something about the natural sweetness of its flavours. It just screams "J" to me. I'd like to document the process here on egullet, and, for the first time in my seven or so years on egullet, actually post photos.

This project is all about celebrating the way my love and respect for flavours and people collide. The people in question include not only my friends and family, but also the people who produce the ingredients that go into the things I make, and all the food obsessed people (you!) who I'm lucky to have share their wisdom with me. Would anyone care to join me?


Edited by Khadija (log)

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Thanks, Lisa. I've read through that thread, as well as all the other gelato and ice cream making threads I could find on egullet. It's always possible that I missed some, though.

I should probably say something about what I mean by "gelato." I think of it as ice cream that has a low fat to milk ratio, contains a minimal amount of air and ice crystals, and is served and held at a higher temperature than North American ice creams. It's an extremely good vehicle for very intensely concentrated flavours: the flavour is infused into the milk, and other things that might interfere with the flavour (fat, air, ice) are minimized.

I want to learn how to make this kind of thing, at home. And I want to start by mastering plain milk flavoured gelato (fior di latte?). In fact, the next thing I plan to do, after J's party, is have a "milk flavour" gelato tasting, featuring different milks. So, I should say in advance that, although I like reading recipes, and I think I have a lot to learn from them, I'm not especially interested in collecting a lot of gelato recipes. I want to understand how the process of gelato making works. That said, I am interested in trying very good "formulas" for minimalist flavoured (or plain milk flavoured) gelatos.

One of the obstacles I've found is that, while there are a reasonable number of resources available about home ice cream making, there's far less information about home gelato making. I'm in the process of making decisions about which books I should buy, to start with. There is a really useful annotated bibliography of frozen dessert books somewhere here on egullet, and I'm using it. Until I get the books, I've found the internet has some recipes, usually for very specific flavours, but, like I said, that's not what I'm after. I've also tripped into ongoing discussions between experienced gelato makers and/or professionals. I'll continue to pay attention to these. But advice geared toward someone in my modest shoes is much appreciated.

I know that I'm going to have to experiment, too. I've done a bit, and so far come up with some very delicious ice cream. No gelato yet.


Edited by Khadija (log)

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I have an update on the plan for J's birthday dessert. My current idea is to make Milk Oolong infused madeleines and milk oolong ice cream/gelato. I'll serve the ice cream and cookies with little cups of the milk oolong tea. I could use some advice on the following:

1. I haven't made madeleines, much less tea infused ones. The party is on Saturday, and I'll have (make) time to experiment tomorrow night, Thursday night, and Friday. If I can't get the madelines right, I can make a very good white butter "birthday" cake, which could be infused with tea. But I like the madeleines concept. So, does anyone have any input on the learning curve for mastering madeleines? What resources are must reads? (I'm working on the requisite egullet thread research, and I've started looking at a Cook's Illustrated recipe, and I'll read through the section in my copy of the CIA baking book.)

2. My inclination is to emphasize a pure milk oolong flavour, unadulterated by little else. The gelato will involve milk (and maybe a bit of cream) and a minimal amount of sugar. And the madelines (or cake) will include the usual suspects: flour, eggs, butter, sugar, salt, extra leavening agent. I am leaning against the addition of any extra flavour, like vanilla or citrus zest. Do others agree? Should I be more open to try to enhance or complement the flavour of the tea, with additions?

Any input at all will be very much appreciated!


Edited by Khadija (log)

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Something to consider is that the most traditional gelatos (at least the ones made in the style that you describe) are intended to be eaten very shortly after being made. They don't have much stability, and will get icy fast. So unless you're planning to make these for people the day they'll eat them, it's going to take some ingenuity; you'll have to use ingredients beyond milk and sugar and flavorings.

Some things to familiarize youreself with are nonfat dried milk, alterntive sugars (glucose, fructose, either solid or in syrups), and starches, gums, or other stabilizers (cornstarch is traditional in Southern Italy; ingredients like gelatin, xanthan gum, and locust bean gum work in much smaller quantities and i think work better). You can also buy a prepackaged stabilizer mix ... this is what most pastry chefs do, but I like to know my exact recipe so I'm not bound to a manufactured product.

You need to decide if you'll incorporate egg custard or not. If not, you'll have to rely more on these other ingredients for texture and stability. Also, the lower the milkfat percentage you want, the more you'll have to worry about texture and stability.

Your machine calls itself a gelato machine, so it's probably designed to incorporate very little air. That will help.

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Thanks so much paulraphael!

I'm pretty sure I can make the gelato for J's party the day it's served. My guess is that there will be 15-20 people at most at this party, and servings will be small. My machine can churn/freeze 1 qt in approximately 1/2 hour. Without having given the matter a lot of thought, my guess is that I should aim to make 4 quarts. Does that sound right? Since I haven't tried, I don't know if there will be any problems with trying to turn out that many batches of ice cream back to back.

Decisions about fat and stabilizers seem to be the main challenge in gelato making, as far as I can tell. I guess I can't procrastinate on experimenting much longer. For me there are a few kinds of things to make decisions about:

"Natural" Stabilizers (milk fat, cream fat, egg fat)

In principle, I'm not against any of these. The only reason I want to minimize fat content is to maximize the capacity of the milk to deliver flavour to the tongue. But I know I need to strike a balance here. Some fat is desirable, because a creamy texture is desirable. I've been using full fat milk from an Ontario organic dairy (Harmony) that I really like, and cream from the same dairy. I find the flavour of the cream really strong, so I don't think I want a lot of it. As for custard bases, I think I need to play with them. Eggs will impart extra flavour, especially if I use my regular source of eggs. Also, I associate custard bases with chewy ice cream, and I always assume I dislike chewy ice cream. But I've heard that some people value a degree of chew, so maybe I just don't adequately appreciate this characteristic.

Processed Stabilizers (dried milk, cornstarch, gelatin, xanthan gum, etc.)

I think there are probably degrees of processed-ness in these things. I'm not in principle against most of them, but I want to understand what they do before I use them. I don't want to use pre-packaged mixes, because it would defeat some of my purposes, as a home gelato maker.

Alternative Sugars

I suppose this is a sub-category of stabilizer. I have a preferred brand of organic cane sugar that I use for baking. I like to think I'm not dogmatically committed to it, but I admit that I avoid using more refined sugars. (I'm fascinated by sugar, both by its aesthetic properties and its chemical properties. Part of what's exciting about this gelato project is that it will motivate me to learn more about sugar.)

Not surprisingly, I feel most comfortable with natural stabilizers. I feel less comfortable with the other two categories, and so, as is becoming increasingly apparent, I guess I just need to experiment. I'm thinking of beginning with dried milk and maybe cornstarch.


Edited by Khadija (log)

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Everything I mentioned is 100% natural. Many are just 99% unfamiliar in a lot of people's kitchens.

Even the word "processed" is tricky. For example, cane sugar is much more processed than dried milk. Cornstarch is no more processed than white flour. Products like locust bean gum and gelatin have been made by artisans for thousands of years. Glucose and Fructose are not so far removed from table sugar.

I think you're smart to start simple and try the ingredients your most familiar with first. Then if you find you want to tweak things, you can experiment with new ingredients / techniques one at a time.

And I agree that dried milk would be a good place to start. It adds what ice cream gurus call "nonfat solids," which improve creaminess and stability. I resisted using this for a long time, since I had such bad associations with dry milk. Then I saw both Pierre Hermé and Michael Laiskonis used it in their ice creams and decided I was being irrational!


Edited by paulraphael (log)

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Thanks so much for highlighting the difficulty of categorizing ingredients as "natural" or "processed." We might also look at the situation by saying that every one of the ingredients mentioned is processed, in the sense that every one of the ingredients has been "worked" by humans. I think the word "processed" undeservedly gets a bad reputation. Homemade ice cream (or cake or whatever) made from "local" and/or "organic" ingredients is processed: it's a bunch of stuff that's been made into something else. I don't think it's possible or really sensical completely to embrace or to avoid either so-called processed or so-called natural foods. But I think it's very important to try to understand where food comes from and how various materials get processed into food.

I'm really happy that to hear what you have to say about the milk powder. I'm looking forward to playing with it!


Edited by Khadija (log)

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I've gotten a lot of great technical help from Michael Laiskonis's blog. He's a wizard with frozen dessert and is one of the few people I've found who can talk articulately about why he does what he does. At the very least his recipes serve as great examples.

Your comments made me realize that the most processed ingredient I ever work with is chocolate! The number of steps between the bean and your belly is pretty dizzying. And the technology to make it as smooth as we're used to didn't exist until the 19th century, even though cocoa has been consumed for thousands of years.

As I'm sure you gather, i'm not trying to suggest that processed food is always good. I won't be suggesting that you make gelato out of twinkies, or butter-flavored shortening, or I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-__________

:)

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This book is an excellent resource on Frozen Desserts (it's one of my favourites)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0470118660?tag=wwwthequenell-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=0470118660&adid=05ZQY7NFHF5HS70F51PH&

It also covers ice cream and sorbets so may be a little broader than what you're after, but the science of frozen desserts and technical explanations of ingredients would, I imagine, be helpful to you.

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Thanks so much paulraphael!

I'm pretty sure I can make the gelato for J's party the day it's served. My guess is that there will be 15-20 people at most at this party, and servings will be small. My machine can churn/freeze 1 qt in approximately 1/2 hour. Without having given the matter a lot of thought, my guess is that I should aim to make 4 quarts. Does that sound right? Since I haven't tried, I don't know if there will be any problems with trying to turn out that many batches of ice cream back to back.

Maybe I've missed the point, upthread, but where will the party be held? My original concerns were around keeping the ice cream freezer cold enough, but then I read a bit on-line about your machine being self-cooling with its own compressor. Very nice! Anyways, I am wondering whether you have enough freezer space to keep each batch frozen while you are churning the next batch. Also, most of the on-line reviews make a point that the freezing process actually takes closer to 45 minutes than 30. Of course, you are probably already experimenting with that, and there are enough days between now and Saturday to do a LOT of experiments! But it seems that your machine may be very capable in churning several subsequent batches. Lucky you.

My only "party" experience with ice cream freezers involved taking my equipment to someone else's home. I have the "canister stored in the freezer" type of ice cream machine. Even though the canister was out of the freezer for less than 2 hours, and even though it was packed in a cooler for the whole travel time, and was put promptly into a deep freezer, it never did get cold enough. I ended up with vanilla custard mush, which I rescued by adding more eggs and whisking over heat to make a creme anglais of sorts. (!) There are never disasters, only recipes we haven't discovered yet.

Hope your party this weekend goes well! The Oolong infusion sounds heavenly.


Karen Dar Woon

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I'm happy to report that I made the milk oolong gelato and madeleines, and both were a hit at my friends party. I managed to make gelato, as opposed to ice cream! And I now have skim milk powder and dextrose in my cupboard! Thanks so much to everyone for the input and encouragement. I feel very inspired.

KarenDW: the party was at my friend J's place. I made the gelato and madeleines at my house, and then took them over to J's.

paulraphael: your post drove me to google "Twinkie gelato." Nothing surprises me anymore. I'm not going to google margarine gelato -- I just don't want to know.

Full report, with photos, to come.

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