Thursday, May 6, 2010

Toasted Almond Gelato

Even though French pastries get all the spotlight on this blog (okay, most of the spotlight, sometimes I feel perverse and do this), I'm always curious to explore the desserts of other cultures. I stumbled upon a wonderful book at the library a few weeks ago. Dolce Italiano by Gina De Palma, the pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo Kitchen, takes you on an amazing cultural journey through Italy. She describes not only the desserts of various regions, but their wine and cheese as well. I tend to read cookbooks for the vicarious pleasure of traveling to other places and pretending I'm living among the locals, rather than to get recipes, so I had a blast with this book. One day, I'll be sipping vin santo in my Tuscan villa, surrounded by my vineyards...

There was a toasted almond gelato recipe in the book that I just had to try*. I wanted to make something refreshing and fragrant, but with enough toasty body to be fulfilling.

This recipe is perfect for someone who likes almonds. For those of you who don't (shame on you), replacing the almonds with hazelnuts, and amaretto with frangelico, would probably yield equally amazing results.

* Okay, so there were other recipes, like fried orange cream and custard donuts, that I wanted to try more. But I know better than to purchase a deep fryer.

Toasted Almond Gelato
Adopted from Dolce Italiano

1 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon flavorful honey
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons amaretto
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Toast the almonds in a 375F oven for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic.

Place the toasted almonds in a saucepan. Add heavy cream, milk, sugar and honey. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, then let steep until the mixture cools to room temperature. Strain to remove the almonds, then stir in salt, amaretto, and almond extract. Don't throw away the leftover almonds. You can grind them up in a food processor and use them in place of ground almonds in recipes (financiers, frangipane, tart dough, etc). I had enough to make a rhubarb bakewell tart, but that's for another day.   

Chill the gelato mixture thoroughly in a covered container for at least 3-4 hours, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. 

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