Meant to Happen

Toasted hazelnuts

I think I was just meant to make gianduja gelato last week. When we ate through that tin roof ice cream so quickly, I had Jeremy take a gander through the book and pick out our next flavor. He couldn’t decide between roasted banana ice cream and gianduja gelato, but I thought the choice had been made for us because I definitely had bananas but only a small stash of hazelnuts. We had a rough day on Thursday, so I decided that some fresh roasted banana ice cream was in order for a pick-me-up. I took the book in the kitchen to start gathering up ingredients, and it fell open right to the gianduja, which has a pretty mouthwatering photo. I ended up digging around in the baking cupboard to find out how many hazelnuts I actually had, just in case; it turned out that I had precisely the 1 1/2 cups needed for the recipe, no more, no less. That sounded like fate to me.

Gianduja in the making

The recipe was one of the more complicated that I’ve made from The Perfect Scoop, but the results are infinitely worthwhile. First you toast, skin, and chop the hazelnuts, then soak them in a mixture of warm milk, cream and sugar for an hour. The nuts are then strained out and squeezed to retain every last drop of hazelnut-infused milk, which is transformed into a custard base on the stove. Finally, you combine it with a mixture of warm cream and melted milk chocolate, chill it with an ice bath and a trip to the fridge (and/or freezer, if you want to expedite the process as I did), and churn it up into hazelnut heaven.

Freshly churned gianduja gelato

This gelato came out perfectly smooth and creamy, with a pronounced flavor of hazelnuts and just the right amount of subtle support from the milk chocolate. If there were any more—or darker—chocolate, the hazelnuts would have been lost and all that careful steeping pointless. If you wanted to make a plain hazelnut gelato, I think you could leave the chocolate out entirely with no detriments: I found myself scraping dribbles of hazelnut creme anglaise from the cooled saucepan with my finger because it was so delicious. Another option that I believe would work equally well is substituting toasted and ground almonds or pistachios for the hazelnuts, with or without chocolate.

Gianduja gelato

I have to wonder if this should really be called gelato, however. David Lebovitz certainly has more first-hand experience with the stuff than I do, but I’ve always thought that the primary difference between gelato and ice cream was that gelato had less fat and frequently no eggs at all. Fat coats the tongue and can consequently mute flavors over time, and I thought part of the reason that gelato is so intensely flavored is because it is by nature lower in fat, sometimes even using corn starch as a thickener instead. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I was surprised to see a gelato recipe calling for more cream than milk and a custard base involving 5 egg yolks. It’s a minor point, because gelato or ice cream, this gianduja stuff is absolutely heavenly, and I don’t think we’ll be able to resist making it again and again.

Gianduja gelato

I won’t provide the recipe here. You can find it reproduced on Serious Eats. However, to be honest, even if all the other ice cream I’ve been churning out over the last year wasn’t enough to tempt you, this gelato is definitely worth buying the book for, and an ice cream maker too if you don’t have one already. I’m just sayin’.

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