Gelato. Just saying the word makes your mouth water, eliciting memories of summer, Italian luxury, and a hint of naughtiness.
I purchased a gelato making class at Mia Chef Gelateria for my boyfriend as a Valentine’s Day gift (with the ulterior motive of learning how to make it at home and eating ridiculous amounts of gelato). We arrived at the address and found a hair salon, but it had a sign above the door for the gelateria. Confused, we asked inside and were instructed to pass through the salon into the basement (obviously) where there was a fully equipped kitchen and professional grade ice cream machine. Only in NYC.
We learned how to make four types of gelato: vanilla, cookies & cream, peanut brittle, and chocolate. And each person got to take home one pint of each flavor – which meant we walked away with 8 pints of gelato total!
Though the base ingredients for gelato are few (milk, heavy cream, sugar, grape sugar, milk solids, and guar gum), the class felt more chemistry lab than kitchen. Each couple was given a scale to carefully portion the right amount of each ingredient by weight. And if you messed up by going over/under the correct amount, another team had to balance you out to ensure that the full batch would end up right. This was especially important for the sugar, which acts as the antifreezing agent and must be correctly proportional to the milk to get that soft, creamy gelato texture.
We mixed the wet ingredients first then the dry, and the only difference between the four flavors is one add-on. For vanilla, it’s a swirl of caramel-based vanilla syrup; for the cookies & cream, Oreo; for peanut brittle, peanuts; and for chocolate it’s the addition of cocoa powder. That’s it!
Once all the ingredients are mixed, it’s poured into an ice cream maker which churns and rattles for about 6 minutes until fresh gelato ripples out. We tasted each flavor fresh – it was soft and milky, barely frozen.
In the initial tasting my favorite flavor was chocolate, though the next day I found that I liked the peanut brittle and cookies and cream much more than I did at first. My least favorite flavor is the peanut brittle, probably because the word “brittle” was deceiving – it was only peanut mixed in with the base, without the caramel candy that makes brittle. Why not just call it peanut?
Would I recommend the class at Mia Chef Gelateria? Absolutely! Off the bat, you leave with 4 pints of homemade gelato per person – how could you ever argue with that? Second, I learned a ton about gelato that I never would have known otherwise. Third, it’s a fun group activity or date night out. Finally, you can’t really do it at home. This was my biggest disappointment of the night- coming to terms with the fact that I would not be whipping up batches of fresh gelato on the fly without an ice cream maker, which I do not have (…YET). The instructor said it wasn’t impossible, but that the amount of churning by hand you would need to produce one pint really wouldn’t be worth it. Aside from that, several of the ingredients can’t be found in a normal grocery store, so it really is much easier to go buy gelato from a pro than to go through the hassle of DIY.
If you are one of the lucky people who has an ice cream maker at home, I’ve posted the recipe below if you’d like to try it. I can’t say much about the churn time or the exact brands of ingredients used, but I provided some links as my best guess based on the class and some internet research. How about you – have you ever made ice cream or gelato?
Makes 2 pints
- 420 grams milk
- 80 grams heavy cream (use one with 40% milkfat)
- 60 grams cane sugar (sucrose)
- 50 grams grape sugar (glucose)
- 50 grams milk solids*
- 1/2 teaspoon guar gum
- Flavorings (choose one):
- One swirl caramel-based vanilla syrup
- 80 grams cocoa powder
- Food scale
- One large bowl
- Ice cream maker
- Add the milk and heavy cream to a large bowl. Take care to be as exact as possible by using a food scale.
- Add cane sugar, grape sugar, milk solids, and guar gum one at a time, adding them little by little.
- If you want to make vanilla, add one swirl now by drizzling the syrup into the bowl for one second. If you want to make chocolate, add the cocoa powder now. (Please note this is an either/or situation! Do NOT add both.)
- Whisk ingredients together.
- Add it to your ice cream machine and churn until ready.**
- Remove from ice cream machine. If you want to make cookies & cream or peanut flavors, now is the time to add the Oreos or nuts. Enjoy!
- Store in a freezer within 30 minutes of making. It’s important that it remains in a cold place because once melted, you can not retain the texture ever again.
*There are several types of milk solids (you probably know it as powdered milk). It can be bought as powdered whole milk or as dry nonfat. I don’t know whether the milk solids we used in the class were whole or nonfat, but the nonfat powder is the easiest to find (here is an example).
**Full disclosure that I don’t have an ice cream machine or know how to use one. The industrial grade machine we used made 10 pints of gelato in 6 minutes , but I don’t know how this translates into home machines.