Eric and I haven’t done much traveling. I realize now this is something I should be quite embarrassed about, similar to finding toilet paper stuck to my shoe or my fly unzipped in the middle of a big presentation in front of People Smarter and More Important Than Me.
But that’s the way it is. Here we are, both turning 30 in 3 months, and we’ve never left the US. Well, I take that back, Eric spent a few days in Canada a few years ago. So he wins. I guess.
Don’t me wrong, I’d love to jet off somewhere exotic. See majestic mountains, jewel-toned oceans and crumbling ancient ruins. There’s just always an absence of two very important things. Mainly, money and time. I frequently hear from the well-traveled that we should do these things while we’re young. While it’s just the two of us. Before kids come along.
We’ve had six years. Let’s be honest. I’m 99.9% sure that’s not going to happen. Someday, right? Someday when we’re retired and all of sudden traveling Europe by train with the lead anchor on the 10:00 news sounds like an excellent idea. (Does your local news advertise trips like this? An Alaskan cruise with your favorite weatherman! The commercials always make me laugh!) Yep. Then we’ll go. Someday….
Until then, it’s a good thing I have a stocked kitchen and an active imagination. With the right food, I can travel wherever I want, whenever I want.
A couple weeks ago, I decided Italy was the place I wanted to go. So, I closed my eyes and thought about what it would be like to be there. I pictured peaches and cream sunsets streaked with lavender and pink, jaunty cobblestone streets and the whir of scooters whizzing by. I pictured a white flowy sundress, gold sandals that tie around the ankles, and hair in long, loose waves. I pictured outdoor cafes, tiny cups of espresso billowing with steam and bottles of wine that last for hours. I pictured hopeful coins shimmering with wishes at the bottom of a tinkling fountain. I pictured history – the last remains of great empires, towering, intricate cathedrals and Renaissance art. I pictured falling in love.
Most of all, I pictured gelato. Walking slowly with one hand wrapped up in the fingers of a true love and the other wrapped around a cone dripping with a cool, creamy treat.
This Gianduja-Stracciatella Gelato will put you there. All of those experiences in just one bite. And if that isn’t what it’s really like there – hey, I can dream right? It is my imagination after all. Someday I’ll know for certain.
I’m not even sure where to begin to tell you how much we loved this stuff. In The Perfect Scoop, David Lebovitz describes gianduja as an Italian confection made from local hazelnuts ground together with milk chocolate. Hello, heaven! This gelato is like frozen Nutella with bits of crunchy, chocolate goodness running through it. It may look like chocolate overload, but really the flavor is not over-the-top rich. It’s chocolatey in a completely perfect way. The hazelnuts give it a little bit of a coffeehouse flair. I’m actually not big on ice cream in a cone, I almost always have it in a dish. But here, the slightly spicy crunch of the cone compliments the chocolate and hazelnuts perfectly. Go for the cone!
GIANDUJA-STRACCIATELLA GELATO (Recipe Source: The Perfect Scoop)
Make the Gelato:
- 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 4 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- After toasting hazelnuts*, rub in a kitchen towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible. Finely chop the nuts in a food processor.
- Warm the milk with one cup of the cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Once warmed (do not boil), remove from the heat and add the chopped nuts. Cover and let steep at room temperature for one hour.
- Put the chopped milk chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the remaining cup of cream in a small saucepan until it just bubbles. Pour it over the chocolate and stir until melted. Set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.
- Pour the hazelnut infused milk through the strainer into a medium saucepan. Squeeze the nuts firmly with your hands to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the nuts.
- Rewarm the hazelnut/milk mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm hazelnut/milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.
- Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom while stirring, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through a strainer into the milk chocolate. Add the vanilla then stir until cool over an ice bath. Cover and chill the gelato in the fridge until very cold, at least 8 hours or overnight.
*To toast the hazelnuts, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden and fragrant, about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Make the Stracciatella:
Stracciatella is more of a technique than a recipe. It involves melting chocolate and adding it in steaks to frozen ice cream. The streaks are broken up into crunchy “chips” that run throughout the ice cream. I have to say I really loved this technique and will likely use it again in the future. The bits of chocolate are small and they melt instantly when hitting the tongue, giving you a delightful chocolate flavor. Sometimes I find adding actual chocolate chips to ice cream leads to chunks that are so frozen solid, it’s like crunching down on tasteless, waxy pebbles. This technique eliminates that.
- Finely chop 5 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (do not use chocolate chips)
- In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until it is completely melted.
Remove gelato from the refrigerator and stir. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according the manufacturer’s instructions. After it’s frozen, transfer from the bowl to a storage container. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the gelato in a slow, thin stream, stirring as you pour to break up the chocolate. Cover and freeze until ready to serve.