Thursday, 28 May 2009

Vanilla Ricotta Gelato with Strawberries

Its only May and already its far too hot. Following my recent visit to Bologna, the capital of Gelati, and Sicily, the capital of sugar it was time to experiment with the frozen crystals. My way. 

A dusty old ice cream machine that was laying around in the kitchen must have been left by a previous student. It was either too heavy or broken. Too lazy to figure out which it is, I let Chris test it. He took it home and nursed it as if it was a kitten off the street. He gave it a good scrub, plugged it in and made a test batch.

After it received the all clear I came in the picture. First we tracked down the right recipe. We wanted a gelati made without the use of eggs or cream that we could use as a base for any flavor we chose.

On Saturday morning we headed to Parma’s organic market to check the local, seasonal produce. We bought fresh sheep's- milk ricotta and strawberries, I had a vanilla pod and we stopped by the raw milk machine for a top up of the white stuff (raw unpasteurized milk).

We ended up making a ricotta vanilla gelato served with strawberries and chocolate shavings. It was surprisingly easy to make, so much so that we were both left quite shocked from the whole experience. It almost qualifies as a life changing food experience.

The recipe is based on a David Leibowitz’s recipe for a Sicilian style gelato, using cornstarch to enrich the base and NO EGGS. I take a minimalist approach to a recipe and this one has only the bare essentials; ricotta, milk, vanilla, sugar and (the secret ingredient) corn starch, resulting in a lighter ice cream, with an intense flavor. It almost seems unnecessary to have eggs and cream in the ice cream after making this way…

Vanilla Ricotta Gelato with Strawberries

Adapted from David Leibowitz’s recipe. Makes about 3 cups (3/4 liter).

2 cups (½ liter) whole milk

1/2 cup (65 gr) sugar

2 tablespoons (16 gr) cornstarch (also known as corn flour)

1 vanilla bean

1 cup organic sheep’s milk ricotta

fresh strawberries, sliced

1. Mix the 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch until the starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

2. Heat the rest of the milk in a medium-sized saucepan with the sugar.

Split in half the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the liquid then add the pod.

3. When it almost starts to boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook at gentle simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Remove from heat, scrape into a bowl through a siv, and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

5. Once chilled, whisk in the ricotta until smooth.

6. Freeze the gelato in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

7. Serve with sliced fresh strawberries and chocolate shavings.

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