Monday, August 31, 2009

Pistachio gelato

Sometimes I think I should rename this blog 'Gadget Queen'! One of my favourite (although only occasionally used) appliances is my Sunbeam Gelateria ice cream maker. It has its own compressor, so no pre-freezing of the bowl needed. Not that pre-freezing of the bowl would be a big problem in most cases - making ice cream is not usually a spur of the moment thing. Most ice creams have a cooked custard base, and the custard needs to chill before churning, so it is often easiest to make the custard the day before you intend to churn it, which allows you to pre-freeze the bowl overnight. The ice cream then usually benefits from a couple of hours in the freezer to properly firm up. But the reason I love my machine with its own compressor is that a) I don't have much freezer space for a freezer bowl anyway, and b) it allows me to make back-to-back batches of icecream if I want, as only 5 mins pre-chilling is needed.

The great thing about making your own ice cream is there is no limit to what flavours you can create, and you can make it with top-quality ingredients. Another potential bonus is when you see how much effort and time goes into making it, you might not eat as much at a time. My DH still dreamily remembers when I made a coffee ice cream with cinnamon sugar-crusted macadamias stirred through. The macadamias were left over from Christmas and it seemed like a good opportunity to use them up. It was a heavenly combination, and not something you would be able to buy. My favourite ice cream is Nigella's cheesecake ice cream with crushed digestive biscuits stirred through (recipe from Forever Summer) - mmmmm...!

If you buy an ice cream maker, you can get fantastically smooth results, and I would definitely recommend it if you plan to make ice cream regularly. The flavour and texture of homemade ice cream is so much better than the bought stuff. If you don't have a machine, you can freeze the mixture in a tray and beat it every hour until frozen to break up the ice crystals.

I had some egg yolks leftover from another recipe, so I decided to use them up in a custard base for some pistachio gelato. The recipe is from '500 Ice Creams' by Alex Barker. I'm not sure how authentic this recipe is, using as it does cream rather than milk and eggs. My brief research tells me that eggs are often not used to emulsify gelati, and that it is usually milk, not cream, that is used. Not that gelati never include cream or eggs, but often don't. So the custard base in this recipe is more like normal ice cream, but using nuts as flavouring is more typical of gelati. Either way, it was pretty moreish! If you want a potentially more authentic recipe, check this one out. I think the pistachio paste might be hard to get hold of, but then you could possibly just make your own as this recipe does.

The recipe (makes about 750ml)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 600ml cream
  • 225g pistachios
  • few drops vanilla extract
  • few drops almond extract
Firstly, make the custard base. Heat the cream until bubbles appear, then remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Do not allow to boil.
Beat the yolks and sugar together in a heat proof bowl until thick and creamy. Gently beat the cream into the yolk mixture. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
At this point, you could allow it to cool and then churn in an ice cream machine for gelato di crema.
For pistachio gelato, soak the pistachios in boiling water for 5 minutes, and then rub in a clean tea towel to remove the skins (sounds easy, but I found this a bit time consuming). Blend with vanilla and almond extract and a little hot water to form a smooth paste. Stir through custard base. (My paste was quite thick, so I loosened it with some custard, and stirred the custard gradually into the paste, not the other way around so that it would be smoothly combined).
Once cold, churn in an ice cream machine (this took 15 minutes in my machine, and I then left it with the chiller running for another 10 minutes before transferring to a container and placing it in the freezer to firm up). Transfer to the freezer to firm up. Allow to soften for 15 minutes before serving. Use within a month.

The pistachios after they had been soaked waiting for their skins to be rubbed off. I found this to be time-consuming and was wishing there was somewhere local that sold the pistachios already blanched.

Before and after blending

Left: the pistachio paste; right: loosened with some custard

Mixing the custard into the pistachio paste

The egg yolks and sugar - I used my 'Sticky Bowl' (an Australian invention) to hold the Pyrex bowl in place.

Beating the yolks and caster sugar using the Dualit handheld mixer

Custard-making can be a bit nerve-wracking. Proper custard is just yolks, milk / cream, sugar and vanilla. The thickening comes from the protein in the yolks setting, unlike some custards which have cornflour added and can be allowed to boil to thicken. If this type of custard boils, it splits or curdles, becoming grainy. Stirring the custard over simmering water rather than over direct heat helped to avert the danger of letting the custard boil. It takes a bit longer, but I might do it this way more often in the future.

This is the point you are looking for with cooked custards - for it to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and if you trace a line through it with your finger, the 2 areas should remain separate. I did cook it for a bit longer beyond this point to thicken it slightly further before taking it off the heat.

Putting cling film directly in contact with the surface of the custard prevents a skin from forming.

Nicely thickened after chilling time

My ice cream machine :)

After 5 mins of chilling time, the paddle motor is switched on and the custard is poured in.

Churning the gelato

Once the mixture is finished churning, I leave the chiller on for another 10 minutes before taking the gelato out so that it is a bit firmer before it goes into the freezer to finish firming up.

The gelato after a couple of hours in the freezer - still softish around the edges, but firm enough to serve :p

This pistachio gelato is ultra rich, so once scoop is enough for me. It got the thumbs up from the family, including the 18mo!


  1. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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  2. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

    Gelati Machines