When I was in Spain on my honeymoon a few years ago, I had this amazing mint chocolate chip gelato on the pier in Puerto Banus. Amazing almost doesn't describe it properly, it was velvety and sweet, but not super sweet. The chocolate bits were actually shaved chunks, and they blended perfectly with the mint. Plus, it was green! I can't stand it when mint chocolate is white, don't ask me why!
So began my quest for an ice cream maker to replicate gelato at home, since you can't find it anywhere around where I live. For those asking "what's the difference between gelato and ice cream?" Ice cream contains quite a bit of air, churned in to increase the volume - sometimes 100% overrun, which means it has as much air by volume as ingredients. Gelato on the other hand, contains much less air, and is significantly denser. There's quite a debate as to whether some gelato recipes are authentic or not, some call for egg yokes and some don't… but I won't go into that here. Eat what you love, and make it however you want - that's my philosophy!
It took me a while to settle on which machine I wanted, and which recipe book to go along with it; but I ended up getting a Cuisinart ICE-30BC and Bruce Weinstein's, The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book. It contains a ton of gelato recipes, which is exactly what I was looking for. It also has sections for sherbet, semifreddo and other frozen delights; my concern was mostly for the gelato flavors, and there's no shortage of them here! Plus there's add-ins to every recipe, suggestions to make it more interesting like chocolate chips, fresh fruit or ribbons of caramel sauce.
Here's where it got interesting… I was flipping through pages, trying to decide which flavor gelato to make next (I had tried strawberry first, it was ok.) I was specifically looking for one that called for ingredients I had on hand, so I didn't have to run to the store. I landed on peanut butter gelato, and said it out loud. My husband's head perked up, so I figured it was worth a shot. Grin. If only you knew what smooth, creamy goodness this stuff is! Actually better than real peanut butter if you ask me, I keep wondering if I should make a dessert pb&j with gelato and french-bread toast. I know, I know… it sounds weird, but if you had a taste of this stuff you'd want to put it on everything, too!
It's made with an egg custard base, which sounds intimidating; but once you get it right, the gelato just melts on your tongue, velvet-ey and perfect. You can't taste the eggs in the final product, just peanut-ey buttery sweetness (not too sweet though, I sort of hate that.) I've also picked up a few tips for making it even better, too! Working with ingredients at room temperature produces a much smoother balance of flavors, but you'll need to refridgerate the base custard overnight before you churn it in your machine. I know, it seems counter productive, but if you try and make gelato out of just-cooked egg custard, it probably won't turn out well. And while you're at it, transfer the custard base from the fridge to the freezer just before churning, and let sit for no more than 10 minutes. This blast of chill helps prevent air from churning in, and ice crystals from forming. (Ice crystals in gelato are not cool. They really interrupt the flavor on the tongue. And they give me brain freeze somethin' fierce!) The end result is creamy smooth, and oh-so tasty!