Ice Cream or Gelato?

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     While recently showcasing our fair city to our visiting friends, I showed their young sons a typical gelato shop, of which there are many.  My friend asked me, what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream and, actually, I didn’t know, so here is my research. 
Gelato. Gelato is Italian-style ice cream. It is made from water, milk and/or soy milk, combined with flavorings, sweeteners, and a stabilizing agent. Gelato comes from the Italian word for “frozen.” Traditionally, it has had two major points of differentiation from American ice cream: density and butterfat. Unlike ice cream, gelato machinery whips almost no air into the product (i.e., much less overrun), resulting in a dense and more intensely-flavored product.
Ah, that’s why we think it is so much better than ice cream.  
     I have had brief experimentations with making ice cream.  In June, I thought I was going to be all about making ice cream that summer, but one or at the most two super rich batches put an end to that.  My young adult sons still call my lavender ice cream one of the most horrid things they’ve ever put in their mouths and beg me not to make it again.  I actually loved the lavender essence, but with a custard base and a high cream content, even I could only eat about 3 teaspoons of the stuff. 
     I asked a shop owner if I could take these photos after we and two of our friends had just purchased double scoops of her gelato.  She said, yes, but sat in a chair about five feet away pouting like a jealous teenager, clearly feeling that I was taking something away from her.  It was weird.  Anyway, she does have a charming shop, including other chilled and frozen desserts, and wood-fired pizzas. I intend to bring many expats there, never telling them about her unanticipated response to photography.  

     Here is my recipe for lavender ice cream.  Make it if you want to.  It’s awesome, but the last thing we need around here is a full batch of this highly caloric, way overrun, concoction to add about 1,000 calories to our daily diet.  But let me know how you like it.
Lavender Honey Custard Ice Cream
¾ cup milk
1/3  cup honey
1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender buds
1 ½ cup heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, cut in half, lengthwise
10 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, honey, lavender, and ¾ cup of the cream.  Add the vanilla bean.  Heat, stirring often, until small bubbles start to form around the edge; do not boil.  Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar.  Beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, or the mixture is a light lemony yellow and forms ad slowly dissolving ribbon when the beater is lifted.
Slowly beat in the milk mixture.  Pour back into the saucepan.  Use a paring knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thicken s and reaches 175 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer (don’t go above 180 degrees or the eggs will curdle).
Strain into a medium bowl.  Place over a larger bowl containing ice cubes and cold water.  Stir often until cool.  Stir in the vanilla extract and the remaining ¾ cup cream.  Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. 
The Lavender Cookbook, Sharon Shipley, Running Press, 2004, pg. 140.
*“2004 Ice Cream Outlook,” by Donna Berry, Dairy Foods, March, 2004..

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