Homemade Gelato: A Tasty Take on Ice Cream

Homemade Gelato

Homemade chocolate gelato . . . looks good, right?

Wondering what to make for your upcoming cookouts and picnics? I was in the same situation when I was invited to a Fourth of July picnic last weekend. I always bring a dessert of some kind, but I wanted something different this time, something that involved no boxed mixes and that would please a crowd. That’s when I turned to gelato.
So what is the difference between the ice cream we know and gelato? Gelato is ice cream, essentially, but it is richer in flavor and has a softer consistency. (Think velvety smooth.) This decadent version comes from Italy. Typically it uses less milk than traditional ice cream and contains less fat.

I’ve enjoyed this treat many times at a local cafe, but I never considered making it myself, not until I bought a small ice cream maker last year. Being just a “newbie” to making ice cream, I had my sights on making just simple vanilla, but the little recipe booklet that came with my ice cream maker gave me other ideas. Pumpkin ice cream. Lemon sherbet.  Banana frozen yogurt.  And yes, you guessed it – gelato.

The booklet has two gelato recipes: expresso and chocolate. I’m more of a chocolate gal myself, so I naturally chose the sweeter option.

1 qt Ice Cream Freezer

Here’s the 1-quart ice cream maker (freezer) I used. Available at Lehmans.com or at their retail store in Kidron, OH.

Chocolate Gelato
Makes about 1 quart

  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1½ cups whipping cream

*If you don’t want it as rich, add less cocoa (more on that later).

Getting Started
What I like about this ice cream maker is that you don’t need any salt. Instead, you use an aluminum cylinder that goes in your freezer.  Before you begin, you need to freeze the cylinder for at least 7 hours.

Step 1: Making the Mixture
Start with the dry ingredients. Mix the cocoa and sugar in a saucepan. Gradually add the milk. It should look like paste after you’re done mixing.

Making the gelato mixture

Make sure you’re constantly stirring, so mixture won’t stick or burn.

Whisk in the eggs. Then place the saucepan over medium heat for 8-10 minutes until steaming. (Make sure that you’re constantly stirring during this time. If not, you’ll have a burnt mess!)

Finally, stir in the cream.

Ever get so excited that you skip through the little details?  When I was in the midst of making this mixture, I remembered one important detail: the mixture needs to chill, preferably overnight. This put a small damper on my plans of making immediate gelato. So make sure you plan ahead.  Each step (making the mixture and churning it) only takes 20 minutes or less, but you need to leave time for chilling.

Step 2: Churning
Once your mixture is chilled and the cylinder is frozen, you’re ready to churn. This is the fun part.

First, remove the cylinder from the freezer. Attach the plastic ring on top then place the whole cylinder into the ice cream maker.

Place the blade into the center of the cylinder, and pour in the mixture. Secure the lid and handle, then you’re ready to mix.

Churning Gelato

An up-close view of the mixture beginning to turn into that ice cold treat

Because the ice cream maker is so light, you can easily hold it in your arms as you churn. Or if you’re feeling slightly less ambitious (which I might have been feeling . . .), set it down on a flat surface and pull up a chair.

The secret to churning is speed and time. You’ll want to turn the handle slowly and keep a watch or clock handy.

To start, turn the handle clockwise at a slow pace for 3-4 times. Then stop and let it set for 2-3 minutes. Turn again 2-3 times. You’ll repeat this process for about 15-20 minutes until the handle is difficult to turn.

The Final Product
This was so easy to make and a nice surprise for dinner guests. I loved the texture of this gelato, so soft and smooth. It was definitely full of flavor too!  It was a little rich for my taste, so next time I plan on reducing the amount of cocoa I put it in (maybe to ½ cup instead).

I ended up transferring my gelato into a container and putting it in the freezer since I was bringing it to a picnic. This did help it form more.

A Spoonful of Gelato

A Spoonful of Gelato

As I discovered, this ice maker can make many varieties of ice cream, and you don’t need to be an expert to use it. There are even non-dairy dessert recipes included for folks who cannot have dairy products in their food. Give it a turn – you might just be surprised by what you can do.