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Toasted Almond Gelato

What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream? Gelato tends to be smoother and silkier. It contains more milk than cream, if any, and doesn’t contain egg yolks.  It’s also creamier and more dense as the dasher spins at a slower speed, thus creating less air.

I’ve read that if you have the patience  you should serve gelato about 10 to 15 degrees warmer than American ice cream, or at about 7 to 12 degrees F.  That way your mouth is less numb and better able to taste it.

This recipe is a riff on one that I learned from Zoë François [1] now too many years ago to count. Because the almonds are steeped in the milk and cooled, then the milk is heated again, this is a two day process, but largely unattended.

2 cups (5 oz) blanched, whole almonds
4  – 6 cups whole milk, preferably organic
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (1 ¾ oz / 50 g) cornstarch
Pinch of kosher salt
1 plump vanilla bean, split
1 bay laurel leaf (optional)
? teaspoon pure almond extract

Set the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a sheet-pan and toast until golden brown and fragrant; about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and add to a medium saucepan along with the milk and bay leaf (if using); bring to a boil. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to proceed with the recipe, strain mixture thorugh a fine mesh sieve, pressing almonds with a spoon and reserving for another use.* The almond flavored milk should measure 4 cups. If it doesn’t add enough to equal that amount and set aside.

In a medium saucepan bring 3 ½ cups of the almond flavored milk along with the sugar to a low boil. While the milk is heating, in a small bowl dissolve the cornstarch in remaining ½ cup milk. Stir cornstarch mixture into the milk mixture and cook in medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Transfer to a bowl to cool; cover and refrigerate overnight.

If the mixture has separated use a whisk to bring it back together and process in an ice cream machine folllowing the manufacture’s directions. Serve it in a bowl or as part of an ice cream sandwich using your favorite cookie.

*I poured the almonds in the sieve and rinsed them under cold water. Then I put them back on the sheet pan in a 200 degree oven to dry them.