My husband’s cousins had just left my house. We’d had a fabulous day of making ice cream and lunch, and sharing it together. I felt happy. I went to the freezer to pull out the caramel hazelnut gelato so I could have one more tiny little taste. As I licked the spoon and closed my eyes, I said to myself, “This tastes like comfort.”
But why did it taste like comfort? I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Something about this gelato made me feel like someone was enveloping me in a warm, loving embrace.
I told my husband that it tasted like comfort and he replied that it reminded him of Tiramisu. “That’s impossible,” I said. “Tiramisu doesn’t have hazelnuts in it. It’s got to be something else.” He shrugged and went back to what he was doing.
But then I had another spoonful and suddenly I was 18 and in Italy trying gelato for the first time. I had no idea what Tiramisu was. I hadn’t really tasted hazelnuts much. (Wait, weren’t those the nuts in those Ferrero Rocher I loved so much?) Taste after taste at the gelateria, until I decided which flavor I wanted in that giant cone. Tiramisu and hazelnut, I think, are the two I chose. It’s hard to remember for sure. I spent as much time eating my way through every gelateria in every town and village we visited as I did in visiting cathedrals and museums.
It wasn’t so much that it tasted like Tiramisu, as it it tasted like a feeling. “Italy is a feeling,” my grandmother always says. Our mutual love for Italy frequently comes up in conversation, and frequently it involves talking about the food we ate while we were there, decades apart. Someday I hope we can go there together – sooner rather than later.
I ate another spoonful. The rich ice cream melted on my tongue and I chewed the hazelnuts, soft from steeping in hot milk. The burnt sugar flavor mixed with the toasted hazelnuts did remind me a little of coffee, another of my favorite flavors of ice cream.
This recipe is more than just the cream, egg yolks, milk, sugar and hazelnuts. It’s a recipe made of memories, and I didn’t even realize it until I was there, (almost) alone in my kitchen, the kids playing in the room adjacent to where I was standing, and dreaming I was 18 years old tasting gelato for the first time again. And if that’s not comfort, I don’t know what is.
As summer draws to a close, Becky had the idea to get a bunch of us food bloggers together for a fun Labor Day Ice Cream Social. For a dozen more tasty ice cream recipes and topping check out these posts by some of my favorite bloggers:
Becky of Project Domestication
Becky of Vintage Mixer
Carrian of Sweet Basil
Holly of Phemomenon
Kelly of Mountain Mamma Cooks
Krista of Budget Gourmet Mom
Karen of 365 Days of Slow Cooking
Marie of Food Nouveau
Rachel of A Southern Fairytale
Shawn of I Wash You Dry
Stephanie of Queen Scarlett
Stephanie of Lick My Spoon
Wendy of 101 Gourmet Series
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 3 cups whole milk
- 6-8 egg yolks
- ¾ cup evaporated cane sugar, divided
- ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract, optional
- Place hazelnuts and whole milk in a 2 quart saucepan and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and let steep for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Place ½ cup evaporated cane sugar in another larger saucepan. Over medium-high heat, melt the sugar, swirling the pan as necessary until all of the sugar is melted and has turned golden brown. Remove from heat and quickly add the heavy cream. Place back on heat and simmer over medium heat with a fork or whisk to dissolve any hardened bits of caramel. Add the salt and strain the hazelnut milk into the pan. Reserve the nuts. If necessary, heat the liquid again until very hot. (It will probably be just fine if the caramel was very hot when you added the milk.)
- In a large bowl, whisk the remaining ¼ cup sugar with the egg yolks until thick and light in color. Drizzle the hot cream/milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time to temper them. Pour the entire mixture back into the larger saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly (I use a whisk for this), until the temperature reaches 170 degrees F, or the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Add the vanilla extract.
- Let the custard cool a bit before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating. Chill overnight or at least 3 hours. Or if you’re in a hurry, you can chill it quickly in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes.
- Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer directions. During the last minute or 30 seconds of churning, add the reserved hazelnuts. (They will be soft after absorbing some of the milk as they steeped.) Transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze until firm enough to scoop.
- Yields about 1½ quarts.