There’s nothing like the first fresh strawberries of the season. That gorgeous bright red color is so inviting, promising a sweet and juicy delight. When I brought home a bucket of fresh-picked strawberries from Wegmeyer Farms, my boys could hardly keep their hands out of it, and after letting them snack on a few, I had to put the bucket away so we would have strawberries for making desserts, like this strawberry gelato.
I start my gelatos with a vanilla bean custard base because I just love the texture and flavor, and even though my gelatos are lower in fat than many ice creams, they are still rich. For the strawberry base, I puree strawberries with sugar and lemon juice and stir it in after the custard is cooked and strained, then I add chopped strawberries during the last few minutes of churning. Every bite is loaded with strawberry flavor. For best results, put the gelato mixture in the freezer for about 30 minutes before churning. This gets the mixture really cold and results in a better gelato texture.
Now I think I need to go pick more strawberries.
Inspired by Making Artisan Gelato, by Torrance Kopfer.
Makes about 1 quart/liter.
3-quart heavy bottom saucepan with lid
2 nonreactive 3-quart bowls
4 or 5–quart bowl
immersion blender (optional, though helpful)
ice cream maker (review)
1 quart plastic freezer container with a lid
1 pound strawberries, cleaned and hulled (fresh or frozen)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup (131 g) granulated sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 cups (480 ml) whole milk
4 egg yolks
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
2 cups fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1. Put 1 pound of strawberries in the blender jar and add 1/4 cup of sugar and the lemon juice. Allow to rest for 30 minutes to draw out some of the juices, then blend until you have a puree. Set aside.
2. GELATO BASE: Put the split vanilla bean and its seeds in the saucepan, then add the milk and 1/4 cup (50 g) of the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the thermometer registers 170° F/77° C. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the vanilla bean pod and return the pot to the burner. Warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the thermometer registers 170° F/77° C.
4. In the other 3-quart bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar until the mixture is foamy and slightly thickened.
5. Temper the egg yolks by adding about half of the hot milk mixture one ladle at a time, whisking continuously. Whisk the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan and return to the burner. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until the thermometer registers 185° F/85° C. Do not allow the mixture to boil or cook any longer than necessary. Remove from heat and insert the immersion blender into the hot liquid. Blend until smooth. (Note: You can also use a whisk and vigorously whip the mixture, or use a blender.)
6. Make an ice bath in the large bowl and set a 3-quart bowl with the heavy cream on top. Place a fine-mesh strainer on the rim of the bowl and carefully pour the custard through the strainer. Stir the custard about every 5 minutes until the mixture is cooled, about 30 minutes. Remove the bowl from the ice bath, dry the bottom, and stir in the pureed strawberries. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
7. CHURN: About 30 minutes before churning, set the gelato mixture in the freezer to get the mixture as cold as possible without starting to freeze. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions for processing. During the final 2 minutes of churning, drop the chopped strawberries in, 1/4 cup at a time and allow to churn for 1 more minute after the last strawberries go in.
7. Transfer the churned gelato to the plastic container. Press a layer of plastic wrap against the gelato and seal the lid on top. Freeze until fully hardened, at least 2 hours, but 4 hours or more is better. To serve, allow the gelato to soften slightly on the counter for about 2 to 3 minutes before scooping.