Give me a kiss…

April 21, 2009

chocolate-hazelnut-gelato

I had the luxury of spending a summer studying abroad in Florence, Italy while in college. Along with about 50,000 other American girls, my best friend Jennifer and I packed up our travelers checks and Teva’s and headed for la dolce vita. My good intentions were to bide my time mastering both the beautiful Italian language as well as the stunning art and architecture. Well, my language skills may still be lacking, and I don’t really remember much about Brunelleschi, but there is one thing I did master — the cuisine.

While my fellow classmates were out spending their parents’ hard-earned money on Dolce & Gabbana, I was spending mine on food. A fette biscottate and caffe e latte started each day; a pizzetta piled high with the freshest mozzarella, tomatoes and tuna drizzled in rich olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt made a perfect lunch on the go; and loads and loads of homemade tagliatelle, paparadelle and gnocchi swimming in bright tomato sauce closed out our evenings. But the food I remember most is Italy’s famous gelato.

Summertime in Florence reaches sweltering temperatures, not only from the bright Tuscan sun but because the thick stone walls of the buildings were designed to trap heat during the harsh winters. Since it is a walking city, Jennifer and I often found ourselves on the verge of heat stroke after trolling from museum to museum. Looking for somewhere to quench our thirst, we quickly discovered a little gelato stand near our flat. The owner was the most adorable elderly gentleman, and his eyes would light up when we first approached, and he was always generous with samples. I will never forget the moment when he handed me a spoon dripping in chocolate-hazelnut gelato. “Here, a kiss for you,” he said sweetly. I blushed; those Italians really do know how to turn on the charm. It turns out that chocolate-hazelnut gelato is called bacio, which means kiss in Italian. What a perfect name for a perfect dessert.

Here is a FANTASTIC replication of bacio… now all that’s missing is the Arno.

CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT GELATO

Source: Giada De Laurentiis

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed, for garnish

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves. Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze. To serve, scoop gelato into serving bowls and top with hazelnuts. (YIELDS 4 CUPS – next time I would double the recipe. It is just sooo good!)



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