Category Archives: Ice Cream & Gelato

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ph’s ispahan sorbet

it’s once again sweltering in NYC, and i got to thinking about pierre herme’s ispahan sorbet that hubby and i shared (well mostly me) in paris. the ispahan sorbet is a combination of litchee, rose and rasberry.  you can’t really taste the rose, it’s more of a perfumed essence imparted to the litchee.

mmmm kinda wish i had a tub of that in my freezer right now!

nb.  his ice creams are not available at all locations and are not always available year round.  i tried to buy one in november but they told me there was none in stock. i got mine this time around at the saint germain location.

earl grey mixed berry jam gelato

i started off intending to test out ciao bella’s recipe for strawberry gelato.  as i read the recipe, i realized that their technique for prepping the strawberries was in fact quite similar to jam making.   the strawberries are cooked with sugar and lemon but for a shorter amount of time compared to the jam making process.  rather than run out and buy a vat of strawberries, i spied the pot of earl grey mixed berry jam that i had made earlier and opted for a short cut. i took a cup of the jam, blended it with a quart of plain gelato base, and poured it into my gelato machine.  an hour later, i ended up with some seriously yummy stuff.  it’s got the light fruitiness one would expect of strawberry gelato but the addition of earl grey and jam making techniques, gives it what i’d describe as a sophisticated, caramelized fruit flavour after taste.  the kind of thing that is like a wisp of steam rising from a hot glass of fauchon’s pomme tea at the end of a meal.

Earl Grey Mixed Berry Jam Gelato
(makes 1 quart)

Earl Grey Mixed Berry Jam 1 cup
Ciao Bella’s Plain Base 1 quart  (leave out the green tea powder)
Fresh Strawberries (optional) 1 cup, sliced
  1. Combine jam and plain base in blender.  Mix until evenly combined.
  2. Pour into ice cream maker and add in fresh strawberries.
  3. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

testing ciao bella’s green tea gelato recipe

green tea gelato was the first recipe i tested out from the ciao bella gelato cookbook.  it’s surprisingly simple to make:  whip up their plain base, add 1 tablespoon of matcha tea powder, blend it in a blender, and then pour into ice cream maker. i found the green tea flavour in the original recipe to be a bit light, and would probably add an additional tablespoon or two to pump up the matcha quotient.

their plain base doubles up easily.  i made two batches of the base at once.  i’m keeping the other one in the fridge so that i can easily make another flavor, like black sesame, or hojicha, or red bean!

Ciao Bella’s Green Tea Gelato
(makes 1 quart, modified for taste)

Whole Milk 2 cups
Heavy Cream 1 cup
Egg Yolks 4 large ones
Sugar 2/3 cups
Green Tea Powder 2 tbsp recommended
  1. Combine milk and cream in a medium sized saucepan.  Stir to prevent skin from forming.  Heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges (temperature should be ~170ºF if you’re using a thermometer).
  2. While heating the milk/cream, whisk egg yolks in your standmixer on high speed.  After 1 minute, add in sugar and continue to whisk until the yolk-sugar combination becomes thick, pale yellow and reaches the ribbon stage.  Turn the speed down once it reaches this stage to the lowest setting.
  3. Next, temper the egg yolks by slow pouring the hot milk into eggs.
  4. Then, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly.  It is ready when the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (~185ºF).
  5. Set a bowl over an ice bath and pour the custard through a mesh strainer.  Stir intermittently until custard has cooled.
  6. Once cooled, cover and place in refrigerator overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  7. The next day, pour the cooled gelato base  into a blender and drop in 2 tbsp of green tea powder.  Blend until smooth.
  8. Then transfer to ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

ciao bella recipe book

yay, it’s here! the ciao bella cook book is a treasure trove of recipes for making your own gelato and sorbets at home.  the book has got most of the key flavors that ciao bella manufactures.  as i flipped through the book, i mentally checked off all the flavors that i’d be re-creating at home: coffee, mocha chip, espresso, fig & port, strawberry, peach, creme fraiche, red bean, green tea, mexican coffee, greek yogurt, and the list goes on and on!

the other day, i experimented with making blood orange sorbet.  turns out, after doing the math in my head, that the ciao bella version has got 1/6th of a cup more sugar, which translates into 130 more calories, than my version.   they also add orange zest into their sorbet mix, and they dissolve their sugar in water first, making a simple syrup and then adding that to the blood orange juice.

their recipe in really simple terms is to first make the simple syrup by  dissolving 1 cup of sugar in 1 cup of simmering water.  allow the simple syrup to cool and then add to 3 cups of blood orange juice and 1 tbsp of blood orange zest.   pour the liquid into your gelato maker and follow the machine’s instructions.  wah lah! couldn’t be simpler!

blood orange sorbet

the ice cream aisle at my local whole foods can be deceiving.  it seems like it’s stocked up with a plenitude of flavors, but i’ve spent countless times standing before it trying to find something as simple as green mint chocolate chip ice cream or green tea ice cream that’s not soy, or goat milk, or hemp, or yogurt based). and, for the 3-4 flavors of ciao bella gelato that we do buy (and a lot of), they are more often than not, out of stock in those flavors. the situation had gotten so “dire” that i even sent in a lovely note to their suggestion box.  they didn’t add the flavors that i wanted, but they did re-stock the ciao bella flavors that i liked.  that last for about a week before pent-up demand (i swear, it’s not just us buying it all up — though we probably account for an unusually high percentage) depleted their stock again.

the “out of stock” gelato situation happened again this past week, and i decided that i’d just make my own blood orange sorbet, rather than rely on whole foods for a consistent supply.

as it turns out, the recipe couldn’t be simpler (definitely easier than ice creams), plus i could regulate the amount of sugar in the mix.  hubby, who is the main consumer of the blood orange variety in our house, thought that my version was less sweet compared to ciao bella’s recipe.  [as a side note, i have ordered their new recipe book and can do the sugar comparison when i get it].

Blood Orange Sorbet
(makes 1 pint)

Blood Orange Juice 2 cups (or 500 ml) + some additional for dissolving sugar.  [I buy the fresh squeezed stuff in the WF produce section]
Sugar 1/3 cup + 1 to 2 tbsp (80-90g)
  1. Pour sugar into a small sauce pan.  Cover the sugar with a thin layer of juice.
  2. Melt the sugar over  medium heat, constantly stirring.
  3. When sugar has dissolved, pour in 2 cups of blood orange juice.
  4. Cool to room temperature, and then store in refrigerator until ready for ice cream maker.
  5. To make sorbet, pour the liquid into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. My ice cream maker produces a very soft sorbet.  I let it harden in the refrigerator afterwards.

a pail of coffee ice cream

it’s ice cream making season again! and there’s nothing like homemade ice cream in terms of freshness and custardy goodness.  i bought a new bag of coffee beans and decided to polish off the old bag by making it into some coffee ice cream.  the ingredients are quite simple, but there is a good deal of  simmering cooling, whipping,  simmering and more cooling involved.  so plan in advance!

Coffee Ice Cream
(makes  about 1-1.5 quarts)

Coffee Beans 3 tbsp  (i used black cat classic espresso)
Half and Half 4 cups
Sugar ¾ cup
Egg yolks 10
Rum 1 tbsp
Salt ¼ tsp
  1. Grind up coffee beans into fairly large chunks.
  2. Pour half and half into a large saucepan.  Add in 1/2 cup of sugar and the coffee beans.
  3. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Stir intermittently to ensure that the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Once it begins to bubble, turn off heat and let the mixture steep for 1 hour.
  5. After 1 hour, whisk together egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer at medium speed.  Whisk until the yolks are slightly thickened.
  6. With the mixer set at its lowest speed, add in 1/2 cup of the coffee-milk mixture.  Whisk for 20 seconds, then add in the rest of the milk mixture, rum and salt. Mix until well-combined.
  7. Set a strainer over a clean saucepan and pour the egg-milk mixture into the saucepan.
  8. Prepare an ice bath and set a medium sized bowl on top of the ice bath.
  9. Put the saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly, scraping the sides with a wooden spoon, until a custard forms.  The custard is ready when it coats the back of the spoon. ( To test, take your finger and draw a line through the custard on the back of the spoon.  The custard on the sides of the line will stay put. )
  10. Strain the hot custard into the bowl set atop of the ice bath.
  11. Keep stirring the strained custard until the steam begins to dissipate.
  12. Refrigerate until cold.
  13. Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and follow the machine’s instructions for making ice cream.

hojicha (ほうじ茶) gelato


i have a special place in my heart (or rather stomach) for tea-flavoured gelatos. it is the perfect combination — imagine the serenity of tea in a japanese afternoon sweets house combined with the happy satisfaction of licking gelato in front of the trevi fountain on a summer evening. when i’m eating it, i’m half lulled into thinking that it’s really something holistically healing.  with my daily dose of tea flavoured ice cream, i can take on the world!

matcha ice cream has become so pervasive these days that it’s really like vanilla in my book.  for something special enough to justify lugging out my 30lb gelato machine (i.e. something you can’t find in stores), i like to raid my tea cupboard and concoct my own flavors.  my current favorite is hojicha (a roasted green tea with a slightly nutty caramel taste), though earl grey is quite good, so is jasmine, or english breakfast. . . oh my!

Hojicha Gelato
(makes ~3 pints)
(nb. hojicha is lower in caffeine than green tea, and is suitable for children or the elderly.  you can eat it before bed too)

Hojicha ¼ cup of loose leaves, ground into powder using a spice grinder.  You can buy hojicha in most asian supermarkets and definitely in a Japanese grocery store
Egg yolks 6
Heavy Cream 1 cup
Whole Milk 3 cups
Sugar ¾ cup
Salt A small pinch
  1. Heat cream, milk and half of the sugar in a sauce pan.  Bring it to a boil but watch the pot carefully as it will easily boil over.
  2. Whip together egg yolks and remaining sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage (the yolks will have tripled in volume).
  3. With the mixer on low speed, pour the heated milk mixture into the yolks.  Continue to mix for 30 seconds.
  4. Pour the entire mixture back into the sauce and allow the liquid to thicken.  Continue to whisk while you are heating it. Stop when the liquid is just about to boil.  Do not let it reach a boil.
  5. Take the sauce pan off the heat.  Add the hojicha powder, salt and mix until evenly combined.
  6. Allow the gelato base to cool to room temperature.
  7. Then, pour it into an gelato / ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  [Note:  I didn’t pour the liquid over a sieve, but you can certainly do so to get a yet smoother gelato. I kinda like the larger specks of hojicha.]
  8. The resulting gelato will be quite soft.  It should rest in the freezer for at least 1-2 hours before eating.