Yesterday the thermometer registered a scorching 104°F at our house. Early fall in California means the hottest weather of the year. When much of the country is starting to cool down and leaves are getting ready to turn, the heat can be brutal. All you want to eat is something cold and refreshing. Lemon gelato anyone? The “please make gelato” call came while I was at the store, so I grabbed lemons, some half and half, and eggs. I knew I had a little organic, natural sugar in the pantry. Just a few simple ingredients.
Creamy Lemon Gelato
While my head was dreaming fall colors and comfort food recipes, we needed something cold and refreshing. My husband’s request was gelato. Not go and buy gelato but make gelato. Any flavor. Just make gelato. So I thought of my tangy creamy lemon gelato. Hadn’t made it all summer. But where was my recipe? Gone. So here is the new one.
Gelato Tool Tips
You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe. Machines are relatively inexpensive, available in many price points. If you don’t have one or don’t have space for one, here is an article from David Lebovitz on making ice cream without a maker.
When making a custard (a liquid base thickened with egg yolks), use a heavy pan. Heavy pans distribute heat gently and evenly, cooking the egg yolks without scrambling them. I use is a 3-quart saucier. A saucier has sloped sides versus straight sides, making whisking and stirring liquids more easy. I’ve used my Le Creuset small Dutch oven as well, because the sides are a bit sloped. If your pan has straight sides, just be more careful whisking and stirring to get into the edges of the pan.
After the base is cooked and thick I puree it in a blender. Many recipes strain the base to catch any bits of egg yolk, but I didn’t want to strain out the lemon zest so I smoothed it out in the blender. The results is nice and creamy gelato.
My original recipe used Meyer lemons. With their smooth skin, Meyer lemons are a little sweeter and more floral than a standard lemon. It is thought to be a cross between a common lemon like a Eureka or Lisbon and a sweet orange or mandarin. If only regular lemons are available they work fine. But do try this with Meyer lemons when they are in season. For another lovely lemony dessert, try this lemon mousse. And if you like to make ice cream, try this simple recipe for double strawberry ice cream.
- Ice Cream Maker
- 3 cups half and half
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest use a microplane zester
- 3/4 cup natural granulated sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup lemon juice 3-4 lemons
- pinch of salt
- Pour half and half into a medium saucepan (about 3 quarts) and add lemon zest. Turn heat to medium low and allow the zest to infuse the half and half while you work on the eggs and sugar.
- Create an ice bath by filling a large bowl (or small sink) with ice and water 3/4 full and set aside. Whisk sugar and yolks together in a medium bowl until thick, pale and smooth. You’ll get a good arm workout.
- Bring the half and half just barely to a boil. Turn the heat off (gas stove) or move the pan to a cool burner (electric) so it does not boil over. Add about a 1/4 cup of the hot half and half to the yolks and whisk until smooth. Do this several times to “temper” the eggs so they do not scramble when you add them into the pan to cook the custard.
- Add the egg-sugar-dairy mixture back into the pan and bring to almost a boil while whisking. Turn heat down to low and cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon when you draw a line through it with your finger, just a couple of minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in lemon juice and salt.
- Pour the gelato base into a blender and puree about 30 seconds, being mindful that hot liquid expands in a blender. Hold the lid on tight and crank the speed up gradually.
- Place the pureed base into a stainless steel or glass bowl and into the ice bath to chill. Stirring speeds the cooling process. When it reaches 70°F or lower, place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to get really cold. The colder it is, the faster it will freeze in your ice cream maker
- Freeze the gelato in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions,. Place the gelato into a freezer safe container and cover. Allow the gelato to firm up for a few hours or enjoy it soft out of the machine.