This ice cream became part of a dessert that evolved in that wonderful way that happens when serendipity touches our lives. Not long after I got back from Turin last month, buoyed – gastronomically speaking – on having brought back some of Barratti & Milano’s wonderful chocolate cream, I was in my local Carluccio’s Caffè when I spied a pack of gianduioso, which came in a tube. This was basically my chocolate cream – here in Richmond. Just like my Turin version, it contains 45% hazelnuts (sweet nuts that grow in abundance around Turin) mixed with chocolate, and comes from Piemonte, the region of Italy of which Turin is the capital.
Well, of course, I had to buy some, but at the time, I didn’t quite know what I would do with it. Then, around the same time, I was in the wonderful Corto Italian Deli in Twickenham and spied some colomba.
I can never resist Italian celebration sweet breads: panettone at Christmas and colomba at Easter. So I bought one – quickly, because I know that Corto sell out of these things quickly. When my Italian teacher Fabio saw it, it said it was a very good make (Corto really do have the best!). I imagined we’d have it with morning coffee on Easter Sunday as my family always have panettone on Christmas morning. But I hadn’t taken into account that our favourite Italian bakery/café, Your Bakery Whitton, was going to be open all over Easter. So in all likelihood, that’s where we’d be, not at home. So, what was I going to do with the colomba? And I had bought rather a large one in my enthusiasm. Well, it would have to be dessert for the family Easter supper. But I felt something else was needed and that’s when I decided to use the gianduioso in some home-made vanilla ice cream. I also thought, to brighten it all up with a bit of colour, I’d dip some fresh strawberries in chocolate to go with it.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Gianduioso Ripple
- 6 egg yolks
- 120g caster sugar
- 1 heaped teaspoon custard powder (or cornflour)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 300ml whole milk
- 300ml whipping cream
- 115g tube gianduioso
Put the egg yolks, sugar, custard powder (to stabilise the mixture so it doesn’t separate when you heat it) and vanilla paste into a large bowl. Meanwhile, put the milk on to heat – don’t allow it to boil, just heat until you see bubbles at the edge.
Whisk together the egg mixture until it’s light and fluffy. Now slowly add the warm milk, beating all the time. Pour the mixture into a clean pan over a medium heat. Stirring continuously, cook until the mixture thickens and coats the back on a spoon. Transfer to a bowl to cool. When completely cold, whip the cream until thickening and increasing in volume (whipping cream doesn’t whip very thick), then carefully fold into the cold custard.
I like to then transfer it to a large jug so it pours more easily into my ice-cream maker. I also find it helps to put the custard in the fridge for half an hour to become really cold and then it usually churns better and more quickly in the machine.
Churn in the machine until thick. If you don’t have a machine, you can freeze in a container and beat with a fork a couple of times as it freezes, but it won’t be as smooth.
Now for the exciting part. Adding the gianduioso! I imagined I might have to use the whole 115g tube but in fact, I felt I had put in enough when I’d used only about half. (If you can’t find the gianduioso, you could use Nutella, but it’s much less pure in terms of hazelnut-chocolate content).
I squeezed in a little and stirred just a bit; then I added some more and stirred again. I was careful not to stir too much; just enough to spread the ‘ripple’ about the ice cream. I wanted it to retain its integrity as a ripple, not make chocolate ice cream. I then transferred to a freezer tub and put in the freezer. I made this a day before so it had time to freeze properly and you’d certainly need to make it a few hours in advance – unless your ice-cream machine is more efficient than my basic one. Remember when you’re about to serve to take it from the freezer 10-15 minutes beforehand so it softens a little.
Chocolate Coated Strawberries
- 100g dark chocolate
- about 300g fresh strawberries
Break the chocolate into a bowl over gently simmering water. Don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. When you see the chocolate starting to melt, stir gently occasionally but not all the time or it will thicken and be unusable. I also added a squirt of the gianduioso for a touch of its flavour, but don’t add too much or the chocolate won’t ‘set’ on the strawberries. As soon as the chocolate has melted, take it from the heat. Now hold a strawberry by its stem and dip into the chocolate, so the chocolate comes about halfway up. I then carefully transferred to a baking cooling rack, the strawberries stem down through gaps – the only way I could think of to let the chocolate harden and not be smudged. A bit of spontaneous creative improvisation! I stood with the first strawberry for ages wondering how on earth I could give them enough time to dry and set properly, short of standing there for hours. I then put the tray carefully in the fridge to harden well before transporting them to Jonathan’s house for supper.
Known as Colomba di Pasqua, this Easter bread comes from the Lombardy region of Italy. It’s similar to panettone but doesn’t contain raisins and is always made in the shape of a dove. In fact, colomba is the Italian word for dove. This represents the beginning of spring and, as an Easter bread, the dove is also a symbol on the Holy Spirit in Catholicism. In the little booklet that came with my colomba, the makers Loison tell another story of a victorious king entering the city of Pavia in 572 and being given the bread in the shape of a dove as a symbol of peace.
My traditional version contains candied orange peel, some almond flour as well as wheat flour, eggs and sugar. You can get other versions – I was offered one with chocolate, another with zabaglione, but decided to go with classic. It’s topped with grain sugar and almonds.
For our supper, Jonathan had made a rotisserie chicken on his barbecue, which was delicious. Freddie, at 2, was about to give up on food after that and get down from the table, but when we offered cake (the colomba), ice cream and strawberries covered in chocolate, he sat down again. Once he’d tasted them he couldn’t decide what he liked best … more ice cream, please … more cake … more strawberries.
The adults were pretty impressed too. Strawberries and chocolate is such a classic combination; the colomba (cake or bread? It is almost cake-like) was delicious and wonderfully moist. But the ice cream was a huge success too. The gianduioso rippling through worked so well. Its distinctive chocolate-hazelnut flavour came through strongly – and deliciously – and complemented the vanilla ice cream perfectly. A great hit and such a simple trick to make something much more special from your vanilla ice cream. Also, the gianduioso won’t freeze hard like melted chocolate would, so stays fairly soft, which makes it all the nicer within the ice cream and the perfect addition.