There’s chocolate chip ice cream. And then there is stracciatella gelato. Don’t you dare think one is a direct translation of the other because that is grossly untrue. And if you’ve ever had true stracciatella gelato, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Stracciatella is… otherworldly. You’d think plain vanilla ice cream with bits of chocolate would be boring, but you’d be wrong again (sorry, I’m not trying to school you or anything, but some things just need to be clarified).
The chocolate shards are what make stracciatella gelato so much more than chocolate chip. Literally translating into “rags” or “shards,” stracciatella is made by drizzling a fine stream of melted chocolate into the churning ice cream. The chocolate solidifies on contact, freezing into ethereal flakes that fuse with the ice cream and literally melt in your mouth.
In an effort to highlight the fresh flavor of the dairy, I used fewer egg yolks than usual, and a higher proportion of milk to cream. (Look, ma! It’s healthy…. er!) The result was an ephemeral ice cream with a texture not unlike that of a frozen cloud (if one were able to taste such things). Granted, it was a bit short, meaning it didn’t ball up into gorgeous, rotund scoops like a frozen custard with a higher fat content, but Taylor and I decided we loved the unfettered milk flavor and the light crystalline texture, vanilla snowflakes that dissolve instantly on your tongue.
As to how exactly to get those fine chocolate shards, I found a simple ziplock bag worked beautifully. I simply filled the bag with my melted chocolate (bonus – you can keep the bag in a bowl of warm water until you are ready to drizzle). Snip off the tiniest corner of the bag, and drizzle it right into your ice cream maker. Granted, this would probably work better with a standalone machine where you could drizzle right into the center. With my mixer model a lot of the chocolate stuck to the paddles as they passed under the drizzle. The key is you want a fine drizzle here… too thick and you’d end up with hard chunks and chips instead of flakes.
I’m not going to argue the differences between ice cream and gelato here. If you want to be totally literal, one IS simply a direct translation of the other, gelato meaning ice cream in Italian. However, if you want to get technical, Italian-style ice cream does have some distinct differences that make it unique. Gelato, for starters, is lower in butterfat, is churned quicker while incorporating less air, and is served softer, at a higher temperature than American ice cream. Recipe-wise, this could definitely be considered gelato, but because of the limitations of home ice cream makers, it is very hard to acheive the luscious texture that the Italians have perfected. If anyone has any tips for recreating legit gelato at home, I’m all ears!
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1 whole vanilla bean, split and seeded
- pinch salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook gently over medium heat, stirring regularly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture just starts to steam. Stir in vanilla bean seeds and add the whole bean pods. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks.
- Return milk to medium heat until it starts to steam again. Slowly whisk some of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, 1/4 cup at a time, until about half of the milk has been incorporated and yolk mixture is warm to the touch. You want to do this gradually; doing so will temper the egg yolks rather than cook them.
- Pour yolk mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spatula, about 5 to 7 minutes, or until it reaches approximately 165 to 170ºF. Do not allow it to boil. Pour mixture through sieve, discarding any solids and what’s left of the vanilla bean. Cool to room temperature in an ice bath, or in a zip-top bag submerged in ice water. Cover and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 3 hours or overnight if possible.
- Churn ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- While ice cream is churning, melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in the microwave in 15 second bursts. When chocolate is melted and smooth, transfer to a zip-top bag and seal well, pressing out as much air as possible. If necessary, place bag in a bowl of warm water to keep warm while the ice cream finishes churning.
- When ice cream is the consistency of soft serve, 1-2 minutes before being completely done, cut 1/4 inch off the corner of the bag. Slowly drizzle most of the chocolate into churning ice cream, allowing the chocolate to swirl throughout. Transfer to a freezer safe container, drizzling a bit of remaining chocolate on top, and freeze 2 to 3 hours or overnight until firm.