This past food blogging Sunday was rather adventurous. I was on my own. Me, solo food blogger against…well, my limitations, I suppose. My wonderful blogging partner sister and her love took his daughter and my kiddo to a Renaissance festival and I carried our tradition of slinging food around. Lemme tell you what, I have really come to depend on my sister every Sunday when we cook. I’ve gone it alone before, but this time I really missed her opinions and creativeness. But that’s done, so now we move on to a recipe I’ve been wanting to make since last summer.
I am not a Summer child by any means. The heat and I, we won’t be huddling over coffee, iced or otherwise, and telling deep secrets, nope. It kind of hates me and I openly loathe it. But there are things that make it a little better and even I have certain things that make me smile when it’s hot enough to melt my face. My face face, not any makeup I might have on. That heat-humbling dish is key lime pie, friends. I love the stuff. Love. It. Love love love. Love. It only felt natural that I be perusing Epicurious for ideas last year and saw this recipe. It just came too late because it was nearing the Fall baking season and it was time to put away Summer things. Alas, it is definitely time today, and it is SO good.
Is it a little weird that zesting citrus fruits is one of my most favorite cooking things? And I mean favorite in the most powerful way. That fresh, zingy scent always lifts my spirits. A little zip of the microplane grater across a lime or lemon and I’m set. Zippity doo-da, spirits, zippity day.
This is either going to be a two-day recipe for you, as it was me, or a morning-into-early-afternoon type. I decided to make the base for the ice cream the day before and there are no pictures of the process because I haven’t figured out yet how to take pictures under the terrible yellow light of our stove area/grown two extra sets of arms and hands to hold a spoon that stirs constantly, a camera and a reflector tool to bounce light with. The directions below for making the base are very good, though. I doubt you will have any trouble following it. It took me about an forty or so minutes make the custard, but I also think it was slow going because it was my first time making a custard-based ice cream. Plus you have to cook it all on low heat, temper eggs, cook more on low heat, stir stir stir. Look, you just have to really want this for yourself, OK? OK then.
It also need to be really well-chilled, hence deciding to make it a day ahead to chill overnight. It just seemed better for me to then pull it out the next day, dump in my flavor boosters and get on with the churning and freezing stages.
We’ve fast-forwarded a bit and the ice cream, which we added a little lime juice to as well as all that lime zest, is all churned. After the churning you add in crushed graham crackers, five to be exact. Just stir them right in. The ice cream consistency is still slightly too soft, though, so it’ll go in the freezer for a bit to get it closer to gelato consistency.
If you’ve never had gelato, it’s a truly wonderful tongue-tastic experience. If you ever get a chance to visit a well-populated Italian community here in the States, search for a gelato shop and prepare to feast. If you ever get to have it in Italy itself, well, have it as often as you can and I’m not kidding. You’ll walk a ton in Europe anyway, trust me.
One last thing: did you know that gelato needs to be kept at a certain freezer temp, which is probably lower than what you keep yours? To maintain it’s creamier consistency when being served up. If you freeze yours and it’s too hard when time to serve, just let it rest on the counter for a bit and check it every so often till it’s still nice and cold, but the scoop carves through it easily. Not melting, but a little giving is all. When putting it in the freezer, don’t just keep it in the churning bowl, place it in a separate freezer-safe container with a lid. Your churning bowl, if you have one like above, will freeze the ice cream touching the sides too much and freezer burn it as a result. It won’t taste that good after a couple of days at all if you’re lucky enough to still have any.
It’s slightly possible I might add another tablespoon of lime juice to this next time, but there’s no doubt this has wonderful flavor as-is, too. It feels exceedingly fresh on the taste buds and mine were very, very happy. The graham crackers give it that complete pie feeling, slightly crunchy still despite a lot of them absorbing the moisture from the ice cream. I will allow some bigger pieces to go in next time, too, but for now, I am in key lime pie bliss. Loved this so much.
Key Lime Pie Gelato
from Key Lime with Graham Cracker Gelato, The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto: Bold, Fresh Flavors to Make at Home by F.W. Pearce and Danilo Zecchin
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: about 40 minutes (plus lots of chill time) Level: Easy Serves: 4-6
For the plain base:
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
For the gelato:
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup crushed graham crackers (about five full unbroken sheets), frozen
To make the plain base:
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F.
Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir the custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.
To finish the gelato:
Gently whisk the lime juice and zest into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Just after churning quickly stir in the graham cracker crumbs. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
Oops, I forgot to freeze my graham cracker crumbs first. While I’m not sure what difference it would make – maybe they stay slightly more crunchy – I still felt the ice cream turned out great.
To take advantage of the more creamy gelato consistency it’s best to eat this the day you make it. As mentioned above, gelato is kept at a lower temp than regular ice cream and the longer it’s in your freezer the more likely it is to harden a littel too much. If it does, it’s OK, you’ll just have to find some way to enjoy it still. I bet it won’t be too, er, hard, to do so.
There were no Key limes available so I went with my store’s standard Persian limes and it was fantastic.