from one generation to the next
I am not intending this post to be a book review nor am I attempting to teach ice cream making chemistry but it’s impossible to write a post about this truly remarkable chocolate sorbet recipe without mentioning both.
A visit to Gelato Messina in Smith St Collingwood (also in two locations in Sydney) is like a pilgrimage to the ice cream gods. You feel a sense of awe looking at the myriad coloured and textured gelato and sorbets. Trying to choose, you seek help from a higher power and tasting, offered free to help make a choice, sends you into ecstasy. Enlightenment comes when you realise not only can you buy a delicious scoop to enjoy immediately, but there is an eponymous book that shares the recipes for those cold creamy delights.
And so it was that I read the secrets to making unctuous creamy Sicilian style gelato.
Australian Nick Palumbo was awakened to a love of food by his Sicilian Grandfather from the village of Messina. After years of working in the food industry he followed a dream to bring authentic creamy Sicilian gelato to Australia. I’m sure his Nonno would be very proud.
Gelato Messina the book is technical, but after some very ordinary results attempting creamy sorbets and gelati I need all the help I could get. I’ll explain briefly what I have learned.
Water forms the greatest volume in gelato and sorbet whether it is milk, cream, fruit juice or water. It’s important to find a way to stop water freezing into ice crystals when you make gelato so you need to use ingredients that will absorb or bind to the water.
Sugar acts like anti freeze, it lowers the freezing point, but it also gives the illusion of warmth making it possible to eat gelato without recoiling. Dextrose*, a secondary sugar has only 70% of the sweetness of sugar, but it has the ability to reduce the freezing point, making the gelato less sweet and softer at serving. Maltodextrin*, yet another form of sugar, has great binding properties but virtually no sweetness. Like cornflour, it helps bind excess water when few solids are present.
Xantham gum* is a stabiliser commonly used in gluten free cooking. It is a natural product derived from fermentation. It has the ability to absorb up to ten times it’s weight in water. It gives flexibility to the frozen sorbet.
The recipes call for precision with measurements, temperatures and times. They appear daunting, but I was surprised and relieved how quickly the mixture heated and cooled. I spent a max of 20 minutes hands on preparing the sorbet. The remainder of the time was curing, churning, freezing.
We were amazed by the rich unctuous texture of this chocolate sorbet. It was creamy, rich, barely sweet, almost chewy and totally free of ice crystals.
Pure alchemy, absolute perfection!
Gelato Messina’s Chocolate Sorbet
200g castor sugar
5g xantham gum*
60g unsweetened cocoa powder
Firstly put the bowl of your ice cream churn into the freezer.
Measure the water into a double boiler over a low heat.
Weigh the dry ingredient into a bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined.
When the water reaches 40C, whisk in the powders. Whisk the mixture continuously while it heats to 85C.
Transfer the mixture to a stainless steel bowl and place it in an ice water bath. Chill to 40C.
Cover the bowl tightly with foil and place it in the freezer until the temperature drops to 4C. Whisk every 10 minutes or so to prevent the edges from freezing.
One the mixture has reached 4C, place the bowl in the fridge for 4+ hours to cure.
Turn on your ice cream churn to drop the temperature to freezing point.
Using a stick blender, process the mixture for 1 minute then pour it into the ice cream churn.
Churn until the temperature drops to -4C then scoop the sorbet into a stainless steel tray and freeze for 2-3 hours, before serving.
The recipe advises not to freeze the sorbet over night as the texture will be compromised. Yes the reminders of the sorbet froze hard, but after 40 minutes in the fridge it was scoopable, smooth and still much, much better than any previous sorbet I had ever made. The proof is in the photo. I was extra happy.
*In Melbourne, dextrose, maltodextrin and xantham gum can be bought at the Essential Ingredient