One of our favorite activities during our Culinary Experience on the Amalfi Coast cooking vacation in Sorrento is the gelato demonstration at Gelateria Bougainville. It is not the most technical of our classes, but you learn a lot about what for my family is a very basic need: making gelato!
You actually learn both sorbetto and gelato. What’s the difference? Sorbetto is what we would call a fruit sorbet and is naturally dairy free: it is made with water, sugar, and fruit. Gelato is milk based, and is used for all the flavors featuring nuts, chocolate, cream, and eggs, as well as for banana and coconut gelato.
What is the secret to all of these? Of course high-quality ingredients, especially for the fruit. As they explain at Gelateria Bougainville, any gelateria that puts milk in a sorbetto does so because the fruit is not good, and that gelato is, simply put, “garbage! Throw it out!” If a sorbet is made literally of water, sugar, and fruit, the fruit has to be top quality. Organic is recommended – especially for citrus sorbets, in which you use the zest. If you are making a milk-based gelato, usually the ingredients are milk, sugar, and the main flavor, be it chocolate, nuts, etc. There are a couple that have a custard base, but really, it’s pretty simple to make your own delicious sorbetto and gelato at home.
If you are making a nut based gelato, roast the nuts first to release the oils and intensify the flavors – this is key to a good gelato. And crush them by hand in a mortar and pestle or in a bag with a rolling pin or heavy pot. (You can process it later with the milk if you want a smoother consistency.)
When picking out lemons for Sorrento’s world-famous lemon sorbet, it is necessary to choose good fruit. Ideally the lemons will be “ugly” – meaning that they have grown naturally and will have a better flavor. Choose heavy lemons, it is a sign they have more juice. And lightly scratch the surface of the lemon and smell it. If it smells sweet, it is old and not flavorful. You want a lemon that smells sour.
The zest is important for lemon sorbetto. Always zest the lemon before you squeeze it, and only take the part that has color. Usually three strokes on any spot with a zester will do it.
When it is time to make the sorbet, you do not actually need a gelato maker, as you will learn in this delicious and simple recipe!
Recipe for Lemon Sorbet
- 1 liter of water
- 500 g sugar
- 300 g lemon juice and the zest from those lemons
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Cook method: freeze
1. Heat the sugar and water together to dissolve the sugar. Cool completely and refrigerate. (This is best done a day ahead, or keep some of this simple syrup in your fridge so you can make sorbet on a whim!).
2. Combine the syrup and the fruit and place in a gelato/ice cream maker according to the machine instructions.
Don’t have an ice cream maker? Put it in a container in the freezer, let it sit for an hour or two, then go in and stir it. Put it back it the freezer, and when you come back to it use a hand blender to break up the ice, making sure to keep the hand blender touching the bottom of the container to avoid aerating the sorbet.
And it’s just that easy to make your own delicious lemon sorbet. Of course the best place to taste it is on the Amalfi Coast, the isle of Capri, or strolling through Sorrento. Contact The International Kitchen for more information on choosing a culinary tour of the Amalfi Coast or Sorrento cooking vacation!
By Peg Kern
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