The herbaceous fragrance of basil is a natural match for the subtle sweetness of fresh strawberries, especially in this refreshing gelato. This recipe was adapted from one developed by Meredith Kurtzman, a pastry chef friend and certified gelato genius. Meredith worked for Mario Batali for many years, crafting gelati with pure flavors and a taffy-like mouthfeel that is characteristic of authentic Italian gelato. I’ve been making Meredith’s strawberry gelato recipe for a long time, and I think her recipe is the best. In my adaptation, I infuse the base with fresh basil leaves, and add a little lemon juice to bump up the berry flavor. Don’t leave the non-fat dry milk powder out – its purpose is to absorb some of the water that exudes from the berries, so that the gelato doesn’t get icy. Note that the gelato will come out of the machine with the consistency of soft-serve – let it harden in the freezer for a few hours before serving it (or just eat it straight from the machine, like I do!).
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts
- 2 tablespoons (16 grams) nonfat dry milk powder
- 1/2 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 cups (362 grams) milk
- 1/2 cup (116 grams) heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (12 grams) packed fresh basil leaves
- 4 large (74 grams) egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- One 14-ounce (397-gram) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 pound (454 grams) strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium heatproof bowl and place it next to the stove. In a small bowl, gently whisk together the milk powder and 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of the sugar.
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk and cream, then whisk in the milk powder mixture. Place over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and add the fresh basil leaves. Stir well, then cover the pan and allow to infuse for 20 minutes.
- Fill a large bowl one-third of the way with ice water and set aside. Strain the milk mixture, pressing down on the basil leaves, and return it to the saucepan (discard the basil). Place over medium heat and return to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of the sugar and the salt. Gradually whisk about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture, then return it to the saucepan, stirring to combine. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon and registers 185˚F on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately strain the custard through the fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Place the bowl into the larger bowl of ice water and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold. Remove the bowl from the ice water, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Once the custard base has rested in the refrigerator, combine the strawberries, the remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar and the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
- Drain the strawberries. Add the drained berries to the chilled custard and process either in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Process the base in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the gelato to a container, cover, and freeze for at least 4 hours, or until ready to serve (up to 2 weeks).