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Author Notes: This is a bonus recipe that I discovered when I was researching for my cookbook, The London Cookbook.
It's an ingenious marriage of Italian gelato, good old vanilla ice-cream, and Indian saffron. The addition of the saffron is what sets it apart, rendering the taste at once familiar and exotic and giving it the loveliest yellow hue. The flavor is intriguing, a little mysterious, but rather comforting as well. When I asked Jacob Kenedy, the master behind Gelupo Gelateria in London, the inspiration, he laughed: “If I were to say how many times we’re asked for vanilla gelato at Gelupo, you wouldn’t believe me. The thing is, I’ve tried—and tried, and tried—to make an exceptional vanilla gelato, and it’s never quite as good as an American or British-style vanilla ice cream. Vanilla’s good with cream, and gelato’s rather lean, you see. But I do use vanilla in a number of gelati—custard, various crumble-flavorred gelati (rhubarb or apple or pear), bonet, and this one—a pairing of vanilla and saffron, to my mind the most exotic and soothing of spices. Here each lends the other a depth and complexity that makes for a calming, luscious gelato that’s great on its own, or as an accompaniment to almost any baked dessert or cooked fruit.” I recommend serving it with poached apricots and a thin, crisp cookie, such as a langue de chat.
cups whole milk
cup heavy cream
vanilla pod, split open lengthways
teaspoons glucose syrup or a mild, light runny honey
cup skimmed milk powder
tablespoons saffron threads
large leaf of gelatin or 4 teaspoons agar-agar
- In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, milk powder and saffron.
- Put the milk, cream and glucose or honey in a pan. Heat over a low flame. When the milk is steaming, add the sugar mixture in a steady stream, stirring constantly. When the mixture approaches a simmer, remove it from the heat.
- If using gelatin, bloom it for a few minutes in cold water then stir into the mix.
- If using agar-agar, sprinkle it on the top of the hot mixture and leave for five minutes before stirring thoroughly.
- Set the gelato base, covered, in an ice bath, uncovering and whisking occasionally until cold. Strain, before transferring it to an ice-cream machine.
- For the creamiest texture, let the gelato freeze as hard as it will go in the machine before taking it out, then transfer it to the freezer for at least an hour to firm up a little before serving.