After last week’s Amaretti Ice Cream Sandwiches, I’ve still got this thing for almonds. And ice cream. Or more precisely, gelato. In this case, it’s almond milk gelato, scented with a splash of orange blossom water – a 120 year old recipe from my favourite, Pellegrino Artusi‘s cookbook. I’ve used his gelato and sorbet recipes before and, whether using a modern ice cream maker or the good ol’ freeze and stir method, have always had good results. This sour cherry and cinnamon sorbet was particularly memorable.
Making your own almond milk is easy and, much like making your own bread or pasta from scratch, extremely satisfying. I first did it for this recipe of Artusi’s for biancomangiare, an almond milk pudding to rival any pannacotta, then again for this biancomangiare – same name, but quite a different recipe, a comforting Renaissance dish of chicken broth and almond milk thickened with bread.
Artusi calls for several “bitter almonds” in his recipe. I discussed these in last week’s post – not actually almonds at all, but apricot kernels (which could very well pose as almonds for their similarity), they add a slightly bitter flavour to the sweeter almonds. You can find raw apricot kernels in health food stores – just treat them as you would almonds, blanching to remove the skin – otherwise you can simply leave them out.
Throughout his recipe book, much like many historic cookbooks, Artusi often leaves out procedures that he assumes his knowledgeable readers are already familiar with. So if you have never blanched almonds before to remove their skins, it’s as simple as dropping them in boiling water for a minute, draining, then rubbing or squeezing the loosened skins off the almonds. If you wanted to save yourself ten minutes, I suppose you could buy your almonds already blanched but they may be drier than raw almonds that you blanch yourself and produce less tasty milk. If you ask me, always go for the freshest, least processed ingredients possible. It’s really not as fiddly as it sounds and the rest of the recipe, you’ll see, is so simple and takes only a matter of minutes.
I’d be very tempted to make an affogato out of this – a strong, hot espresso poured over a healthy scoop of almond milk gelato that “drowns” into a wonderful amaretto-esque concoction. The flavour of almond milk reminds me of summertime, perhaps from many an almond milk granita from my favourite Sicilian gelateria in Florence, Gelateria Carabe’ (that does sound strange, but when it comes to granita, Sicilians are in the know). Or because it also reminds me of a summer holiday in Puglia, in Italy’s deep south. On a particularly hot day in beautiful, baroque Lecce, there’s nothing quite like relaxing with a refreshing caffe in ghiaccio con latte di mandorla – an espresso poured over a glass full of fresh ice cubes and topped up with almond milk. Which brings me back to the affogato…
Artusi’s Gelato di Latte di Mandorla
Almond Milk Gelato
- 200 gr sugar
- 150 gr almonds
- 4 or 5 bitter almonds (apricot kernels)
- 800 ml water
- 200 ml cream
- A splash of orange blossom water
Make a sugar syrup by boiling the water with the sugar for 10 minutes. Blanch and skin the almonds and apricot kernels (if using) and pound them in a mortar or blend them in a food processor with the syrup. Strain through a muslin cloth to separate the almond milk from the almond solids. Mix this sweet almond milk with the cream, add a splash of orange blossom water and place the mixture in a gelato maker to freeze.