Before mobile phones, before text messages and before Skype, when I used to go on holidays at the seaside with my parents, my uncles and my cousin for the month of August, there was a ritual that would repeat itself every night, year after year. Marghe and I would choose the most colorful dress, pretend to put on some make up as grown up girls – we were still little girls – and then we would go out with our families to phone our grandparents from the phone booth down the street, with a handful of coins or the first phone cards.
After that daily phone call, after all the stories about long swims at the beach, sand castles, suntan and the wonders of the pine forest, it was finally time for a gelato. A ritual, a sacred moment longed for the whole day. It could be in a small paper cup from the little bar down the road or a huge cone from the centre gelateria, but every day there would be a gelato. In those days there were no accounts of calories, sugars or diets … there was only the pleasure of the ice cream, every night.
I’ve just come back from my holidays – beach holidays like when I was a child, with sand, swims and sleep – there is no better topic than gelato to keep cherishing the memories of those warm and sweets evenings, refreshed by a cone or a good scoop of ice cream. With the other girls of the Italian Table Talk we decided to treat you (and us) with a nostalgic moment, an end of summer ice cream, a crowd pleasing, because let’s face it, it’s hard to find someone who can say no to a bowl of gelato!
Emiko will take us along the historic trails of the Italian gelato and will serve you a proper gelato affogato, Valeria has turned a classic combination, peaches and amaretti, into colourful popsicles. Jasmine has made pinguini, one of the sweetest childhood memories. And what about me? I chose a classic and I will bring you with me on an evening stroll…
This summer has been magic in so many ways, I had the chance to do again things that I used to do as a child, as the evening walks – in Florence, at home or at sea – accompanied by a gelato. The ice cream in the evening is one of the most indelible memories of my summers as a child.
At the seaside the gelato was the perfect complement of equally perfect days. We would lay our tiny hands on the long glass counters admiring all the ice cream flavours, the cold would slowly refresh us and our eyes would jump from flavour to flavour, captured by colours, drizzling and textures. I liked – and still like – to be guided by the desire of the moment, I hardly have a favorite, although in recent years I gradually consolidated my choices. We would enjoy our gelato walking, licking the cone carefully not to dirt the new dress or scooping it from the paper cup meticulously collecting every drop on the bottom.
In San Gimignano, when we visited our grandfather, the ice cream was the prize of every Saturday night. Grandpa would put a creased 5.000 lire paper money on our hands, enough to buy ice cream for me and my cousin with a few coins left as pocket money. Then we would enjoy our gelato sitting on a green bench in the square under the pine trees or on the stone stairs of the cathedral, looking at those who passed by, while mum and aunt Silvana would talk with all the friends who met every week in San Gimignano.
At home the ice cream was a Sammontana jar, and it was my private and personal afternoon ritual. After lunch I with my grandmother I would come back home and sit in the cool and dark living room to watch a movie, one of those movies that mark in a permanent way the adolescence of millions of young girls, and shortly after I would stand up and ran to the freezer to pull out an ice cream jar. I would carefully wrap it in a kitchen towel, I would sit cross-legged on the couch and begin to eat it slowly, from the edge toward the centre, waiting for it to melt with the heat of my body. I would often find myself at the end of the film with no ice cream left into the jar!
And at the end, a recipe! I made a classic and quite historical flavour, crema fiorentina, a custard based ice cream enriched by amaretti, traditional almond and egg white cookies. I took inspiration from this perfect malaga ice cream recipe, simply amazing.
- 220 g of whole milk
- 250 g of fresh cream
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 5 egg yolks
- 125 g of caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon of orange blossom honey
- 1 teaspoon of carob seed flour
- 40 g of crushed amaretti + more to decorate
The day before. Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until slightly simmering. Turn off the heat and add a tablespoon of vanilla essence.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and pale, add a tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of carob seed flour, then stir them thoroughly into the yolks.
Pour slowly the milk and cream in a thin stream into the egg yolks and stir constantly with a whisk to prevent the eggs from curdling.
Put the custard in a double boiler on the stove and heat till 83°C or mix with a whisk until it reaches the first boil. Turn off, cover with cling film and let it cool, then move it in the fridge until the next day.
The next day. Pour the custard into the chilled ice cream maker and follow the instructions. Just before the ice cream is ready, crush the amaretti biscuits with a rolling pin to grind them into a fine powder and add in into the ice cream for the last 5 minutes.
Put the ice cream in a plastic or metal container and transfer it into the freezer for a few hours. Take it off ten minutes before serving and decorate with other amaretti crumbs.
My favourite gelaterias
(an absolutely incomplete list, but let’s say that I tried the ice cream in these gelaterias over and over again, so I am pretty sure it is really good!)
- Firenze. Carabè, via Ricasoli 60. The pistachio will turn you head over feet, but do not miss the coffee granita with whipped cream, the best in Florence.
- Firenze. Gelateria Roberto, Via Mariti: here you can find the original buontalenti flavour, creamy, sweet but not too much, soft… I would be able to eat the a kilo all by myself. Yes, do not challenge me!
- San Gimignano (Siena). Gelateria Dondoli, in Piazza della Cisterna. Try curva fiesole – with blueberries and ricotta: divine!
- Colle Val d’Elsa (Siena). Buekke, via Fratelli Bandiera 81. This is the closest gelateria to my house, yet this is also one of my favourite places to enjoy gelato. Pine nut is unusual but oh, so good!
- Castiglione della Pescaia (Grosseto). Cremeria Corradini in Corso della libertà 45 is this summer discovery! We went there 5 days out of 9 days of holidays, we definitely loved it, not fearing the long – amazingly long – queue. My favourite flavours? champagne and pine nuts, custard, chianti red wine and rum.
Not to lose a single post by the Italian Table talk girls, these are our Social Accounts:
- Emiko, her blog is Emikodavies.com, @emikodavies on Twitter, and her Pinterest
- Valeria, her blog is Life Love Food, @valerianecchio on Twitter, her FB Page and her Pinterest
- Jasmine, her blog is Labna.it, @labna on Twitter, her FB page and her Pinterest
- Juls, my Twitter @Julskitchen, FB page and Pinterest
The hashtag to follow the conversation on Italian Table talk on Twitter is #ITabletalk (easy, isn’t it?) and now you can find us also on our new Facebook page Italian Table talk. And now, the BIG QUESTION: which is your favourite flavour?