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Italian Dessert Challenge Recipe # 1– Espresso Gelato (without an ice cream maker)


Your Italian dessert requests have been great, everyone! Feel free to keep them coming—I’m still cooking/baking from the list until next week.

The first request that really got me thinking was gelato, mostly because I had *no* idea how to make it. I also don’t have an ice cream maker, and have no intenions of owning one. But these little roadblocks only made me want to tackle it even more.

So, Celia, your request for esperesso gelato has been granted. It may not seem very Christmasy, but try making this and serving it as an affogato: that is, a scoop of gelato with a shot of espresso poured over it. If you let it last long enough to melt, you’ll have a frothy, creamy, cozy drink that will be welcomed on any Christmas table. Or don’t let it melt, and it’s still magical.

The recipe below can be adapted to any flavor. Just substitute the espresso for whatever you want. I skip many steps you’ll find in other recipes—for example, most recipes have you run the custard through a sieve before chilling, but I didn’t find that necessary. And no ice cream maker needed. This is simplicity at its finest.

Many thanks to the one and only David Lebovitz for his great instructions on making ice cream without a machine. I used his technique on this recipe. It’s really perfect.

Sunday Footbal Espresso Gelato (without an ice cream maker)*

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
4 ounces espresso, chilled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract, or ½ vanilla bean, scraped.

* The few hours it takes to check and stir this makes it the perfect activity for Sunday football-watching. Hang out with a game, and stir between each quarter.

Warm the milk and cream in a medium saucepan, over low heat, until it starts to bubble slightly. Remove from heat.


Meanwhile, in a large bowl, vigerously whisk the sugar and egg yolks until they become a pale, almost candy-colored yellow.


Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Return everything to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the spoon. Add vanilla extract or scraped vanilla bean.


Pour the mixture into a large bowl and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.

Brew 4 ounces of espresso and chill for about 1 hour. Whisk into the chilled custard; continue stirring until espresso and custard are completely combined.

Spread the mixture into a baking pan or other broad, heavy dish. I used a 9-inch square baking pan.


Put in the freezer and check after 45 minutes. When the edges begin to freeze, whip it up with a whisk or sturdy spatula, then spread out on the dish again.

Whisk it again after 45 minutes, then again after another 45 minutes.


Store in a sealed container when completely frozen and creamy.

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3 Responses to “Italian Dessert Challenge Recipe # 1– Espresso Gelato (without an ice cream maker)”

  1. Celia says:

    This looks amazing. Thanks so much for picking my suggestion. I know what I'll be making over the holiday season… even if it is below freezing outside!

  2. Jamie says:

    This post totally rocked my world–I always thought I needed a stupid ice cream maker to be able to make ice cream. This is so easy.

  3. Caroline says:

    It's a little cold for gelato but I want to try this with the espresso idea. Sounds so yummy.

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