Hazelnut Gelato for Father’s Day

Hazelnut Gelato - TheMessyBaker.com

16 Jun Hazelnut Gelato for Father’s Day

My Father, Gary circa 1960 - TheMessyBaker.com

I have my Father’s nose. I also inherited his high cheekbones and strong immune system. However, his natural math abilities and infinite patience must have skipped a generation.

My father can add up a column of figures in his head before I can punch the numbers into a calculator. Even with Grade 4 arithmetic I’m counting on my fingers or asking for confirmation about the 7 times tables. Does  7X6 = 54 or 56?

That question likely induced a head shake from my father, who is far too polite to say, “You idiot. It’s 42! Just exactly what did they teach you in school?!”

I don’t remember. I had my nose in a novel or was writing improbable plots of my own to avoid long division.

Our opinion on sweets differs as greatly as our math skills. If all things were nutritionally equal, I would dine exclusively on chewy-on the-inside chocolate chip cookies. With walnuts and toffee bits. And a sprinkle of fleur de sel. Another head shake from the Old Man for this. If it’s not lemon meringue pie, he’s not interested. And he’d really rather have poached salmon with a salad.

In an odd plot twist even I didn’t see coming, during a trip to Italy, we discovered we are both equally smitten with hazelnut gelato. In Florence, we made regular gelato breaks at least once, sometimes twice a day. If hazelnut was available it was our first choice. This was not just a passing fancy forgotten once back home and the souvenirs distributed. No. Hazelnut gelato hovered eagerly on the boarder of tradition and would happily have made itself at home if we had remained in Italy. But in our Canadian town gelato is rare and outragously expensive if you are lucky enough to find some.

Despite its less than ubiquitous nature, my non-dessert Dad found a source. And on days too hot to garden, without warning he would call with the following sage advice, “I think it’s time for some gelato.” He’d then take Mom and me — and anyone else who happened to be at hand — across town to a small luncheon cafe tucked into the corner of a strip mall, where we would take refuge from the blazing mid-summers’ day sun and eat gelato in air-conditioned comfort, scraping tiny mouthfuls with a small pastic spoon. Here, in the most unlikely of places, the proprietors made gelato and sorbet on site. Incredibly smooth and as flavourful as any we had in Italy, this perfect gelato was also reasonably priced.

A single scoop of hazelnut gelato- TheMessyBaker.com

From reading all those novels, I knew this was too good to be true. As soon as something good happens — say hazelnut gelato on demand — life (or Murphy) must throw some sort of obstacle in your path, just to keep things interesting. My father’s assumption likely differed. Doing the math, the little Cafe/Gelateria That Could seemed like a safe bet, and if change was afoot, it would be expansion into new flavours.

Numbers lie. Life imitates art. Obstacles emerged.

The cafe got sold. Our hazelnut gelato supply disappeared. All this went down just as I started to write a cookbook.

But struggle makes characters strong. They either rise to the challenge or get written out of the plot. And I’m still here, so you know it ends with a recipe.

When my nut meringues failed – repeatedly – I was left with lots of leftover yolks. I also had lots of hazelnuts on hand because I was reaching the hazelnut-obsession phase of the book. So I made gelato, served on failed meringues instead of cones. My father might say it was just a smart use of inventory on hand. A cost saving measure. Math brought to the practical level. I say it’s the unpredictable yet inevitable end that satisfies even the harshest critic. All it took was a few failed attempts at hazelnut meringue.

Maybe I do have some of his patience after all.

Hazelnut Gelato - TheMessyBaker.com


Update: Hazelnut Gelato is now an annual Father’s Day treat. This year,  I tried a new method for squeezing the moisture out of the ground hazelnuts (see recipe) that was less messy. The photo below is of this year’s batch. Why is it so yellow compared to last year’s? The egg yolks I used were almost orange, not yellow. Whether your gelato emerges pale yellow or soft beige, it will taste divine.

Homemade Hazelnut Gelato by The Messy Baker


Hazelnut Gelato
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: Makes 1 quart
Hazelnut gelato is a classic Italian dish. It takes a bit longer to make than many ice creams but it's worth the extra effort.
  • 1½ cup hazelnuts
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Bake the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking pan for 10 minute or until fragrant. While still warm, rub the hazelnuts in a rough towel to remove as much of the skins as possible. You won't get them all, so don't worry about a few. Let the hazelnuts cool, then grind in a food processor or blender until finely chopped.
  2. In a saucepan over medium, heat the hazelnuts, cream, milk, sugar, and salt until almost boiling. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for an hour. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and then extract as much liquid as you can from the hazelnuts by squeezing them in your fist or (updated method!) pressing them in a ricer. Discard the mangled nuts.
  3. Prepare an ice bath. Set aside.
  4. Rewarm the cream mixture over medium heat.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add the warm cream to the yolks one ladle at at time, whisking constantly. Once you've added all the cream, pour it back into the sauce pan, and cook over medium-low heat until custard thickens and can easily coat the back of the spoon, about 10 minutes.
  6. Strain the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl. Add the hazelnut liqueur, if using, then transfer the bowl of ice cream to the ice bath, and stir until the mixture cools. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  7. About 15 minutes before you're ready to churn, put the ice cream into the freezer to make it extra cold. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
This recipe is adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.


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  • A Canadian Foodie
    Posted at 15:41h, 16 June Reply

    I love your quirky humour. Lucky you to travel Italy with your dad. Hazelnut gelato is my favourite, too! Took me a few trips to discover it… and it is deadly, isn’t it. Thought it was Pistachio, then there was that unforgettable chocolate cherry in Pisa, but it is the Hazelnut Gelato that is my #1 choice every time. And I have tried to make it many times, but cannot get that depth of flavour, even with my Thermomix making the nut paste. Loved the evolution of this recipe. What is your cookbook called? I want to include that in the Round up today – that is late – due to my sissy being in the hospital… but it is almost done.
    I am a die hard ice cream’gelato fan… have several on my site and will add to the list this summer, too! Maybe starting with your cherry!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:11h, 16 June Reply

      Valerie, making a decision on gelato is nearly impossible. Tiramisu, Baci, pistachio, raspberry, lemon, caramel… all impossibly good. But hazelnut ultimately won out. I think the secret to nailing the flavour is the toasting and then steeping/squeezing the nuts for every ounce of flavour.

      My cookbook is called The Messy Baker. It’s not due out until next year, but I’d love to have you include it in your round up.

      The nut meringues eventually turned out, but I’m glad my first attempts failed. I wouldn’t have thought of making hazelnut gelato otherwise. Serendipty at its best!

  • Jillian
    Posted at 21:00h, 17 June Reply

    This looks ah-mazing! I love gelato but haven’t tried making it yet, I think I’m going to have to try your recipe!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:58h, 18 June Reply

      I hope you like it, Jillian. I was so thrilled when it tasted like the Italian gelato we adored. Of course, the risk now is we will eat too much of it.

      If you do make it, I’d love to hear how your batch turned out.

  • James
    Posted at 11:28h, 24 January Reply

    this is great. one small suggestion: in general, when you need to press/squeeze something (e.g., getting excess water out of spinach, a ricer works great. so you could press the ‘mangled’ nuts with that.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:55h, 24 January Reply

      A ricer? I have one and never use it. That’s a great idea. I’ll definitely put that tip into use the next time I make spanikopita or hazelnut gelato — and in this polar vortex weather, I think hot spinach pockets will win out.

      Thanks so much for sharing this tip!

      • James
        Posted at 07:32h, 16 April Reply

        a bit late but you really should use your ricer for mashed potatoes! they are so much better, I think because they don’t get worked much at all, they just come out with a great texture. of course, this may have to do with the amount of butter I use. anyway, this is a great blog, have been sending links to all my cooking friends.

        • Charmian Christie
          Posted at 16:35h, 18 April Reply

          At first glance, when you mentioned a ricer, I thought it was to squeeze the liquid out of the nuts for the gelato. I will try that next time.

          However, having read your comment in full, I see you’re taking about using a ricer for wonderful mashed potatoes. You’re right. A ricer does produce a superb mashed potato — some sceptical people would say too nice. Without lumps and bits of potato peel, they think I’ve used a mix :-) Thanks for the reminder. I must get my ricer out and make it earn its kitchen space!

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 14:02h, 07 July Reply

    Oh, this is first up on summer ice cream making…

  • Che
    Posted at 15:29h, 19 August Reply

    So I made this and it tastes just like hazelnut gelato I had in Venice! The best!!! It really didn’t make much gelato though (maybe a pint), and I had to drive all over town to find raw hazelnuts. They were pricey too. Can you make this recipe with already chopped hazelnuts, and if so do you still need to toast the nuts, or is that solely for removing the skins? I want to get the same depth of flavor. I went out and bought a small bottle of frangelico just for this recipe and the truth is, I don’t think it really made a difference. Your get a great flavor from just cooing and steeping the nuts in the cream. Also, the ricer is ingenious. Works great. The only thing I’d say is even still, I ended up with some very fine bits of nuts in my ice cream after straining. I didn’t mind it, but i think I might strain it twice next time for a more smooth finish and perhaps not blend the nuts too fine. A+ for this recipe. So simple and delicious!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 16:29h, 19 August Reply

      I’m glad you liked the recipe. It tastes like Florence to me, but then I didn’t have gelato in Venice. I must fix that oversight:-)

      Yes, you can definitely used chopped hazelnuts but you still need to toast them for a deeper flavour. Toasting time will be much less, so watch them!

      The Frangelico is not necessary but I add it to prevent the gelato from icing. You can skip it. I always have it on hand for Christmas truffles. I should amend the recipe to say this is optional.

      I haven’t had nut dust (if that’s a word) but your suggestions of not blending too finely might be a solution that eliminates a second straining.

      Again, I’m so glad you like the recipe. It’s one of my favourites. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a detailed comment!

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