Roasted Sweet Corn Gelato
Updated: Jul 28, 2019
A great perk of wandering hither and yon is encountering roadside farm stands. I think, sadly, more and more of these are "farm" stands lately. That is, the produce certainly grew on a farm somewhere, but nowhere near the stand, and was probably acquired at Costco. The easy tip-off is when the produce is out of season. If they're offering watermelons in May right next to the strawberries, keep driving. A farm stand on a farm is a treasure, and a safe bet if you're looking for something truly local. This recipe will work with corn from anywhere as long as it's still on the cob and in its husk.
It took me several tries to arrive at Sweet Corn Gelato. I was originally going for a cornbread ice cream to accompany a peach dessert. You might not think there are a lot of ways to make a cornbread ice cream. Let me tell, you, you have no idea. After many failed attempts that tasted like, as my coworker put it, "weird vanilla," we arrived at a glorious, amazing Cornbread Ice Cream. But when it was paired with the dessert components, it might as well have been whipped cream for all the flavor that came through. I'd tried a sweet corn version, just for kicks, but hadn't cooked the corn. The flavor was intense, and delicious, if you're into the taste of raw corn. It wasn't much of a leap to try cooking the corn, and there we were.
And now here you are, wondering "what makes this a gelato?" Technically.. who knows? There are as many definitions of gelato as there are flavors, it seems. However, while on a gelato/espresso tour of Rome (yes, folks, espresso, gelato, Rome: the Trifecta), our guide explained that gelato is made with no eggs, and is low in fat, often made with skim milk. Italians consider it a "diet" ice cream! Gelato generally has a low overrun, which just means there's very little air worked into it during the churning process. All sources agree that gelato is intensely flavorful. This bears out: eggs tend to muddy flavor, fat coats the tongue. It can be difficult for subtle flavors like herbs, teas, and corn to fight through and "wow" you. A light and egg-free recipe will allow flavor to shine.
Roasted Sweet Corn Gelato
Secret time: this was actually inspired by the blank-slate sherbet recipe found in Dana Cree's Hello, My Name is Ice Cream. I couldn't see "Corn Sherbet" being a big seller, and it does fit our Roman definition of gelato, so why not monkey with the moniker? You'll agree that this egg-free, mostly-milk frozen concoction is full of delicious roasted corn flavor. Roasting the corn in the husk steams the kernels and adds another layer of flavor. Steeping the corn cobs in the milk takes the flavor up one more notch, and makes good use of something you might have thrown away.
Serve this gelato with cornbread and some blueberry compote, make next-level ice cream sandwiches, pair it with some salted, buttery shortbread, or pour caramel sauce over it and sprinkle with crunchy salt for a caramel corn experience. At the restaurant, I've paired it with grilled peaches, fresh blueberries, cornbread, and basil.
Corn 250g (2 large, or 3 medium-sized ears)
Buttermilk 100g (scant 1/2 cup)
Milk 300g (1 1/3 cups), plus extra as needed
Cream 100g (scant 1/2 cup)
Corn Syrup* 100g (scant 1/2 cup)
Sugar 150g (1 1/2 cups)
Cornstarch 8g (1 Tbl)
Salt 2g (1/2 tsp)
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Trim the cornsilk at the top of the ear, and remove any outer leaves that are not to your liking. Place the corn directly on a metal sheet pan, and roast for 15 minutes. Flip the ears over, rotate the sheet pan, and roast for another 15 minutes. Alternatively, you can grill the corn using your preferred method, still leaving the corn in the husk. I've read that it is necessary to soak the husk in water before grilling, but haven't found this to be true.
Once the corn has cooled, remove the husk. Scrape/cut the kernels off with a sharp knife, or one of those corn gizmos if you're a gadget person. Do not throw away the cobs!
Weigh the appropriate amount of kernels, if you're weighing things, and place them in a blender with the buttermilk. Puree the heck out of it. You want this smooth, smooth, smooth. Place the puree in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Mix the cornstarch with about 2 tablespoons of the milk, and set aside.
Place the corn cobs in a medium pot with the rest of the milk. You may need to break up the cobs to get them to fit. You'll want full contact between the corn cobs and the milk. Bring this all to a simmer, and allow to bubble gently for just a minute or two. Remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Depending on my pain tolerance on a given day, I'll throw on some gloves and squeeze the milk out of the cobs, but be warned, they are still very hot, and most days it doesn't seem worth it.
Re-measure or re-weigh the milk. You'll have lost some in the steeping. Add more milk as needed to bring the amount up to what you started with. Combine this and the remaining ingredients, with the exception of your chilled puree, and bring it all a boil. Boil for a minute to make sure you've cooked all the cornstarch. Strain this mixture into a bowl and chill. This recipe has chilling instructions, and is another great egg-free summer ice cream.
Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, mix in your puree from the refrigerator. If you own a hand blender, this a great time to use it. If not, just make sure you whisk the mixture really, really well. Now you can let your ice cream base chill in the refrigerator overnight for the best texture, or you can go right ahead and process it now according to your ice cream maker's directions.
*I've altered the recipe a little from the one we use at the restaurant to reflect the fact that you may not have access to some ingredients. If you can get your hands on glucose syrup and/or ice cream stabilizer, feel free to substitute the same amount of glucose syrup for the corn syrup, and/or 2g of stabilizer for the 8g of cornstarch. You will not need to make a milk slurry with the stabilizer. Mix it with the sugar, and add it with the rest of the ingredients.