Saturday, April 4, 2009
“We gotta go to Vivoli!”, my friend Monica insisted.
According to her trusted travel resource, Rick Steve’s Travel Guide, Monica informed us that Vivoli is said to make the best gelato in Florence, or in Italy for that matter. And Rick recommends trying the rice gelato.
"Rice ice cream?” I said, “never heard of that before! But rice + ice cream together? What’s not to like? That must be good".
Monica didn’t have to convince the group any further. Off we went to find Vivoli.
This conversation happened many years ago one summer. A couple of my colleagues and I decided to spend our summer break in Italy while being student-trainees in Germany. We were the typical student travellers – backpacking and staying in youth hostels. We really didn’t have that much money but we made the most of what we had. We met Monica while in Verona (of famed Romeo & Juliet), our first leg of the trip. Since she was traveling alone, she decided to hook up and tag along with us. So we were together in the next 4 weeks exploring Italy and became fast friends. Those were good times – no, best times.
It was in our stop in Florence that Monica mentioned this Gelateria that is a must-visit according to Rick Steve. (Rick Steve’s is a good resource when it comes to budget travels!)
After a bus ride and a lot of walking, we finally managed to find Vivoli. It was a small Gelateria, but boy, was there a long line outside of the shop! Not surprising though, because if it is the best Gelateria in Florence, then it follows that the place should be popular. So we fell in line. It must have taken us around 30 minutes to finally get our turn. Not bad, really. We were on vacation so time was on our side.
Needless to say, I had my Gelato di Riso for the very first time then. And I’m telling you, that was a piece of heaven in a cup (they don't have cones)! Yum'oh! It was so creamy, not too sweet -– everything that you had hoped a gelato would be – but with rice! It’s like a frozen rice pudding, but better! Indeed, our efforts paid off.
Last month, I got an ice-cream maker. It was one of those points-reward that Mr. J got from his job – so we got it for free! I love free stuff, don't you? Of course I wanted to make ice-cream immediately to try my new toy. For others, the logical thing to do might have been to make something basic for the first time. Something that’s probably from the recipes that come with the manual. But no, I am not like that. (Yeah, I’m crazy). I wanted to do something ambitious. I wanted to do something simple -- but not that simple, you know what I mean? (If you're a girl, then you'd know what I mean!)
So just out of nostalgia from that trip in Italy – and because I am Asian – I decided to make rice gelato. It had been many years ago since I had this ice cream. I don’t remember exactly how the taste was but all I know was that it was very good!
And so I began searching online for some recipes, which eventually led me to David Lebovitz’, The Perfect Scoop. This recipe book received so many good reviews from Amazon buyers, and most of all, it had the Rice Gelato recipe that I was looking for!!!! So that sealed the deal. I bought a copy.
After so many years, I had rice gelato again! It was creamy, super delicious. The only complaint Mr. J had was that it was too "orangey" - which was my fault. If you read the recipe, it required two strips of orange zests. Well, I made a mistake of pureeing the zests with the rice mixture (wasn't really a mistake because I decided to do it). Plus, I also added a teaspoon of orange liquour. So you can really taste the orange in the ice cream. Mr. J found the orange taste overpowering - maybe so - but I liked it. With the ice cream I made the hazelnut tuile cookie, that I shaped using the wooden handle of a spoon (for that cigar shape).
This rice gelato is my entry to this weeks' Lasang Pinoy Sunday (La.Pi.S) - Melted Bliss. Eating this ice-cream took me back to Italy..... What a bliss, indeed!
Rice Gelato (Gelato di Riso)
1/2 cup Italian Arborio rice*
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean*, split in half lenghtwise
Two 1-inch-wide strips of orange zest
5 large egg yolks (save the whites for use later)
1 cup half-and-half or cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a 1.75 to 2 quart baking dish, mix together the rice, milk 1/4 cup of the sugar and the salt. Add the vanilla bean and strips of orange zest.
3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the rice from the oven and remove the foil. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, then continue to bake the rice, uncovered for another 30 minutes.
4. Remove the rice from the oven a second time, remove the vanilla bean and orange zest and briskly whisk in the egg yolks at once. Then whisk in the half and half or cream and nutmeg.
5. Puree half of the rice mixture in a blender or food processor until chopped fine then stir it back into the cooked rice.
6. Chill the mixture in the fridge (I left mine for 2 hrs), then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
*NOTE: I made mine 1/4 c arborio rice and 1/4 c sweet "gelatinous" rice, aka sticky rice. I thought that the sticky rice would make the ice cream a lot creamier, which it did. I didn't have a vanilla bean, but I used a good quality vanilla bean paste. But if you don't have the vanilla bean or paste, I believe that vanilla extract would do.