Strawberry Shortbread and Coconut Gelato

1 Aug

We’re all buzzing about the London 2012 Olympics at Reader’s Digest, especially since our cover girl, diver Jennifer Abel, won the first Canadian medal.

But this week, I want to applaud another Team Canada–the one that quietly represented us in the World Gelato Cup, in Italy, earlier this year. It was the first time ever that Canada participated in this intense four-day contest, and they held their own, coming in eleventh,  pitted against the world’s most inventive and talented gelato makers and pastry chefs.

Each team had to prepare gelato in five different ways: in a cup, cone, cake, pan and savoury dish. As well as making innovative flavours, such as saffron rosewater and pistachio cherry, our Canadians sculpted a fish from ice and a mermaid from chocolate as part of their presentation.

When I was in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, I met one of our five competitors, executive pastry chef Hans Pirhofer, in his kitchen at the Pan Pacific hotel. He made this crazy chocolate sculpture before I arrived to give me a sense of the creativity, detail and hard work that go into his craft.

And he shared some photos of his team’s work for the World Cup challenge…

They’re looking forward to going back next time with this experience under their belts and hopefully snatching the cup from the Italians.

In the meantime, Hans agreed to share gelato-making tips and a recipe with us. His Strawberry Shortbread and Coconut Gelato is elaborate enough to merit being saved for a special occasion, but not so tricky you’ll need to hire your own ice sculptor to pull it off.

Hans’s Tips

1. Don’t overchurn your gelato; 15 minutes should be long enough in the machine to keep it nice and smooth. It should have the texture of soft and runny whipped cream when you’re done.

2. Don’t overcook your custard or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Cooking over a bain marie (water bath) helps you control the temperature and avoid burning your custard.

3. High quality ingredients are key. Fruits need to be ripe and flavourful, as the flavour becomes less intense once they’ve been incorporated into gelato. Chocolate should be the best you can get your hands on.

4. By substituting a small quantity of the sugar in your gelato with dextrose and glucose, you can make it softer and smoother.

5. If you’re flavouring with liquor, use just a small amount of a stronger kind. If you use something with less alcohol, such as white wine, you might end up with more crystals as you need to add more to get the flavour.

6. Consider incorporating gelato into savoury courses–he once used wasabi gelato with a fish dish.

7. Let your gelato soften a little in the fridge before scooping.

And here’s his recipe for an elegant, but very doable dessert. You’ll need an ice cream maker; check the link for models as cheap as $30.

Strawberry Shortbread and Coconut Gelato

Shortbread Dough
Yield: 18 pieces

250 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
48 g (3 tbsp) sugar
2 g (1/2 tsp) salt
13 g (1 tbsp) baking powder
45 g (3 tbsp) butter
320 g (1 & 1/3 cups) cream

1.  In food processor, mix all dry ingredients and butter.

2.  Add the cream and mix until just combined.

3. Roll out to ½ inch thick, then refrigerate for 4 hours.

4. Cut with round cookie cutter in circles.

5.  Spray lightly with water and sprinkle with sugar.

6. Bake in 300-F (150-C) oven for 25-30 minutes.

7.  After baking, cool and cut cookies in half.

Strawberry Compote
500 g  (1 lb) strawberries
150 g (2/3 cup) sugar
50 ml ((1/4 cup) Grand Marnier
Zest of 1 orange

1. Put strawberries and sugar in saucepan and heat on low heat until sugar is melted.

2. Add Grand Marnier and zest, allow to cool.

3. Sandwich the strawberry compote between the shortbread.

Coconut Gelato
300 mL (1 & 1/4 cup) coconut milk
100 mL (1/3 cup + 2 tbsp) cream
100 mL (1/3 cup + 2 tbsp) Malibu liquor
75 g (1/3 cup) sugar
6 large egg yolks

1. Bring coconut milk to a boil.

2. Mix yolks and sugar, beat in cream.

3. Once coconut milk is boiling, add some into the yolk mix.

4. Combine rest of yolk mix and heat until the liquid starts to thicken; test by pulling your finger across of the back of a spoon: if the line stays, the liquid is thick enough.

5. Stir in the Malibu and put the mix in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, until cold.

6. Put the mix in the ice cream maker and churn until it reaches a soft, creamy consistency.

7.  Pour into container and keep in freezer until harden enough to scoop.

Pineapple Garnish
Cut pineapple into thin slices than soak in simple syrup (1 part water  to 1 part sugar, brought to a boil until thickened, then cooled) for 30 minutes. Drain and lay out slices on silicon mat and dehydrate in oven at 180 F (80 C) until dry and crisp.

Note: Hans also made a lime foam, which you can see in the bowl. You could use a lime-flavoured syrup to add a little zest to your dish


2 Responses to “Strawberry Shortbread and Coconut Gelato”

  1. Kendra Lynne Shannon August 3rd, 2012 at 4:14 PM #

    This sounds it is absolutely yummy! I plan to try it out this weekend.
    I just graduated from grade 12 and I am starting the Culinary Arts Program at our local college on August 7, 2012.

    • Valerie Howes August 5th, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

      Great! I’d love to hear how you get on. Good luck with the Culinary Arts program.

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