This lemon balm gelato is an Italian dream come true. Whether you use fresh lemon verbena or lemon balm, each lick will take you to a beach in Italy. A perfect way to celebrate the last of summer.
Is there anything better than scoop of gelato after a day at the beach? I don’t think so.
It’s funny how ‘time and place’ can have such a powerful effect on the way we experience flavour. My better-half often reminds me of this phenomenon when I try to bring a ton of food and wine home from our travels. I know he’s right, the experience of drinking a glass of Chianti among the vineyards where the grapes were grown will never match the experience of the same glass of wine in my own backyard.
This gelato recipe is the result of my efforts to recreate a soft melty scoop infused with Lemon Verbena that I devoured after a glorious day at the beach in Rimini. It’s unique citrus flavour takes me right back to Italy … I can almost hear the animated voices of the Bocce ball players.
Since I’ve had no luck growing Lemon Verbena in my garden, I’m using Lemon Balm to make this gelato. The two herbs are similar, except Lemon Verbena is little stronger, so I’ve added some lemon zest to compensate. The flavour is bright, fresh, and lemony.
- 3 cups whole milk
- one big bunch fresh lemon balm - about 3 cups loosely packed leaves
- the zest of one lemon - finely grated
- 2½ tablespoons cornstarch
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Wash and dry the lemon balm. Roughly tear the leaves, pinching them between your fingertips to bruise the leaves. This will help release the herbs flavour, and make your hands smell wonderful.
- In a medium saucepan combine 2½ cups milk, lemon zest, and the lemon balm, and bring slowly to a gentle boil over medium heat.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and cover. Let the flavours infuse for 30-45 minutes.
- Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and discard the solids.
- Return the infused milk back into the pan.
- In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup milk until the cornstarch has dissolved.
- Reheat the infused milk over medium heat to a gentle simmer and quickly add the cornstarch mixture, whisking all the while in order to avoid lumps.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to whisk for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly.
- Transfer to a bowl and allow the gelato base to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover the surface of mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight is best.
- Remember to put the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer to chill overnight too.
- When your are ready to make your gelato, add the heavy cream into the base and whisk to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions.
- The gelato will be the texture of soft serve ice cream when it's done.
- I think it tastes best when consumed immediately after churning. To serve later, transfer to a covered container and store in the freezer for up to a week. Let the gelato soften in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before scooping.