For Katherine, who made me laugh when I accidentally published this with all photos and no words a few months ago. Katherine: thank you for making me feel less like an idiot and making my day. I hope you like the words as much as the photos this time.
I really needed to get my act together with this sweet corn gelato; I made it, I loved it, I lost my mind over how amazingly strange and exciting and incredibly good it was, and then…nothing. Nada. The words wouldn’t come. I tried, and my mind went blank, although some of that may have been from the massive brain-freeze I had from eating this repeatedly. So, in light of it being ice cream week last week, Target carrying freeze-dried corn for the first time ever (more on that later), and the abundance of corn we have in farmers’ markets currently, I give you this week’s Farmers’ Market Monday: sweet corn gelato.
I know I typically do a healthy thingamabob on Mondays, and for those you who really look forward to that, I promise I’ll make it up to you. I actually miss it too, this week. I’ve had a blast this summer making you fun salads and things, and I’ve got lots more headed your way. For now, let’s focus on making a not-even-good-for-you vegetable (technically, corn is also a fruit and a grain.) into a sweet, even-less-healthy treat, okay? Great.
Side note; I just dropped some corn knowledge on you. And you didn’t even know it.
I say everything in moderation. Is this good for you? Probably not. It’s not the worst thing you could eat, but it’s not a lovely kale salad wrap either. It is decadent, and I make no apologies for that. Truth be told, you can’t eat a lot of this at one time. This isn’t the fro-yo from the self-serve place that you can chow down on endlessly. This is a special gelato; one which seems absolutely pitch-perfect for a late summer or early fall end-of-the-evening treat. Think it sounds weird? I’m not going to argue with you; it’s different. It’s a little strange. Some would even call it disconcerting, to eat corn as an ice cream flavor. I say it’s a match made in heaven. I also think everyone should have a spoonful of this before passing judgement, because it really, truly (I promise!) is gorgeously good, and not nearly as odd as you think it could be.
I spent lots of time tasting it and trying to determine the best way to describe it to you. Because when someone says “chocolate ice cream,” your taste buds mostly know what they’re getting. Understandably, your taste buds may be confused by this one. So here goes; I think this sweet corn gelato tastes like…
- those magical little sweet corn cakes from mexican restaurants
- your great-aunt’s corn casserole or corn pudding
- Captain Crunch with milk, all blended together, only really, really cold.
Does that help? I hope so.
Is this an easy recipe? No. There are stages to it, and it’s probably one of the more labor-intensive recipes you’ll find here thus far. I have, however, cut down on a few of the more finicky steps for you to make it a little easier. The stages are such that you can take your time doing them, so don’t feel as though this has to be made all at once. You could easily steep the corn cobs the day before and chill your mixture overnight; doing that makes it feel like less work the following day.
I said we would talk about freeze-dried corn earlier; and so, we will. You may know my love for it knows no bounds, and you may also know I had a great time making both the Momofuku Milk Bar corn cookies and the sweet corn cereal milk ice cream pie a little while ago. Freeze-dried corn is featured prominently in both recipes, and lends an outstanding corn flavor to both desserts. The only problem? It’s not so readily available (you can find it at Whole Foods and Amazon.com). Yesterday, I happened to notice that Target bulked up their freeze-dried foods section, which now includes freeze-dried corn. Great news for all of you who aren’t necessarily near a Whole Foods and don’t feel like waiting for a delivery. I still need to test out the Target product in the corn cookies, but I have high hopes.
I mention freeze-dried corn because I used it in this recipe to add even more corn flavor to something which was already pretty corny. I am not sorry; it added a whole other dimension to it, and made a nice subtle textural difference, too. I’m still new to making gelato and ice cream, but this one was by far the best I’ve ever made in terms of consistency and richness. It never hard-freezes! It stays the way ice cream is when you first open the container; frozen but easily scoopable. After two weeks in the freezer, it was the exact same level of hardness; to me, that’s perfection.
This is basically what my poor ice cream scoop looked like for a long time. It got used, then hastily cast aside while we ate this magnificently weird gelato. Left to drown in melted corn goodness. It’s not used to being treated like that.
So, on with it: here’s the recipe for the gelato you must, must try at least once before corn season comes and goes. It is completely worth the extra effort. I promise you unless you hate corn, you’ll love it. Even if you do think it’s a little odd.
A few notes: Can this be made with regular corn versus sweet corn? Absolutely, yes it can, but really try to find the freshest corn you can in stores (truly). Corn is, by its very nature, sweet, so regular corn is great in my book also. If you don’t feel like searching/using freeze-dried corn, you don’t have to; there’s a note below about this as well.
Sweet Corn Gelato
- 3 ears of fresh sweet corn, husked
- 1/2 cup freeze-dried corn powder*
- 3 1/2 cups (or more) whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
*to make the corn powder, get a bag of freeze-dried corn and throw it in a food processor. Pulse the food processor to grind it down to a fine powder. Alternatively, you aren’t required to use it at all; i think it adds richness and enhances the flavor, but it’s not a make-or-break part of the recipe if you wish to leave it out.
Cut kernels from corn cobs; reserve cobs. Break each cob into 2 pieces. Bring milk to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add corn kernels and cobs. Remove mixture from heat, cover, and let steep for 45 minutes.
Remove cobs from milk; discard. Purée mixture in batches in a blender. Set a coarse strainer over a large bowl. Strain mixture, pressing on solids; discard solids. Add more milk if needed to measure 3 1/2 cups.
Bring corn mixture, corn powder, 1 1/4 cups sugar, and cream to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Set a strainer over a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup sugar, egg yolks, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk mixture; return to saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until custard registers 175° on an instant-read thermometer, which could take anywhere from 4-8 minutes or so. Pay the most attention here to the temperature here, not the time.
Remove from heat and pour mixture into a large bowl. place bowl with custard over a large bowl of ice water. Let stand until cooled, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate custard for at least 6 hours or, preferably, overnight.
Process custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a container; freeze in an airtight container for at least 4 hours and up to 2 weeks.
Honestly, there’s a bit of this left in my freezer, and it’s still good. and it’s been over a month. I will admit that it is at its freshest within the first two weeks.