farmers’ market monday: sweet corn gelato.

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 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.

Adapted from a recipe I found on Epicurious; you can find the original version here.

 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.

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  • Reply Emma July 23, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I was pretty excited to go to Target this past weekend, but for flip flops rather than freeze dried corn. The nearest Target is something like 130 miles away, but so worth it for $2.50 of flip floppy goodness:)

    This sounds lovely. I love corn. I love ice cream. I love things that are corn-y. I love things that are corny. I don’t love when posts accidentally get published. BOOO! 😉

    • Reply shannon July 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      emma, i’ll drive long distances as well for cheap flip-flops. because i live in them all summer. my feet are rarely stylish when it’s 106 degrees out. and jury’s still out on the Target corn: because i just did a quick side-by-side bag whiff, and the Just Corn? MUCH better corn-y smell. so now i’m getting worried. i still need to test-drive it in some cookies.

      it was an embarrassing moment in my blog life, for sure; i don’t even know what i was thinking or how it happened. luckily, you all are so understanding that i knew it wouldn’t matter. as long as i actually got the recipe out, that is. i’m happy you like it! it really is like, intensely good. i refuse to throw the little i have left in the freezer away because somehow, it’s still delicious. i sneak a bite here and there and it’s like i’m living, for a moment, inside a chilly sweet-corn cake.

  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina July 23, 2012 at 8:14 am

    I think that too often, people overlook the need to take their time with ice cream. They want something that can be thrown together and thrown in the ice cream maker and then they freeze it and boom! Ice cream.

    I disagree. You need to coddle it like a sweet baby if you want it to be fabulous. Otherwise, it’s JUST ice cream.

    I’ve become a HUGE fan of these custard creams (my name, I’m going to try to make money off of it maybe)…because of the texture. Dude, is there anything better than an ice cream that thanks your tongue for taking a taste?

    Added corn to my shopping list for tomorrow. Because duh. This is healthy ice cream. It has corn (which is a grain and a fruit???).

    • Reply shannon August 7, 2012 at 6:42 am

      agreed. this thing had like, an ice bath and its own little shelf/bed in my fridge, and i didn’t mind one bit. it got treated like a wee babe, and i feel like the results showed that.

      i love these custard-based ones because they really don’t get super frozen, like, ever. they are “frozen” in the way that you get ice cream from the ice cream place, and i dig that. you don’t break your hand trying to scrape it out, either, which i also dig.

      …AND it’s a vegetable. it’s like, triple healthy or something. its own little food pyramid (because i mean, dairy, right?)

  • Reply Ashley July 23, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I love corn ice cream! My favorite ice cream shop — Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Ohio — makes a fantastic Sweet Corn with Black Raspberry Puree in the summer. And it tastes exactly like you’d imagine summer to be – sweet, milky corn ice cream and jammy swirls of black raspberries hiding in each bite. Amazing! I’m thrilled you’re promoting corn ice cream and look forward to eating some soon!

    • Reply shannon July 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm

      black raspberries would be CRAZY DELICIOUS with this ice cream, Ashley! and it’s so nice to hear you don’t think it’s weird. 🙂 I know some people have had it, and i’m all in for corn anything, but i never know how well-recieved something for me. but if anyone is a “corn is versatile, i promise” ambassador, it’s me. i bet this would be good with strawberry puree, too…you’re giving me ideas.

      my sister, who lives in nashville, has a Jeni’s there, but i know it started up by you; i’m jealous of both of you. She always talks about going there, and especially with how hot it’s been this summer, it makes me drool when she mentions it. her cookbook is on my “to buy” list.

  • Reply sara July 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Oh, this looks fantastic! I’ve only had sweet corn ice cream once, from a friend of mine who made it….so good, I may just have to give it a shot this summer!

    • Reply shannon July 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      oh Sara, how lucky are you to have had this made for you already? i think everyone should have fresh corn ice cream, at least just to try it. if you’ve got some sweet corn still hanging around in your area (or honestly, even regular corn if it’s perfectly ripe), make it. 🙂 i may make another batch myself before the summer corn is all gone.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats July 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Wow, this sounds amazing. I love corn and the Milk Bar Corn Cookies are my all time favorite cookies. I need an ice cream maker!!! 🙁

    • Reply shannon August 7, 2012 at 6:38 am

      thanks, amy! this was so fun to make; i just recently got an ice cream maker and i have had SUCH a good time trying out different recipes with it; get one! it’ll change your (baking) life. 🙂 and you can make this to go alongside any corn cookies you happen to whip up.

  • Reply movita beaucoup July 25, 2012 at 6:59 am

    So, I have this thing that I do. I save certain posts from certain bloggers in my google reader. And then I read them when I’m ready for awesomeness. Those posts are like little treats. Treats to be savoured. Which is why I end up commenting on them WAY after other people. It’s also why my google reader is out of control most of the time.

    Anyhoo, last night, on Masterchef, they had a corn-based dessert challenge. Which is weird because remember how they did fruit tarts, and then I read your post on fruit tarts (that I had been saving)? And now this! A corn dessert. Just like on Masterchef. So my question is this: is it Gordon, Graham or Joe that is feeding you the information from Masterchef? Who is giving you the heads up? And when will you be competing? Because that would be AWESOME.

    I like the Captain Crunch analogy. And, FYI, no one on Masterchef made a frozen corn dessert. Not one. And my wee French niece, Pumpkin, LOVES corn. So now I’m wondering if she just might like this gelato. Because I can tell her it’s corn gelato. And I can tell her father/my brother that it’s Captain Crunch gelato…

    • Reply shannon July 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      entire first paragraph: ditto.

      i wonder who is feeding who information to/from Masterchef? because, are the feeling (in a cosmosy sort of way) my ideas and then making them into challenges? or, since they taped those prior to now, am i somehow fielding thoughts DIRECTLY FROM THE MASTERCHEF TRIUMVIRATE?? interesting…let’s try something: *gordon ramsay, i secretly love you. wink at the camera on the next episode and i’ll know you hear me.*

      because if he winks, and you see it, i’ll enter. that WOULD be awesome, but i’m afraid i’d melt at the mere sight of those three. out of fear and admiration. and Joe Bastianich makes me extremely nervous.

      you just gave me the BEST idea for an original ice cream perhaps EVER. in fact, if the idea you just gave me turns out, it could turn into a series. it may be THAT important. not kidding. and it is not lost on me that you have to tell a child this is a veggie gelato and the adults that it’s a cereal gelato. kids are so much more adventurous about flavors sometimes. like they just GET IT.

  • Reply Willow July 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Okay, first off… you totally just linked to my kale salad wraps! OHEMGEE, that made my day! Thank you thank you thank you!

    Now that’s out of my system… you totally just made corn gelato! I love sweet corn (fell in love with it last summer, had a whirl-wind romance, and now it’s come back to me – my sweet!) and of course I love ice cream (okay, now I sound a bit loose….) so this is like some crazy perfect combo! If I can find the time in all the wedding prep/planning, I will absolutely have to try this. And if not this year, than next year… this sounds so up my ally!

    • Reply shannon July 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      willow, i totally DID link to your kale salad wraps, because i have made versions of them ever since you posted them. I should be thanking you for re-introducing me to kale, because i love it. 🙂

      i just made corn gelato too! i’m happy i could inspire a reunion of sorts with you and the sweet corn; it is, you’re right, the perfect combination. i don’t know why, and i can’t explain it effectively, but it is. it just IS. if you need a break from the stresses (and fun, some of it is fun) of wedding planning, make this. although maybe not when you’re cake-tasting because that would just be sweet sugar overload. 🙂 so happy you like this!

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog July 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I love how you inserted a bit of corn knowledge without us realizing what happened. I totally had to go back and reread because I didn’t notice that you did, in fact, slap me with some good ol’ corn facts. Love it.

    Um, this gelato looks amazing! I just so happen to love frozen treats with corn in it. So, bring on the corn gelato. I love the addition of the yellow jimmies!

    • Reply shannon July 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      jennie, you know how that corn knowledge came to be? I embarrassed myself (in private) by realizing I had no idea what corn really was! I had obviously heard it called a vegetable and a grain, so i didn’t know which way to go. and i didn’t want to be the girl who had no idea. the fruit part? news to me. 🙂

      i’m so happy to hear everyone being so open-minded about corn gelato! it makes me happy.

  • Reply Marilyn ONeill May 26, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    Hi, Thanks for this inspiration even years later! What i hope is not a dumb question or i missed something, in the 4th paragraph of instructions you mention setting aside a bowl with strainer but i don’t see where it is later used? I got my freeze dried corn today and was just grinding it which made me wonder if it got strained out for texture. Thanks for the geek cook destination 🙂

    • Reply shannon September 6, 2018 at 9:48 am

      Hi Marilyn! So hopefully everything came out okay: i was away from the blog for a bit when you left this comment. So happy you set out to make this! it’s one of my favorites. Right after it says to set aside the bowl with a strainer, you strain the solids out of the hot milk mixture (basically, the corn cobs.) so it should be used right then; of course, you could always lift out the cobs and let the milk drain off as well.

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