Rose Petal Gelato

When I came upon this gelato recipe, I was instantly enamored.  Roses are my favorite flowers. There once was a time, actually not that long ago, when I was pretty obsessed with roses -  pouring over books and catalogs to find the perfect rose for a dry shady corner of my garden, visiting rose gardens around the country to be personally charmed by hundreds of cultivars, armchair traveling back to 1845 imagining myself in the presence of Fortune's Double Yellow in "a rich Mandarin's garden at Ningbo",  and worshipping at the altar of David Austin, the preeminent breeder of 'English Roses'.

Nevertheless, I didn't plan on making this for our Summer Ice Cream Party, because I couldn't think of where to find rosewater at such short notice. Quite by accident, I dropped in at our neighborhood "upscale" market to look for peppermint extract and instead saw rosewater next to a dozen different vanilla extracts - no peppermint extract though, mind you.

This is really a beautiful gelato in looks and taste. The flavor speaks in the same hushed tones as its rosy hue -  soft, delicate, subtle, yet unmistakable, like perfume wafting across your tastebuds. The candied rose petals are optional, but are actually quite easy to make if you grow your own roses, without any pesticides of course. Instructions are given below. 

Rose Petal Gelato
Adapted from The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto by F.W. Pearce & Danilo Zecchin
Makes about 1 quart.

Make the Base

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together until smooth, thick and pale yellow:
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine:
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar

Place over medium heat and cook milk/cream mixture, stirring occasionally so skin doesn't form, until tiny bubbles start to form around edges and mixture reaches 170°F. Turn off heat.

Slowly pour 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks while whisking eggs. Repeat with another 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture all the while whisking eggs. Pour contents of bowl into saucepan. Return saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula, until custard is thick enough to coat back of spatula and temperature reaches 170°- 180°F. Do not bring to a boil.

Pour base through fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl set in an ice bath. Stir to cool base. Once cool, cover base with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Candied Rose Petals (optional)

On a sheet of wax or parchment paper, spread out:
1/4 cup organic, unsprayed, rose petals, rinsed well and patted dry

Whisk in a small bowl:
1 egg white
Using a small paintbrush, brush both sides of each petal with egg white. Sprinkle prepared petals on both sides with:
superfine sugar

Leave sugared petals on wax or parchment paper to dry overnight.

Churn Ice Cream

Peel and grate:
1 red beet

Gather about 1-2 tablespoons of grated beet into a cheesecloth pouch. To keep your fingers from staining, wear plastic gloves or simply place a plastic bag over your hand while handling beet. Dip cheesecloth pouch into chilled base, then pull out and squeeze out as much base and beet juice as you can.  Repeat as many times as desired, depending on how dark a color you desire. I dunked twice to get a soft hue.

Gently whisk into pink chilled base:
1 tablespoon rosewater

Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Add candied rose petals during last few minutes of churning, if desired. Transfer to chilled airtight container and freeze for 4 hours.

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