Melon-Orange Blossom Gelato
Ice cream is somewhat of a problem for me. You might find me on any given night at home, with a pint of mint chip or vanilla swiss almond on the couch circa 11 p.m. Or walking in Soho, stopping at the Van Leeuwen truck for their earl grey. Or at Cones grabbing some corn ice cream in the West Village. Or inhaling mochi in single bites at Nobu. Or…get the picture? In the winter, I crave the super creamy, bitter coffee flavors with chunks of chocolate, but the summer leads me to lighter, more subtle ones. Therein lies the inspiration for a light-as-air, delicately-flavored, slightly floral melon-orange blossom gelato.
I’ve mentioned orange blossom water in a previous post, and it is a flavor that is found throughout Middle Eastern foods, particularly the desserts. That said, it can be found in Mediterranean cuisine as well as French – it’s often used to flavor madeleines. The water is distilled from the blossoms of the sour orange tree, which is also known as the bitter orange or Seville orange tree. Since it’s from the blossoms, the flavor is certainly more floral than fruity – quite exceptional, really.
Although I call this a gelato, it’s only because it’s lower in fat and lighter in texture than ice cream. It’s truly a cross between a sorbet and a gelato because of the high water content of the melons. It’s extraordinarily light – like a milky ice that melts when it hits your tongue spreading the soft melon flavor while the perfume of the orange blossom hits you at the end. One thing I’d like to say about orange blossom water – each brand is very different. The one I’m using now is a bit diluted, so, in this case (and, quite frankly, whenever a recipe calls for it), add a bit less and check for flavoring before adding more. The flavor can be a bit cloying in excess. Enjoy!
Yields approximately 2 quarts
1 ¾ cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 tbsps orange blossom water
½ tsp orange zest
1 medium melon (approx. 1 ¼ lbs), seeded and cut into small cubes
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Place cream and milk in a saucepan. Add salt, sugar, honey, orange blossom water, and orange zest. Bring mixture up to a boil. Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Place cut melon and a squeeze of lemon juice in a blender, and blend on high for a few minutes until completely pureed. Strain cream mixture into a container, add melon puree, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or even overnight. You want the mixture to be the same temperature as the refrigerator or under 40° F.
Process ice cream in an ice cream maker per instructions.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, place chilled mixture in a baking dish and place in the freezer. After 40 minutes, take it out and stir it up with a whisk, or (best) a hand-mixture to incorporate air and until a uniform texture. Place back in the freezer and repeat this every 30 minutes. After about 2 ½ to 3 hours, the ice cream should be good to go.