Indulge in the creamy and irresistibly flavorful hazelnut gelato with this easy to follow recipe. Discover the secrets to maximizing the richness and flavor of the hazelnuts in this delicious frozen treat.
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Hazelnut Gelato: Creamy and Nutty Delight
Hazelnut gelato is my Achilles heel among frozen treats. With its rich flavor of toasted hazelnuts perfectly blended with milk and cream, it's a heavenly delight that tops my favorite flavors list. There's nothing quite like the joy of indulging in a cone of creamy hazelnut gelato.
Unlike seasonal flavors such as mango gelato or fancy Persian saffron ice cream, hazelnut is an evergreen gelato flavor that can be enjoyed year-round. It's a classic staple at gelaterias and ice cream parlors, known as gelato alla nocciola. Make it with high quality hazelnuts from Piemonte in Italy or Oregon in the USA, to capture the distinctive nutty aroma.
The combination of chocolate and hazelnuts is a match made in heaven, seen in popular products like Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. While chocolate hazelnut gelato, known as bacio, is also beloved, this recipe focuses on the classic plain hazelnut gelato, paired with a decadent chocolate sauce and nuts.
You can also make this gelato with ready-made hazelnut paste, preferably made with high quality, flavorful hazelnuts, or create your own using simple tips and even enhance the flavor with hazelnut extract.
Further, if you're concerned about the task of peeling hazelnuts, fear not. A quick roasting process followed by gentle rubbing between kitchen towels helps remove the skins, allowing the hazelnuts to blend into a smooth and delicious paste.
More About Gelato
What sets gelato apart from traditional ice cream is its creamier, smoother, and denser texture. Thanks to lower fat and air incorporation, gelato delivers a more satisfying experience. Its higher milk solids content allows for a reduced sugar amount, while a slightly warmer serving temperature enhances the flavors.
For stabilizing the gelato base, corn starch is favored in the southern Italian tradition of hazelnut gelato. This ensures a pure hazelnut taste without any eggy notes.
Indulge in the sweet and nutty delight of hazelnut gelato. It's a true treat that will satisfy your cravings and transport you to gelato paradise.
To achieve the best hazelnut gelato, it's crucial to select the finest ingredients. Here's what you'll need.
- Hazelnuts: Use raw, high quality, shelled, and unsalted hazelnuts for exceptional flavor. You can find them online or at specialty stores, such as the toasted and skinned hazelnuts at Costco or plain toasted nuts at Trader Joes.
- Whole milk: The higher fat content of whole milk provides a rich and creamy texture for the gelato base.
- Sugar: This is essential for proper texture and taste, so you can’t lower this beyond a certain level.
- Corn starch: Acts as a natural stabilizer, ensuring the ideal thickness and creamy consistency.
- Heavy cream: The fat content in heavy cream enhances the richness and creaminess of the gelato, resulting in a smooth texture.
- Non-Fat Milk Powder: Softens the gelato and reduces ice crystals.
- A pinch of salt: Balances flavors and intensifies sweetness.
- Hazelnut extract: Adds depth and complexity to the gelato. You can easily find it online. Alternatively, try substituting with a couple drops of almond extract. Vanilla extract, however, doesn't enhance the nutty flavor.
- Unsweetened chocolate: I use high quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate bars.
- Instant Coffee Powder: Add this to the chocolate sauce for a deep and complex flavor.
- Caramel color: This is optional but you can add some of this to give a slight hint of tan color. Or simply caramelize sugar to make the coloring.
How to Make Hazelnut Gelato
**Here's a brief overview of the step-by-step process. For the complete recipe, please refer to the end of this blog post.
- Prep hazelnuts: Roast hazelnuts in the oven. Rub the hazelnuts between kitchen towels to remove the skins.
- Soak hazelnuts: Heat milk but do not let it boil. Add hazelnuts, stir, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Blend hazelnuts: In a high speed blender process the mixture.
- Strain the mixture: Pour the hazelnut milk through cheesecloth or a nut bag to remove any solids.
- Thicken the hazelnut milk: Do this only if nut milk is not thick like a flowing custard. Heat the hazelnut milk mixture and stir in corn starch-milk paste. Simmer until thickened, then let it cool.
- Add other ingredients: Stir in sugar, a pinch of salt, color (if using), milk powder, remaining milk, hazelnut extract, and heavy cream.
- Chill the mixture: Refrigerate the gelato mixture or use an ice bath to cool it.
- Freeze the gelato: Follow the instructions of your ice cream or gelato maker.
- Chocolate sauce: Warm the cream with instant coffee powder. Stir in the melted chocolate and hazelnut extract.
- Serve: Top gelato with the sauce and chopped nuts.
For the perfect hazelnut gelato, consider the following tips.
Roast and skin hazelnuts: Do this for a rich and robust flavor. Roasting will also add a slight tan color.
Avoid Excessive Blending: Household blenders may not produce a smooth hazelnut paste like commercial versions. Avoid over-blending, as it can result in a thick mixture that's hard to strain through a nut bag. Instead, blend the mixture until it is just shy of being too thick to pass through the nut bag. This will help you achieve a smoother texture without making the straining process difficult.
Chill the hazelnut-milk mixture overnight: This intensifies the nutty flavor as the hazelnuts release their maximum flavor potential and enhances the overall taste of the gelato.
Use corn starch for desired consistency: If the hazelnut milk is not naturally thick like a flowing custard, utilize corn starch to achieve the ideal texture.
How To Serve
Here are some serving suggestions for your hazelnut gelato. Thaw at room temperature or in the refrigerator to soften it before serving.
- Enjoy as is: Savor the rich and creamy hazelnut gelato on its own, allowing its indulgent flavor to shine.
- Toppings: Sprinkle roasted hazelnuts or crushed praline on top of the gelato to add delightful crunch and enhance the nutty flavor.
- Pair with accompaniments: Serve the hazelnut gelato with biscotti, pirouline cookies, cones, waffle cups, or wafers for a delightful contrast in textures.
- With chocolate sauce: Elevate your gelato experience by topping it with hot chocolate sauce. The combination of flavors and temperatures is simply divine.
- Garnish creatively: Try garnishing with whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings, caramel sauce, or dark chocolate sauce. The hint of bitterness from these toppings complements the sweetness of the gelato.
- Drizzle with homemade hazelnut sauce: Intensify the hazelnut flavor by drizzling more hazelnut sauce over the gelato, adding an extra layer of decadence.
This hazelnut gelato recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free, egg-free, low in sodium, and soy-free. Here are a few variations you can explore.
- Vegan/Dairy-Free: Substitute dairy milk with full-fat coconut milk from cans and replace heavy cream with plant-based alternatives. However, keep in mind that these products might impart slight additional flavors.
- Refined Sugar-Free: Experiment with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, as we did for the maple ice cream recipe. For a low-calorie, low-carb alternative that maintains creaminess, try using allulose, a natural sugar substitute that functions well in ice cream recipes.
- Other Flavors: Feel free to get creative with flavors. Explore options like adding caramel, coffee flavors as sauces, swirl of chocolate hazelnut spread, chocolate chips and such.
To make the process more convenient and efficient, consider using the following equipment.
- Ice Cream Maker: Opt for the ICE-100 Cuisinart model with a built-in compressor. This eliminates the need for freezing the bowl or chilling the mixture overnight.
- Ice Cream Container: Keep your gelato soft and prevent ice crystal formation by using double-walled Tovolo ice cream tubs.
- High-Speed Blender: Consider using a Vitamix for this recipe, as it effortlessly grinds nuts into a smooth paste. The thick mixture may not even need additional thickening. Alternatively, you can explore nut butter makers to achieve a super smooth nut paste at home.
- Nut Bag: A high quality nut bag, such as the one I use, is an excellent tool for quickly making nut milk at home. It is affordable and produces great results.
Here are some frequently asked questions about making hazelnut gelato.
You can store hazelnut gelato in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. To maintain its quality, place it in an airtight ice cream container and cover the surface with parchment paper to prevent ice crystal formation. If possible, store it in the door section of your freezer, where the temperature is slightly warmer.
If you have access to high-quality pre-made hazelnut butter, you can use it instead of making your own paste. Just ensure that it is smooth and free from any additional ingredients.
Yes, you can use roasted and lightly salted hazelnuts, but be cautious of the saltiness. Adjust the salt content in the recipe accordingly or consider skipping the additional salt.
While the result won't be exactly the same, you can try freezing the mixture in a shallow container. Stir the mixture every half hour to break up ice crystals until it reaches a creamy consistency.
An alternative method for a quick and easy hazelnut gelato is to whip 2 cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold in a can of condensed milk and stir in hazelnut paste. Freeze the mixture using an ice cream maker or the aforementioned freezer method.
Take 1½ tablespoons of milk in a small bowl and microwave for about 10 seconds until hot. Add 2 tablespoons Nutella and stir well until smooth.
More Hazelnut Recipes
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Hazelnut Gelato (Nocciola Gelato)
- 2 cups raw unsalted hazelnuts plus optional ¼ cup coarsely chopped
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 1 to 1½ tablespoons corn starch use only if needed, start with 1 tablespoon
- ½ to ⅔ cup sugar adjust per taste
- A pinch of salt
- 1 to 2 drops natural brown food coloring optional
- ¼ cup non-fat milk powder optional but recommended
- ½ teaspoon hazelnut extract or ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Prep hazelnuts: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread 2 cups hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the skins start to crack and nuts become fragrant, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Place the roasted hazelnuts between two layers of kitchen towels/paper towels and rub to loosen the skin. Pinch off any stubborn skin using your fingers. Tip: I use ready-made skinned hazelnuts from Costco and toast it for 8 minutes.
- Soak hazelnuts: In a medium saucepan, heat 2¼ cups milk over medium-high, but do not let it boil. Add hazelnuts (preferably coarsely chopped), stir, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Blend the hazelnuts: Transfer the mixture to a high-speed blender such as Vitamix, and blend at high speed until smooth, but don’t over-blend it or it will be difficult to strain it later. Tip: Alternatively, make hazelnut paste (see notes) and mix it with the milk, eliminating the need for straining later.
- Strain the mixture: Pour the hazelnut-milk mixture through cheesecloth or a nut bag to remove any solids. Stir occasionally to dislodge solids lining the cloth.
- Thicken the nut milk: Do this only if nut milk is not thick like a flowing custard. In a large saucepan, heat the hazelnut-milk mixture over medium-high, stirring constantly. Do not let it boil. Dissolve corn starch in ¼ cup plain milk until smooth. Lower the heat and whisk in the corn starch-milk mixture. Simmer until the mixture reaches a thin custard consistency or coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on an ice bath.
- Add other ingredients: Add sugar, a pinch of salt, color (if using), milk powder, remaining milk (if not used for thickening), and hazelnut extract until well combined. Adjust sugar to taste. Then stir in heavy cream.
- Chill the mixture: Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight, or use an ice bath for faster chilling.
- Freeze the gelato: Follow the ice cream maker's instructions to freeze the mixture.
- Chocolate Sauce: Warm the cream and instant coffee in a pan until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the melted chocolate until smooth. Add hazelnut extract and mix well.
- Serve: Scoop the ice cream into bowls and top with the chocolate sauce, then sprinkle the reserved chopped nuts.
- Store hazelnut gelato in the freezer for 2-3 months. Use an airtight ice cream container and place parchment paper on top to prevent ice crystal formation. If possible, store it in the door section of your freezer as the temperature is slightly warmer.
- For ingredient notes, expert tips, recommended equipment, variations, serving suggestions, recipe FAQs etc, refer to the blog post.
- Homemade hazelnut paste
- Prep the hazelnuts following step 1 above. In a food processor, pulse the skinned nuts until finely ground.
- Gradually add ½ cup sugar (or 1 cup powdered sugar) and 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (or vegetable oil), continuing to process until it becomes smooth and creamy. Adjust the oil as needed for desired consistency.
- Store the paste in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- Ready-made hazelnut paste is available online or at specialty stores. Buy a paste with over 45 percent hazelnuts and adjust the sugar in the recipe as those are already slightly sweetened.
- Gelato using hazelnut paste
- Take 2 cups milk and milk powder in a saucepan and heat at medium high, stirring often. Do not let it boil.
- Dissolve 1½ tablespoons corn starch in ½ cup milk and stir well until smooth. Lower the heat and whisk in the corn starch-milk mixture, stirring constantly. Simmer until it reaches a thin custard consistency or coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and cool on an ice bath.
- Whisk in hazelnut paste, one tablespoon at a time, until well combined. Stir in heavy cream, salt, and hazelnut extract (if using). Adjust sugar to taste.
- Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight, or use an ice bath for faster chilling.
- Follow the ice cream maker's instructions to freeze the mixture. Top with chocolate sauce and chopped nuts.
- Nutella sauce for topping: Take 1½ tablespoons of milk in a small bowl and microwave for about 10 seconds until hot. Add 2 tablespoons Nutella and stir well until smooth.
- Nutrition facts without chocolate sauce.