Chimney Sweep’s Gelato

So here’s something that’s bound to make my fall a whole lot more fun and fattening…eggless, machine-less homemade ice cream. Sarah and Jess, two guest directors in Cow Head this summer, found a random recipe online for this crazy easy ice cream that shocked me when I tasted it. Crazy because I couldn’t believe how few ingredients were in it, and crazy because I knew then and there that I would need to buy new pants.

Jess and Sarah made their first batch with bananas and walnuts, Didi tried her first with mangos and marshberries. They were both too good to be believed and I knew I had to try this out on my own. I found the perfect recipe in one of Little Red Chicken’s kitchen bibles, The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook. In the Italy chapter. Chimney sweep’s gelato (gelato spazzacamino…ooh, pretty) calls for homemade gelato or “a premium-quality bought vanilla ice cream”. Knowing I wouldn’t find the latter down at the Riteway, I decided this was the right time to make my first batch of homemade ice cream. Three ingredients: 500 ml of whipping cream. 1 can of sweetened condensed milk. 1 vanilla pod. Hello track pants.

Here’s the thing about sweetened condensed milk. When you open up a can, everything in the world gets a little bit better. I’m convinced there’d be peace in the Middle East if they just went around and let everyone stick their finger in a can and lick it. Some of my favourite food memories are attached to this stuff. From Nan Kean’s carmel tarts (who knew homemade dulche de leche was a tradition in Pound Cove too) to that little sweet white stripe in the bottom of a clear glass of hot coffee in Cambodia. It’s used everywhere, it’s loved everywhere, it’s perfect. It’s so bad for you. Who cares.

This is what you do. Whip the whipping cream until it has a bit of shape to it, you don’t necessarily need stiff peaks. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk. Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the tiny seeds using the back of a knife and throw those in. Give everything a good stir, making sure you squash any little clusters of seeds you come across…one tiny dark cluster will burst into hundreds of little seeds, it’s kind of really something. You can substitute the vanilla pod with one teaspoon of vanilla extract if you’re stuck, but man oh man, you have to splash out at least once and try one of these things. It will make you want to fire all your little bottles of artificial vanilla extract out of a cannon. Don’t throw out the pod when you’re done, it still has a ton of flavour. Some people use them to flavour vodka…I’m not a vodka girl myself ever since that episode with the lawn chair and the White Russians, so I use them to flavour little bowls of sugar instead. Stick the scraped out pod in a container of white sugar and give it a poke and a stir to release as much flavour as you can. That particular container might need to come with a word of warning however, as the vanilla pod will look like a praying mantis in your sugar bowl. Make sure nanny knows this before she has her tea.

Put the ice cream mixture in the freezer and stir it every hour or so until it’s completely frozen. I don’t think the type of container matters, I used a plastic bowl with a cover. It’s best left overnight, especially if you like your ice cream hard. Just try to get in a few good stirs before you leave it to harden completely. As easy and as dangerous as that.

Chimney Sweep’s Gelato
(Gelato Spazzacamino)

This simple yet unexpectedly wonderful dessert can be made using homemade gelato, or equally well using a premium-quality bought vanilla ice cream. For each portion of vanilla gelato or ice cream, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of finely ground espresso coffee over the top. Pour on 1 tablespoon of whiskey or bourbon and serve immediately.

From The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook
(Bay Books, 2005)

And that friends, is how you impress the hell out of guests at a dinner party. Homemade or not, if you make sure you have a good quality ice cream, you can’t really go wrong. Make sure your espresso is finely ground, and just as freshly ground beans work best for coffee, same goes for this dessert. Admittedly, this ice cream recipe is pretty sweet and rich (I know, weird) so the bite of the whiskey and coffee counter it perfectly. Even people who don’t like espresso or hard booze (I know, weird) will give this a go to be adventurous. Just tell them it’s how the Italians do it and everyone will be game.

This recipe is dedicated to my friend Robert, who loves Jameson whiskey more than anyone I know. And who came to Cow Head for a visit and left a full bottle of it at the house. We patiently await his next visit.

I’m curious about the bourbon and in googlings of similar recipes, I came across a version called Jamaican chimney sweep’s gelato that uses rum instead of whiskey. Umm…you may come across an alternate definition for Jamaican chimney sweep in your google search. The recipe you are looking for does not require a sock and a handstand, so consider yourself warned.

I’m thinking of bananas in the homemade ice cream, with the espresso and rum on top. It worked beautifully for Jess and Sarah with the walnuts, so I imagine booze and coffee would only compliment that combination. Maybe not. I’m planning several experiments. They might not all work, but I’ll have a lot of fun trying them out.

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9 thoughts on “Chimney Sweep’s Gelato

  1. I’m leaving the house (as soon as I finish pressing the send button) and getting myself more vanilla pods…..Wish me luck!

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