Fior di Latte: A simple gelato recipe
Fior di latte is perhaps the simplest, purest ice cream of all. It’s a Sicilian gelato and fior di latte translates from Italian as “flower of milk”. Or “the best of the milk”.
And that’s all it is: a sweetened, milky ice cream. No eggs. No vanilla. Nothing but milk, cream and sugar.
I’ve seen it described as “monastically simple”. And while there is something quietly spiritual about those soft, white waves, there should be nothing austere about this gelato.
Thick, dense and creamy, as long as it’s not too sweet there’s a whole load of complex dairy flavors to explore here.
For many, a Fior di latte is the best test of a gelato shop. I suppose because any shortcuts an inferior gelateria might try to hide behind other flavors will be starkly apparent in their Fior di latte!
And that’s why it such a great place to start when you start learning to make ice cream. You can really concentrate on finding a balance of sweetness and creaminess and a texture and body that work for you.
I recommend making it again and again and again!
In this Fior di latte recipe I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible. So I’ve tried to keep the ingredients to a minimum and the preparation as straightforward as possible. Let’s have a look at each ingredient in more detail:
In this recipe I’m using 3.5% full fat milk. You could use semi-skimmed or even skimmed. But then you’d need to adjust the recipe.
This because when the milk is combined with the cream, we’re looking for a 7% total fat content. So if you use lower fat milk, you’ll need to use a higher proportion of cream.
Why 7%? Any less and it starts to taste a bit “hard” and “metallic” to me. And the sweetness is accentuated so it can start to taste like candy. Any more and the creaminess can leave a slightly cloying aftertaste.
Although it’s called Fior di latte, every recipe I’ve ever seen contains some amount of cream. And as I mention above, with too little cream it starts to taste a little “hard” to me.
There is in fact a variation called Fior di panna (“flower of cream”, obviously). But it’s not clear to me at what point the amount of cream means it’s a Fior di panna rather than a Fior di latte!
Anyway I’m using 36% fat cream. You can of course use cream with a different fat content. Just be aware that you won’t get the 7% fat that I’m aiming for without adjusting the recipe.
Most ice cream tastes far too sweet to me. But we don’t use sugar just for the sweet taste. It also keeps the ice cream thick and soft and stops it getting icy. So we can’t just use less sugar when we want a less sweet ice cream.
What we can do, however is use different types of sugar. This is because different sugars have different levels of sweetness. So here we use a combination of table sugar (sucrose) and the less sweet dextrose.
Dextrose (also called Glucose) is only 3/4 as sweet as table sugar. So if we replace some table sugar with dextrose we still get all the structural benefits of sugar, but the ice cream will be less sweet.
Dextrose also reduces the freezing point of water more than table sugar, which means our ice cream will be softer too!
Locust Bean Gum
With no eggs to emulsify and stabilize this low fat gelato, we need to add something else to thicken the ice cream and stop it becoming icy and coarse.
Fior di latte gelato probably originates in Sicily and is essentially a frozen crema rinforzata which is a sweet milk pudding, thickened with cornstarch. And we could use cornstarch here.
But it’s a little bit more difficult to make Fior di latte with cornstarch. And more importantly, I’ve never managed to do it without being able to taste the cornstarch in the final gelato.
Locust Bean Gum works in the same way as cornstarch but is much more effective, much easier to use and most importantly: adds no discernible taste to the final gelato!
You probably won’t be able to find it in your local supermarket. But it’s widely available online, it lasts for ages and as we’ll see, a little goes a long way.
OK, the recipe…
Fior di Latte Gelato
- 402 grams Milk (3.5% fat)
- 86 grams Cream (32% fat)
- 48 grams Table Sugar
- 48 grams Dextose
- 3 grams Locust Bean Gum (1 ¼ teaspoons)
Making the mixture
- Add the table sugar and the dextrose to a deep saucepan.
- Add the Locust Bean Gum to the saucepan. Unless you have specialized scales, it will be difficult to weigh 3 grams accurately. So, 3 grams is about the same as 1 ¼ compact teaspoons.
- Use a fork to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients. This part is really important. If the Locust Bean Gum isn't thoroughly mixed into the rest of the dry ingredients before you add the milk, it won't work properly.
- Add the milk to the saucepan and warm over a medium heat, stirring all the time to dissolve the dry ingredients.
- Keep stirring and checking the temperature with a digital cooking thermometer until the mixture reaches 185° F / 85° C.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool to about 149° F / 65° C.
- Then add the cream and blitz for a couple of minutes with a hand blender.
- Transfer to a bowl and when the mixture stops steaming, cover with cling film and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Put the bowl in the fridge until it the mixture cools to at least 45° F / 7° C. You'll get the best results if you leave it overnight.
- Place the container that you'll use to store the ice cream in the freezer. This will pre-chill it, so it's less likely to melt the ice cream when you're transferring it from the machine to the freezer.
Spinning the ice cream
- Remove the mixture from the fridge and give it another quick blitz with a hand blender.
- Turn on your ice cream maker and add the mixture.
- After around 20 minutes the mixture should have thickened up and have a texture like soft serve ice cream.
Freezing the ice cream
- As quickly as possible, transfer the mixture to the pre-chilled container and put it at the back of the freezer where it's coldest.
- After around 1 hour, the ice cream will have hardened up and be perfect for eating. It doesn't keep well though and will start to deteriorate after just one night in the freezer. So eat it quickly!