(This article appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
After a long spring spent mostly indoors, we’re all looking forward to summer and the opportunity to serve dessert customers again. Although we’re unsure what that might look like, we can hope that the dessert walk-up window and to-go sales will be part of that mix. I have been working with Chicago artisan gelato makers Vero on some summer gelato flavors inspired by classic American desserts to kick-off the season: Strawberry Shortcake, Key Lime Pie and Coffee and Doughnuts.
An American dessert dating back to 1847 or so, strawberry shortcake has evolved a lot over the years. Shortcake, biscuits and scones are common, but a bit heavy to include inside a gelato, so we opted for vanilla sponge cake. This version includes fresh strawberry preserves made with sugar, pectin, lemon zest and vanilla. The whipped cream is replaced by a sweet vanilla cream gelato base, with a generous amount of fresh strawberries blended into the base. As the strawberry gelato is extracted from the batch freezer, vanilla sponge that has been cut into cubes is folded in along with the fresh strawberry preserves.
Key lime pie originated in the Florida Keys in the 1850’s, and has grown from a local dessert to an American staple. Nearly synonymous with summer, egg yolks, condensed milk and lime juice comprise the custard filling which is topped with whipped cream or meringue. This was one of the more difficult formulations to achieve, as initial test batches lacked the richness of an actual key lime pie. After adding egg yolks and two types of lime juice, the mix started to reveal the richness and tart edge we were looking to replicate. We folded in toasted graham cracker crust and marshmallow fluff to replicate meringue to complete the gelato.
The cheapest and most appreciated of American ‘meals’ might just be coffee and doughnuts. From gas stations to diners to the highly elevated elegance served at French Laundry and Per Se, hot brewed coffee and sugar-fried doughnuts is a staple coast-to-coast. Our gelato infuses fresh roasted 100% Brazilian Arabica coffee beans into a milk gelato base balanced with heavy cream and sugar. We grind the coffee beans into the base and strain before processing in the batch freezer. As the coffee gelato is removed from the machine, we fold in old fashioned doughnut pieces, thin chocolate pieces and a light drizzle of caramel. Not only is ‘Coffee and Doughnuts’ delicious as a scoop, true coffee lovers use this gelato as a base for an affogato.
As pastry professionals, we know that memories inspire dessert selections. By offering customers gelatos patterned after classic American desserts, we can help put the fun back into summertime. Until next time, stay safe and keep creating!
Jimmy MacMillan is a celebrated pastry chef, food writer and award-winning videographer. Chef MacMillan is a pastry consultant working under the Pastry Virtuosity label. For more information, visit www.PastryVirtuosity.com and @jimmymacmillan.