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Caramel Gelato with Dark Chocolate and Toffee Bits - Cucina DiPane

What is Gelato?

According to the Wikipedia definition, Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream. Gelato is made with milk, cream, some sort of sweetener, and flavoring. By English (American English?) standards, gelato is basically ice cream with little to no air. My brain stopped working when it came to reading the percentages of butterfat and sugar ratios and water as an anti-freeze, yada yada, etcetera, etcetera, blah, blah, blah. Let’s go with my definition. Gelato is Italian ice cream, it is heavy, dense, creamy and delicious and packs a ton of flavor per spoonful in your mouth. Sounds much more enticing doesn’t it? What can I say, I have a way with words.

I am a self-admitted Pinterest fanatic. I have probably pinned almost 3,000 pins on my personal account and  have probably PinTested less than 5% of them. So I kept on seeing all these pins for gelato, and FroYo and ice cream, and granitas, and sorbet…I just couldn’t take it anymore, I had to buy an ice cream maker. I was talking about my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer in the Mushroom, Olive and Pancetta Pizza post and I am going to talk about it again. It’s totally my baby. (Right after my real baby that came out of my uterus of course. TMI? Ok, sorry. TMI.) Aaaanyway, when I got the mixer, I was looking at the little pamphlet that listed all the available attachments that I could pimp my mixer out with, and guess what? IT HAS AN ICE CREAM MAKER ATTACHMENT! Lo and behold! Of course I looked on Amazon first and foremost because I have an Amazon Prime membership. (I could go on and on about Amazon Prime) $79.99! Eighty friggin’ dollars. Half the total price of my mixer. Read the reviews, 4-point-something out of 5, I guess it’s pretty popular. But I come across a review that talks about a comparable hand crank ice cream maker, called the Donvier. Do some more research, looks like it’s been around since the 80′s at least and it’s a well established product that hasn’t changed much over time. Simple design, high quality materials, loved through generations. That’s it. I’m sold. Once again, I search Amazon. It is $59.99 brand new. Sixty friggin’ dollars. For a hand crank ice cream machine. If anyone is noticing a pattern here, I am a cheapskate. A tightwad. Stingy, miserly, you name it! My solution is ALWAYS to try and find a used one in good condition. I am not a big fan of randomly contacting people on listing services and showing up to a house somewhere in the middle of nowhere. eBay is always a money saving option in my book. I found a used one, a retro 80′s one to be specific. How very hipster of me! Price including shipping ended up saving me about $36 compared to buying a brand new one. MWCWF complained that I was wasting my money, blah blah blah, that I would use it once or twice and let it collect dust, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada. Whatever. I work so I can contribute to supporting the family AND once in a while buy things to treat myself. And treat myself I did!


The Gelato

I found a great recipe for a vanilla base on Mangia Bene Pasta. I love that site! It screams authenticity! To me, anyway. Ingredients and methods are basic and simple…something I always look for. As with every recipe we use, we modify it to use whole and unprocessed ingredients. Well, as unprocessed as you can get on a budget. You get the picture. The original recipe called for 1 vanilla bean and just plain white sugar, but I didn’t have either.

Vanilla Gelato

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup raw cane/turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and sugar.Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

*Note: I am extremely impatient. My method of ‘chilling’ is to dump the mix into a container and sit it in an ice bath. And then I stuck it in the freezer while we were making Mushroom, Olive and Pancetta Pizza to make it chill faster. I stirred in the vanilla after it cooled.

Caramel Sauce

The original idea I had was to swirl some caramel in at the last minute and make it fancy, but I didn’t cook the sauce till it was thick enough. And I was also impatient so the caramel hadn’t cooled to room temperature. I only used 1/4 cup from the total yield of the sauce. So all the caramel blended into the vanilla gelato, turning it into caramel gelato. Mind you, this is the first time I’ve ever owned an ice cream maker. So the only thing I had on my mind was eating!

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup half and half (I only had fat free)
  • 4 tablespoons butter (I used salted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use ground pink Himalayan salt)

Melt sugar and butter in saucepan, whisk in half and half and salt. Cook on medium-low till mixture thickens and forms soft shapes. (I’m sure there’s an appropriate candy term for it but I have no idea what it is right now) Let mixture cool.

Mixing It Up

There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to why I chose to mix gelato, caramel, dark chocolate and toffee together. I have what I like to call “food fantasies”. I had been dreaming of gelato, caramel and dark chocolate with toffee bits separately. While getting ingredients for the base, I picked up a bar of chocolate on a whim. I love Ghirardelli! I lived in Northern California, in the East Bay when I was in college and one of the things I loved to do on my free days was to take BART to San Francisco and get a dark chocolate dipped waffle cone with strawberry ice cream at Ghirardelli Square. I really miss the Bay Area :)


I’m sure I could have broken the chocolate up in a better way, but I had this great idea of pounding the bar into bits with a meat mallet. I wrapped the chocolate up in wax paper, wrapped that up in a tea towel and went to town. I like how some of it was uneven and some of it was really fine, it looked cool and I assumed it would have a great variance of texture. Anyway, after all that, I decided it was time to pull out the frozen Chillfast cylinder from the freezer along with my gelato mix that was chilling nicely. I put together my Donvier, poured the mix in and proceeded to start cranking. I was really excited. At this point MWCWF comes over and very authoritatively announces that he thinks I’m making it wrong and that he should crank the handle. Which is basically Caveman Speak for “That looks like fun, I want to crank the handle of the cool looking retro ice cream maker but I’m NEVER going to admit it to my wife! ” We let my mini-me crank as well. It takes about 20 minutes total to make the gelato, cranking 2-3 times every 2-3 minutes. I waited till the end to add the caramel sauce that I was hoping would be a swirl but wasn’t and also the mallet-smashed chocolate.


I read somewhere that all ice cream/gelato/sorbet initially has a soft serve consistency right out of the maker and has to “ripen” or harden in the freezer for that more traditional/commercial texture. MWCWF couldn’t wait so I let him have some in a bowl. Mini-Me, fortunately, got distracted by Spongebob and forgot so we had a whole night to let it harden. We were able to finally have it the next day for dessert.



It was sweet but not overpowering, creamy and dense, smooth and velvety, with chunks of toffee and chocolate. Better than we imagined it could be. MWCWF and Mini-me combined ate half the quart. If you can feed it to your husband and kid and they demolish it within 5 minutes, consider it a success!



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