Toasted Coconut-Chip Gelato

Darling Readers, I completely understand the polarizing effects of coconut. As with opinions on, oh, say, cilantro or Los Angeles, I wouldn't dream of trying to convert the haters. So if you're not on Team Coconut, then I'll catch you on the next post, no hard feelings. But if you're like me and your most recent personal battles involve resisting the urge to mow a sleeve of Samoas each morning for breakfast, then take my hand, and I will lead you to the ambrosial Promised Land of Coconut with this gem of a recipe. It will absolutely make your day.

Speaking of day-making developments, I recently was all puffed up with pride to learn that Food52 posted a write-up about this here site. I've been a rabid Food52 fan since its launch, and consider it to be one of the most inspired food sites out there, full of great, meticulously tested recipes and lots of forehead-smacking "why didn't I think of that?" ideas. Each week they hold a contest to pick the best recipe in a given category, and all the weekly winners will go into a cookbook to be published at the end of the year (ahem, 52 weeks...get it?). This gelato recipe was one of the weekly winners, and oh, man, it does not disappoint.

Okay, so I am all for the occasional teeny scoop of artisanal ice cream so rich and dense that you really can't handle more than a tiny portion. Eets ver-ee, oh, how do you seeeyyy....French. But my ideal ice cream is lighter, not too sweet, more milk than cream. Which is to say the kind of ice cream you can shovel into your face from a cereal bowl with a serving spoon. And this ice cream fits the bill. It's made with all whole milk, no cream, and the richness comes from egg yolks and lots and lots of shredded coconut.

The method of giving the ice cream base its dreamy coconut flavor was so interesting to me--you basically steep a bunch in the custard, and give it a good long rest in the fridge overnight before freezing it. Some ice cream batters you can sort of speed-chill before putting them in your ice cream maker and it works out fine, but for the best flavor in this recipe, the extra time to love up that custard with real coconut flavor is so worth it. A good hit of vanilla bean paste rounds the whole thing out.

Sidenote: Have I told you how I've developed an unnatural obsession with vanilla bean paste? Huge vanilla flavor, just huge. Gorgeous bean flecks everywhere. It's the most perfect marriage of vanilla extract and beans, without having to deal with scraping and storing pods that are so pricey and always tend to dry out faster than I can use them. I want to be buried with a jar of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. This has been an unsponsored love-fest endorsement from the Piece of Cake Kitchen. We will now return to the ice cream.

The best part is that its punched up at the end with an add-in of toasted coconut that gives an incredible depth of flavor and irresistible texture. And since I can't leave well enough alone, I threw in a handful of mini chocolate chips and now I can't imagine my life without having put them in there.

If you're like me and you prefer a high ratio of tasty bits to cream in your ice cream, then you will be in your element with this gelato. It's the absolute perfect thing to keep you feeling all blissful and summery during these "Is it spring? Is it winter? Oh, it's sunny! No, wait. WTF, RAIN?!" sort of times.

Toasted Coconut-Chip Gelato
Adapted from Food52 and Nicole Lang of Food Punk

The original recipe calls for all dessicated coconut, a very finely shredded unsweetened coconut that can be easily found at places like Whole Foods and other natural foods stores. I'm including that measurement here. I only had one cup dessicated coconut on hand, but a big thing of regular sweetened shredded coconut, so I used the sweetened coconut in the ice cream base and held back 1/4 cup of the sugar to account for the sugar in the coconut, and it turned out wonderfully. I imagine if you held back even more sugar, you could use all sweetened coconut in this recipe if it's all you have on hand, but I have to say it would be worth it to seek out the dessicated coconut for adding in at the end--its texture is so perfect in the finished ice cream.

Makes 1 generous pint

2 cups desiccated coconut
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 whole vanilla bean, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread one cup of the coconut in a small baking pan and toast it in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden brown stirring once or twice. Set aside.

Fill a large bowl with several inches of cold water and add ice. Set a smaller bowl over the ice bath. Make sure the water level isn't so high that water can get into the smaller bowl.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla bean paste. Stir in the remaining cup of untoasted coconut. Keep whisking occasionally as the custard warms and then comes just to a bubble and thickens. When it coats the back of a spoon and you can run your finger through the custard on the spoon and a track remains, its ready.

Pour the custard into the small bowl over the ice bath, and stir it often until the custard is cool to the touch. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Stir in the cup of toasted coconut and chocolate chips during the last few minutes of churning. Freeze in an airtight container.

FrozenShauna Sever