Hello my friends, how are you?
I am living a wonderful adventure right now. No, it’s not me in the middle of the river. It’s my friend Diana Baur, artist, writer and potter extraordinaire who has just arrived here at Alla Madonna del Piatto for our long awaited Fire and Food tour.
We spent the morning walking in the lush Franciscan woodlands – down the road from us – looking for an inspiring place for meditation. After a solid month of rain, nature seemed to be singing all around us. The river, the trees, the wildflowers, all was brilliant and alive. Our guests will be joining us in a couple of days and we can’t wait to share all this beauty. River crossing is optional 🙂
In anticipation of the event, my house is literally stuffed with food. We’ll have a cooking class as well as various other opportunities to share all sort of treats. Diana has arrived with a car full of fine wines and other delights from Piemonte. And of course we have a line up of tastings and meals at some of our favorite places in Assisi and neighboring hill-towns.
I am also planning to make gelato and offer it after dinner on the terrace. Sunset is long and mellow at this time of the year. We will celebrate the end of the day during which our guests will experience pit firing of ceramics in our garden. A magical process.
And speaking about magic, did you know that licorice (or liquorice) imparts a most unusual and exotic flavor to gelato?
If you have never tasted high quality licorice, you might have a bad memory of black spongy candy tasting like soap. Don’t be discouraged! That has no resemblance to the complexity of proper licorice.
In Italy, licorice is highly appreciated for its intense aroma, its natural sweetness and also because of the anti-inflammatory and anti-stress benefits. Some of the best licorice in the world is grown in Calabria and available as root sticks, powder, liqueur, tea, mixed with chocolate and fruity preserves. There is a world of flavors to explore.
Gelato is probably the least intimidating way to experience pure licorice. The combination of low temperature and cream tones down the intensity and allows to appreciate nuances of coffee, chocolate and mint. The result is quite heavenly.
- 1 tablespoon (12 gr) pure sugarless licorice chips
- 100gr (1/2 cup) white sugar
- 250 ml (1 cup) whipping cream
- 200 ml (4/5 cup) full fat milk
- 1 pinch salt
Pure licorice does not melt quickly, so make sure to allow enough time to soak the licorice tablets/chips in milk. To speed up the process, blend the licorice and sugar in a food processor at high speed until the chips are reduced to coarse dust.
In a medium saucepan warm the milk, sugar and the licorice. Bring to a simmer, remove the pan from heat, cover and let the mixture cool and rest for a few hours or overnight. The next day add cream and blend again to obtain a smooth mixture.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This will shorten the churning time.
When ready to churn, strain any undissolved bits of licorice and use them as a decoration on top of the gelato, if you like.
Process the creamy mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately or keep in the freezer until ready to serve.
I hope you will make this gelato and enjoy it too on a terrace while gazing at a mellow sunset.
And if you’d rather come here to share a sunset and gelato, please drop us a note. We still have place in our Olive Harvest tour next October. We also can help you planning un unforgettable stay in Umbria whenever you decide to come to see us atop our magical mountain.