Cardamom gelato

Cardamom pods

Cardamom is perhaps the most intensely aromatic spice there is. The little silvery-green, papery pods that shelter the fragrant black seeds might not look so exotic, but break one open and your nostrils will be permeated by the most intoxicating scent. That first whiff of fresh cardamom seed is likely to make an unforgettable imprint on your mind.

A native of India, the cardamom plant is part of the ginger family. There are two genera: green cardamom (or “true cardamom”) and black cardamom. The most commonly available variety is green cardamom; that’s the one I used for today’s recipe.

As with all spices, it’s preferable to cook with whole cardamom pods, rather than the pre-ground kind, for the simple reason that the instant the seeds are exposed to air, they start to lose their precious fragrance.

To infuse the gelato, simply crush the cardamom pods and seeds with a mortar and pestle — a task that takes only a few minutes, and yet will make this gelato the most aromatic you’ve ever tasted. (Your kitchen will be infused with the heavenly scent too!)

In Indian cooking, cardamom is used to flavor desserts and drinks as well as savory dishes and, in some regions of India, the famous garam masala. (For an enticing garam masala recipe with cardamom, check out my September 2010 feature for Vegetarian Times.)

To me, cardamom is the most wonderful complement to fall fruits such as plums or pears. I often serve my cardamom gelato with roasted plums — but to be honest, it is also utterly delicious on its own. Served with a sprinkle of crushed, salted pistachios, each spoonful is likely to linger on your palate and in your imagination for some time to come.

Cardamom gelato

Cardamom gelato

makes 2 pints
active time: 20 min

  1. 1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
  2. 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  3. 3/4 cup organic sugar
  4. 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  5. 1/2 cup crème fraîche

  1. Step 1: Place the cardamom pods in a mortar. With the pestle, pound on the pods until they crack open and the seeds are released. Remove the pods and coarsely grind the seeds by moving the pestle in a circular motion. Set aside.
  2. Step 2: Place 3 cups of milk in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the milk reaches boiling point, add the cardamom seeds, reduce heat and fast-simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover pan and let stand for 15 minutes to infuse the milk. Strain milk in a fine sieve, discard the seeds and pour milk back in the pan.
  3. Step 3: Place the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Reheat infused milk over medium-high heat. As soon as the milk comes to a boil, quickly whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil again and then reduce heat to achieve a fast simmer. Continue whisking constantly for 5 to 6 minutes until the mixture has slightly thickened (it should be the consistency of heavy cream). Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer.
  4. Step 4: When the gelato is well chilled, whisk in the crème fraîche until well blended. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream or gelato maker and freeze according to the instructions of your machine. Transfer the gelato to a container and freeze for 2 to 3 hours before serving. (The gelato should have firmed up, but should still be a bit soft.)
  5. Cook’s note: The gelato will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks, but is best eaten the day it’s made. Remove from freezer and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes until softened before serving.

Cardamom pods

dessert, gelato, cardamon


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  3. Kay Stuntz

    We can’t decide whether we like this or the rosemary gelato better! Both so wonderful and subtle in flavor and go so well with the strawberry sorbet. A lovely 4th of July treat. I particularly like the smoothness of the cornstarch method of making the gelato. Now, on to peaches and apricots!!

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      Thank you, Kay! I’m absolutely delighted you’ve been exploring the gelato and sorbet recipes… Reminds me I should publish a few more – Ah!

      • Kay Stuntz

        Yes, please do. Can we adapt your gelato recipe for peaches that are ripe now? Perhaps with alcohol?

        • Viviane Bauquet Farre

          Hi Kay! Yes you can make gelato with peaches (or other stone fruits) – it is really, really good! Here’s a recipe:

          For the fruits
          1 lb very ripe peaches – unpeeled, pitted and cut in 1/2” pieces
          1/3 cup organic sugar
          1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
          1/2 teaspoon peach bitters (optional)
          1 to 2 tablespoons Cognac (or Brandy) to taste

          For the custard
          2 cups whole milk
          2” piece vanilla bean – split in half lengthwise
          1/2 cup organic sugar
          2 tablespoons cornstarch
          1/2 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche

          Place the peach pieces, sugar, lemon juice and cognac in a bowl. Stir well and macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then Place the peach mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely puréed. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold. Make the gelato base as per the recipe above and churn. Once churned, stir the chilled peaches into the gelato base only a few times, so it looks like swirls. Freeze until ready to serve. Enjoy and let me know how you like it!

          • Thanks, Vivianne. The swirl method sounds really good so the fruit flavor doesn’t get lost. I’m going to try it with nectarines and will be back with the results!

          • Oops! Only after taking the gelato out of the churn to fold in the fruit puree did I realize I should have left it in the churn to combine! I do have a lovely mild fruit (I used nectarines) gelato waiting for dinner, however–yum! Thank you!

          • Viviane Bauquet Farre

            Kay, my apologies for the late reply. I’m delighted your gelato turned out “yummy”. Combining the fruit by hand is fine too. Thank you so much for all your wonderful updates!

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  5. Delicious. I made this last week, and my fiancee loved it (and is requesting it again, actually). I did make minor changes, though- I upped the cardamom by a lot (I made 1.5 quarts, so I multiplied the recipe by 1.5). Instead of 1 1/2 tablespoons, I used 2 1/2 tablespoons, ground them and kept them in the mixture the entire recipe. It led the flavor to be REALLY cardamom heavy, so if you’re not that big into it, not for you. But, that much cardamom lends a eucalyptus-like menthol-y flavor, which is really tasty. Good stuff.

    • Tony, thank you for your comment and for letting me know about your gelato adventures. I must tell you though that I test the recipes numerous times before I publish them and always recommend that you should make it as written the first time around. Balance of flavors and finesse is always my goal and I try to deliver this is every recipe I publish. Happy gelato making and eating!

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  7. This just sounds so good! A must try.

  8. Wow, this looks so good! I usually make a Chai Masala Vanilla infused ice cream, but cardamom on it’s own would be good too.

  9. Oh my gosh, I MUST make this. I LOVE cardamom!

  10. I love cardamom. I bet it’s fabulous in a gelato. The pistashios make it especially appealing to me. And with plums and cognac-yum! Bookmarking. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Delicious. Love the pistachio garnish.

  12. Cardamom sounds amazing with ice cream! Thanks for sharing this. Gotta say, I love your blog, have been visiting silently for a while now 🙂 Keep up the good work…

  13. Cardamom really is a unique, special spice. This is a wonderful way to use it – what a treat!

  14. The cardamom must really make this special – and the addition of the pistachios! Thanks for sharing.

  15. What a fantastic and unique gelato. Cardamom is one of those spices that is so wonderful and exotic. I must make this!!! Thank you for sharing.

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