One of the last most memorable desserts I've had -- besides all six courses at Harvest and the affogato at Steel & Rye -- was the olive oil coppetta at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria in New York. The coppetta or "cup" offered a balance of creamy, savory olive oil gelato; fresh, bright tangerine sorbet; tangy-sweet candied kumquats; and vibrant blood oranges. Upon finishing the last bites of the dessert, I knew I wanted to re-create it at home, and I knew I wanted to do it when winter citrus was still abundant.
I started by researching each component of the dessert. I found an olive oil gelato recipe from Williams-Sonoma that was inspired by the one in The Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali. (Otto is one of Batali's restaurants.) I turned to The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz for the tangerine sorbet, as I've had great success with his ice cream and sorbet recipes in the past. And The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman provided instructions for candying kumquats. Armed with all these recipes, I created a shopping list and headed to Whole Foods. I felt as though I was cleaning out the whole citrus section as I bagged up more than a dozen honey tangerines, added two containers of kumquats to my cart, and gathered some blood oranges.
Back in my kitchen, I assembled my ingredients and came up with a plan of attack. The kumquats would be first because they could be made in advance and be stored in the fridge for weeks (not that I planned on taking that long to put together the rest of the dessert). The tangerine sorbet would be next because of its simplicity, and the gelato would be last so I could give it undivided attention and make sure I didn't overcook it or ruin it in some other way.
Candying kumquats proved incredibly simple. I sliced the small citrus fruits and combined the slices with sugar, water, and corn syrup; brought it all to a boil; and then simmered the slices until they became translucent. Then I set them aside off the heat to cool and covered them and put them in the fridge.
The tangerine sorbet was a little more taxing as I halved and squeezed a dozen tangerines to get the requisite 3 cups of juice. With that accomplished, I combined a little of the juice with sugar, heated it to allow the sugar to dissolve, and stirred the sweetened juice back in with the rest of the freshly squeezed juice along with some tangerine zest. I transferred the whole mixture to the fridge to chill.
Then came the gelato. I broke into the stash of olive oil that we had brought back from Italy. In order for this dessert to work, each component had to be full of flavor, and I knew this olive oil would be just the thing to enhance the creamy gelato.
Gelato is a bit more complicated than sorbet. I had to heat milk and cream in a saucepan while whipping egg yolks and sugar in the stand mixer. Then I had to drizzle the olive oil in with the mixer running, making sure it all got nicely incorporated. Next came tempering. I slowly added a portion of the hot milk and cream to the egg mixture (if you add it all at once, the eggs are sure to cook and ruin the gelato). With the egg mixture tempered, I added it to the rest of the hot milk and cream in the pan and brought the whole mixture to 175 degrees. I got a little worried at this point. I hadn't made ice cream in a very long time but I remembered the custard being much thicker, so I proceeded to use three different thermometers to make sure the mixture was actually at the right temperature. It was, so I poured it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and set the bowl in an ice bath. With occasional stirring, the custard was soon cool enough to transfer to the fridge, where I stored it overnight.
I turned back to the tangerine sorbet. The juice mixture was plenty cold enough to churn in the ice cream maker by this point, so I transferred it to the ice cream maker and did just that. Once it was thick and icy, I scraped it into a bowl, pressed plastic wrap on the surface, and put it in the freezer.
The next morning, I churned the gelato in the ice cream maker (it helps to have two canisters for your ice cream machine in order to churn the sorbet and gelato close together). It wasn't looking very smooth, which caused me some further concern. However, I needn't have worried. After I finished churning the gelato, I stored it in the freezer (with plastic wrap pressed against its surface) for the day, where it awaited its debut as that night's dessert. It was perfectly creamy when I served it.
To assemble the whole dessert, I scooped gelato into mini trifle dishes, topped the scoops of gelato with smaller scoops of tangerine sorbet, spooned candied kumquats into the dishes, and adorned the dessert with halved blood orange segments.
It was every bit as good as I remembered it -- like an adult version of a Creamsicle, with elevated flavors. If olive oil gelato sounds odd to you, try it before you knock it. Something about its robust, savory notes combined with sweet, creamy gelato just works, and so does pairing it with tangerine sorbet, oranges, and kumquats, which add bright, balancing flavors. So often during the winter, I simply look forward to summer fruits and vegetables, but this dessert makes me grateful for winter citrus and really showcases what it's capable of.
Olive Oil Coppetta With Tangerine Sorbet, Candied Kumquats, and Blood Oranges
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12 ounces (2 cups) kumquats, ends trimmed, remaining fruit sliced and deseeded
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
3 cups honey tangerine juice, plus zest from 1 tangerine (you'll need about 12 honey tangerines)
3/4 cup sugar
Olive Oil Gelato
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use the good stuff!)
Blood oranges (plan on 1/2 orange per serving)
Combine kumquat slices, sugar, water, and corn syrup in small saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until kumquats appear translucent, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer cooled kumquats and syrup to bowl, cover, and refrigerate. (They'll keep for several weeks.)
Combine 1/2 cup tangerine juice and sugar in small saucepan. Warm over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir syrup and tangerine zest back into remaining tangerine juice. Transfer mixture to fridge to chill thoroughly.
Transfer to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's directions. Transfer sorbet to bowl, press plastic wrap against its surface, and freeze until firm.
Olive Oil Gelato
In saucepan over medium heat, combine milk and cream. Cook until bubbles just form around edge of pan.
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed until thick and tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and drizzle in olive oil. Beat until combined, scraping bowl as necessary.
Pour 2 cups of hot milk and cream mixture into 2-cup liquid measuring cup. With mixer on medium-low speed, drizzle in 1/4 cup mixture at a time, making sure it's incorporated before continuing. Slowly pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the rest of the hot milk and cream mixture and whisk to combine.
Place pan over medium-high heat, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches 175 degrees, about 15 minutes.
Pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer set in large bowl. Place bowl in ice bath (a larger bowl or roasting pan filled with ice and water), and let mixture cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Transfer to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's directions. Transfer gelato to bowl, press plastic wrap against its surface, and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.
To serve, segment blood oranges and halve segments. (Use about 1/2 blood orange per dish.) Using ice cream scoop, place scoop of gelato in each dish. Using small or medium cookie scoop, top the gelato with scoop of tangerine sorbet. Arrange some halved blood orange segments and kumquats, along with some of their syrup, in each dish, and serve.
Have you had any really amazing winter citrus desserts lately?