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What is a Tortoni?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A tortoni is a frozen dessert that is basically a very rich ice cream made using heavy cream, to which a number of different additions and toppings can be added. These toppings can be anything from chopped up candy bars, to diced cherries and small berries. Traditionally, chopped nuts such as toasted almonds are used in making the dish and the entire thing is frozen to a creamy consistency like ice cream. The Italian ice cream known as gelato is often used due to its richer, creamier texture and how that plays against the mixed in toppings. A tortoni can be fairly easily made in a home kitchen using regular ice cream and combining it with some heavy cream.

The dish is reportedly named for a man named Tortoni, who was an Italian café owner in Paris during the 19th century. His desserts were of such quality and great renown that this particular sweet offering continued to live on for over a century and bears his name as tribute to his flair for delicious dishes. Italian gelato is often used in making a tortoni since the creamy texture typically better compliments the mixture of chopped nuts and other added ingredients.

If gelato is not available, or someone would prefer to use ice cream already on hand, one easy way to make the dish is to use some heavy cream with regular ice cream. Any flavor of ice cream will work, though ice cream that is already rich in flavor such as dulce de leche or chocolate and caramel will often produce an even more decadent treat. The ice cream should be allowed to soften while heavy cream and some powdered sugar are beaten together until stiff peaks form, basically like a simple whipped cream. This is then combined with the softened ice cream and further beaten until the resulting mixture is smooth and even creamier than the original ice cream.

The mixture can then be folded together with any sort of chopped ingredients to create a tortoni. While chopped almonds and similar nuts are traditional, chopped cherries and other fruits can also create a delicious dessert. A tortoni made for children could include chopped up pieces of chocolate, cookies, candy bars, or even marshmallows. Someone making a tortoni for adults can even add some flavored liqueur during the mixing of the ice cream and heavy cream to create a delicious adult dessert.

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