WHAT IS GELATO?
The words ‘gelato’ and ‘ice cream’ are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, this is not wrong, as ‘gelato’ is simply the Italian word for ice cream.
Yet they are actually two different things. Are you ready to find out more about gelato?
What is gelato?
Ask for a gelato in Italy, and you will indeed receive an ice cream. Yet ice cream in Italy is meant to be milky, dense, and cold. Most traditional ice cream is something altogether richer, and sweeter.
Gelato, however, is not a standard thing. It differs, depending on the region of Italy you find yourself in. And, even in Italy, there will be the truly artisanal and the disappointingly mass produced.
What is gelato made from?
All gelato is based on the properties of milk, rather than cream.
Sicilian gelato is made without eggs, and the further north in Italy you go, the richer the gelato becomes with the addition of eggs and/or cream.
But it is the milk that truly defines gelato.
The 3 Keys to Great Gelato
Gelato should have three qualities that set it apart. It should be milky. It should be dense. And it should be cold.
Wait a minute. Gelato should be cold? Well, duh. We know, it sounds crazy right? But gelato just FEELS colder than ice cream. Although served at higher temperatures than ice cream, it melts more slowly on the tongue and has a cooler cleaner feel. If that just sounds plain weird, then imagine drinking a glass of ice cold milk. Now imagine drinking a glass of ice cold cream.
Which pretty much covers the milky aspect too.
But what about dense? What does that mean? It simply means that gelato contains less air than ice cream, so is heavier for its volume. So sometimes if you think a scoop looks a little small, it really really isn’t.
And it is all because of the milk.
How is gelato made?
Ice cream and gelato are all created through the perfect alchemy of milk, fat, sugar and air. Frozen and churned simultaneously, it is a fine balancing act of these four things.
If any part of the equation is changed, then it throws the delicate balance out of whack. The more fat you have, then the more sugar you need. And then you need to freeze it colder and churn it faster, which introduces more air. And round it goes.
Because of its high milk ratio, gelato has less fat and less sugar, which means it can be churned at a slower rate, and less air is added.
What is the difference between ice cream and gelato?
Most ice cream recipes are built around cream and eggs to form a custard, which is then frozen and churned. As we have seen, this changes both the temperature and speed at which it is churned so it needs more air to form a stable emulsion.
Gelato, even when enriched with cream or eggs, is made with mostly milk. So it has less fat, less sugar, and less air than most ice cream.
This makes gelato heavier for its size in comparison to ice cream, so it feels creamy even with less fat. A greater proportion of densely packed ice crystals makes gelato super cool on the tongue, with a slow clean melt. Without out the fat to dull the taste buds, the flavours are brighter and more defined. Gelato is generally more refreshing than ice cream.
We make Danieli gelato in the Sicilian tradition, focusing on all natural ingredients and locally produced milk.
We do add a little cream to our recipe, for a slightly richer result, but do not use any eggs. This allows us to keep down the amount of sugar we use. Some of our flavours do include egg somewhere in the final recipe so they are not all egg-free.
All recipes are slightly different, but Danieli gelato contains roughly 6% fat and 15% sugar.