As you may or may not know I am partners of Twisted by Sotto Zero. I figured now, being the summer, would be a fun time to share some thoughts about the world of gelato.
The difference between gelato and ice cream. Gelato has less fat than ice cream (3% to 9% to ice cream’s 10% to 16%), contains less air (gelato has 35% to 40% air, ice cream as much as 90%) and is served at a higher temperature. As a consequence the intensity of the flavor of gelato hits your palate faster than the flavor intensity of ice cream.
Ice cream is very hard and not too creamy. Gelato is creamy and not hard.
Though most ice creams require hardening after freezing, gelato can be eaten when first squeezed out of the grate of the mantecatore — the freezing machine used for commercial gelato making.
The best gelato is the one that comes directly out of the machine, so gelato is always eaten fresh
The finished product is visibly different from ice cream. Gelato has a matte surface. You don’t want it to be shiny, as this would reflect on an amount of water that still needs to be frozen. Overall it looks dry. … A good structure is one that holds the peak like a meringue. Texture-wise, it has got to look smooth, like a silk fabric.
Gelato is a balance between water and other ingredients like sugars, fats, milk solids and fruit. The aim of Italian gelato is that it is low fat, low sugar and low calorie. It is possible to make strawberry gelato with only strawberries, sugar and water — no more.
In fact, such a gelato was created during the class. Though sherbet and sorbet can have a grainy texture and tart taste, the gelato alla fragola was so creamy you’d swear it contained milk — but it didn’t, just as it didn’t leave a sugary aftertaste on the tongue. Similarly, a milk-based strawberry gelato, or fior di fragola, had the same strawberry burst but an even creamier back flavor.
A balanced cream-based gelato begins with a base. The simplest is a white base, which essentially is made of sugar and cream. Cocoa or egg yolks can be added, depending on the recipe. Commercial gelatos usually use a stabilizer such as guar gum, which ensures that fats stick together in sub-zero temperatures. That’s not necessary for homemade gelatos.
Another difference between homemade and commercial gelatos is the type of sugar added. At home, granulated sugar works just fine, but at the gelateria, they’ll use a mixture of granulated sugar, dextrose and sucrose, a combination that gives less sweetness to the gelato and keeps it softer and easier to spread.
Once the base is mixed, it can be heated to 185 degrees,”pasteurization” — for sanitation and to improve the flavor. Then it is chilled in a standard refrigerator for three hours to two days. The time after pasteurization and before freezing as the “aging process,” which serves to enhance flavor.
When enough time has passed, you simply combine the base with the flavor, such as strawberries, mix again with a blender and then freeze. For home preparation, Racca recommends keeping the freezing simple. Hand-whipping the mix in an aluminum bowl set over a mix of salt and ice produces satisfying results. Once the gelato starts to get creamy, you can put it in your freezer to finish it. Ideally, gelato should be kept at 5 degrees.
How do you know if you have a “good” gelato? You don’t “chew” it. It’s softer than ice cream, but not so soft that it melts.
Those who have traveled to Italy are familiar with the numerous gelaterie that tempt passersby with curvaceous mounds of multicolored gelati. Normally, gelato, which is chemical-free, is produced and replenished throughout the day. Since it is made with fresh ingredients, it can’t really sit around in the freezer. To be at its best, gelato should be eaten at least within two days of being made.
Stay tuned for my adventures om making gelato on a daily basis with my new machine that comes in a few days!
Fire it up!