Do you often find yourself hungry for a frozen dessert? If the answer is yes, then you definitely heard about gelato before. You’ll find this amazingly appetizing dessert at your local supermarket, neatly packed and available in different of flavors, alongside the more ubiquitous ice cream. Yes, you’ve guessed it right: gelato is quite similar to ice cream, but it has a different recipe and cultural background. Let’s delve into it and learn more.
How is Gelato Made?
The process of making gelato has evolved over the centuries. During the Renaissance, gelato had a slightly different recipe than what you’ll normally find today. Egg yolks were often used as a basic ingredient and as a stabilizer. Sugar and milk (sometimes water, for special recipes) were added together into a large pan or bowl. The mixture was then heated and mixed with various flavors, such as vanilla, fruit or cocoa. The resulting cream was then chilled and batched. The batching process was crucial to gelato making, as it helped aerate the mixture, making it smooth, dense and fluffy. This ancient process is no longer used by modern gelato makers, as the final product had a short shelf life.
The Hot Process
Some modern gelato makers use the Hot Process, invented in the early 1920s. The main element of this process is pasteurization. The mixture is heated to approximately 85 degrees Celsius (185 F) for 5 seconds than chilled rapidly to 5 degrees Celsius (41 F). During this process, the stabilizers and emulsifiers perform better, and the bacteriological safety of the product is guaranteed. Once the pasteurization is complete, the mixture is transferred into a batch freezer. Here, the gelato is slowly chilled while being stirred, in order to incorporate the air into the final mixture. Flavors and food coloring are also added during this step. The process becomes easier if you are using a complex machine for making gelato, which has both the pasteurizer and the batch freezer into a single unit. The Hot Process is widely used in the gelato industry because it gives more flexibility to the recipes and guarantees a longer shelf life for the final product.
The Cold Process
The Cold Process is a simpler way of making gelato, mainly because it doesn’t require pasteurization. The ingredients are shipped and packaged as bacteriologically safe, saving a lot on costs and space requirements. During the Cold Process, the ingredients are placed into the batch freezer and can be served in a matter of minutes. The shelf life is shorter, but the final product is easier to make.
The Sprint Process
This newer process is the quickest way to make your own gelato. Just pour a liquid ingredient (either water or milk) on a premixed container (which already includes the required ingredients), place it into a batch freezer and you are ready. The sprint process is ideal for small gelato shops and restaurants, as it allows little room for error and the end result is very good.
Where was Gelato Invented?
Frozen desserts were very popular during the Ancient period. Both Sumerian and Egyptians loved their “fruity snow” desserts which were often sweetened with honey. Although only royalty had access to them, recipes were diverse and well documented. Ancient Romans also served frozen desserts, similar to modern gelato, and extensive pits were created to produce and store the ice during summer. In the Middle Ages, frozen desserts have disappeared, and the recipes were lost in Europe. However, in Asia, they remained popular. Chinese imperial cooks taught Arab traders how to create desserts from snow and syrup. These iced desserts quickly made their way to Venice and then to Sicily, where a recipe for a dessert made with snow, sugar, milk and various fruity flavors was created.
According to various historical records, gelato, as we know it today, first appeared in the 16th century. Although already popular in royal courts, gelato was sold to the commoners almost a century later, in the 1650s. By the late 17th century, gelato was served across France, namely at Cafe Procope in Paris, but also in other larger cities. Gelato, however, continued to evolve in mainland Italy, becoming more refined, diverse and smooth. The recipes were passed from father to son up until the early 20th century. Gelato was soon brought to new parts of the world, as Italian gelato makers emigrated and established new shops and restaurants.
What is Gelato made of?
Just like ice cream, gelato is a frozen dairy dessert made primarily from a base of milk. Cream (the fatty part of milk) and sugar, as well as flavors, are key ingredients. While ice cream has at least a 10% fat content, gelato is primarily made with milk, making it lower in fat. The same goes for eggs: ice cream usually calls for egg yolks, while gelato rarely uses them. Gelato is often flavored with real fruit, vanilla or cocoa.
Where can I learn to make Gelato professionally?
Interested in learning how to make this amazing frozen dessert at home? Luckily, there are some gelato artisans like Andrea Stortini and his School Gero Gelato willing to teach their secrets to the public. Schools like Gero Gelato with locations in Valencia Spain and Rome Italy are some of the few professional entities that will guide you throughout the entire gelato making process. You’ll learn all about its history, ingredients, flavoring, aeration, serving and how it all goes together. Courses include gelato making, frozen cakes, handmade popsicles, Italian semi-cold creatives and many more.
Why is Gelato healthier?
Gelato is generally considered to be healthier than American style ice cream. Typically, gelato has 70 percent less fat than ice cream and uses natural ingredients. A typical 3.5 oz serving of ice cream has 125 calories and 7 grams of fat, while a similar gelato serving has 90 calories and 3 grams of fat. Also, gelato often contains real fruit or flavoring and has less sugar than ice cream. While large manufacturers of Gelato may use food coloring, traditional gelato makers avoid using coloring agents, as well as flavoring or additives to artificially extend the shelf life. Also, some say that gelato is healthier because it is warmer than ice cream. While ice cream is served at 10 degrees F, gelato is served a little warmer, at 20 to 25 degrees F.