Gelato, commonly known in the United States as Italian Ice Cream, is far from what you are used to enjoying. The differences are far to in depth for this forum so I will review some basic, but major differences between them. I will break those differences down by ingredients. I think after you read this dialogue, you will have a basic, but accurate understanding of the true differences between Authentic Italian Gelato and American Ice Cream.
Air: One of the fundamental ingredients in ice cream is air. It is mainly used to increase the volume of the product. Air is “whipped” into ice cream during the churning process. Most American Ice Cream will have a total increased volume of 75% to 150%. This is true for most store bought ice cream with the exception of super-premium brands, which contain slightly less. Conversely, in making gelato, a true artisan will typically only allow up to 10 to 15% air to be incorporated. With sorbetto, the percentage is even less. That’s why when you taste Gelato over ice cream it has a heavy dense taste that most consumers interpret as having a higher butterfat.
Cream: A very confusing ingredient. Most would think the more cream the better the product. That, simply is not true. Better ice cream will usually have around 12 to 14% and sometimes as high as 16% butterfat. Gelato, on the other hand, has much less (around 6 to 7%). Plainly put, fat coats your tongue and inhibits you from truly tasting the “flavor defining” ingredient/s. In general, you will not find milk or cream products in Sorbetto.
Sugar: The sweeter the better? Simply not true. Gelato is all about balancing the sweetness of the product without over powering the “flavor defining” ingredient/s. For example, when making a nut flavor gelato, you do not want the sugar to over power the true natural taste of the nuts. Many American Ice Creams you find will contain sugar but also contain that dreaded phase that is getting so much attention lately, “High Fructose Corn Syrup”. You will NEVER find this in my gelato, period. Also, sugar plays a very important role in the ability for a product to freeze. When making flavors that contain alcohol, much care has to be taken to balance the sugars. If alcohols are added and sugars are not backed out, you will have a “sloppy” consistency and the product will not hold up.
Flavor Defining Ingredient/s: You have heard this mentioned above and I have kept you in the dark. What exactly is the Flavor Defining Ingredient/s? This is what makes Gelato have an intense natural taste without an artificial after-taste. Gelato can be “defined” with many ingredients. Hazelnuts, Pistachios, Espresso, Zabajone, the list is endless and only “Limited by Imagination”. The ingredients used to “define” Gelato differ drastically from American Ice Cream. I will use the flavor Pistachio as a very basic example. When making American Ice Cream, the typical manufacture will use a pistachio based extract and add around 4 oz’s (112g) to “flavor” 2.5 gallons (10kg) of product (about 2% by weight). The product then may be finished with several ounces of pistachio pieces. In comparison with gelato, I will “define” the base with up to 400 grams of pure Sicilian Pistachio Paste to “define” 4000 grams of finished product. That is 10% of the mix being Pure Pistachios, five times as much as ice cream. In addition, Sicilian Pistachios can cost over $50.00 per Kilogram. Now you see why Gelato is more expensive than ice cream.
This information is really just skimming the surface. Nonetheless, it gives you a basic understanding of true Italian Gelato. I try to source the best ingredients for my gelato from around the world. Whether it’s Piedmont Hazelnuts, Sicilian Pistachios, French Liquors, or local milk, and cream, it’s the best. This is why so many of my customers tasting my products say, “Wow! Laurence this reminds me of the gelato I had in Italy”, and some even say it’s better. I agree, my gelato is as good if not better than gelato in Italy. Why? Not only have I been taught by award winning true Italian Chefs, I also keep my products to the same high standards of excellence that you see at the finest Gelatoria’s across Italy and the world.
In my own words, those are the differences between ice cream and gelato. I think now you understand why I cringe when I hear my gelato being compared to ice cream. Gelato is something to be proud to serve, something you just cannot get anywhere, something you cannot buy off of a truck in the summertime. There exists a sort of mystique that comes with the production of Gelato, and true artisans like myself should keep to those old world techniques that are still in use today. Just remember anyone can put on a chef coat or laboratory coat and call him or herself an artisan, but remember, they are not one till you say they are.
The above information is strictly copyrighted and the sole ownership of Chef Laurence, any re-creation or use in a publication without permission from Chef Laurence is strictly prohibited.
The Dol Cicé Gelato Company®
Po Box 343
Yardley, PA 19067
Phone: +1 215.499.5661