Frozen desserts are popular all over the world. People have been enjoying these treats, in one form or another, for thousands of years. Today, ice cream and gelato are very popular products. One reflection of this is the fact that so many ice cream and gelato supplies are available. From gelato spoons to ice cream cups, there is a lot of paraphernalia. There are some similarities and differences between the two desserts.
The Italian word for ice cream is gelato but the two products are not identical. There are very fundamental differences to how the two taste. Gelato has an intense flavor. Its texture is soft and smooth. The flavor jumps off gelato spoons that does not happen with ice cream. The taste is clean. Ice cream, by contrast, has a texture that is heavier. It is more full bodied. The main differences are caused by several factors.
cher texture? So why the difference? It comes down to these factors: fat, sugar, air and serving temperature.
Both ice cream and gelato are made in a similar way. As anything with water in it freezes, ice crystals are formed. When these two desserts are made, the main thing manufacturers try to is limit that. There are a few ways this is managed. Here are a few:
Air is added. The main technological development in the history of ice cream and gelato was not the invention of gelato spoons. It was the process by which these desserts are frozen. Ice cream and gelato makers churn the mixes as they freeze. That keeps the ice crystals from forming and adds air to the mix. The more air that is mixed in, the more fluffy the product will be.
Sugar is added. Sugar can prevent the water in the ice cream or gelato from forming ice crystals because it can actually be a substantive barrier to the crystallization process. Sugar syrup freezes at a lower temperature than water. As the substance freezes, that sugar syrup gets concentrated even further. At the end of the process, the ice crystals that can form are exceptionally small. There are even particles of sugar syrup that never freeze.
When fat is emulsified into the gelato or ice cream mix, it forms another barrier that prevents the water from freezing.
When people talk about what differentiates ice cream from gelato is the amount of fat and air that are in the base product. Gelato has less fat, though it can taste richer, and has a lot less air pumped in during the churning process. Ice cream uses a lot of heavy cream, the fat content is 10% or more and has more than 50% air. When ice cream is made, it is churned rapidly. It is almost whipped so that manufacturers can get more air into the product. The volume of an ice cream can increase by as much as 90% during the churning process. Better quality ice creams only have an increase of about 25%.
Gelato, by contrast, is made from a base that has more milk than cream, has between 3% and 8% fat and only 25% to 30% air. Because there is much less air in the finished product, gelato has a much more intense taste. The flavors associated with gelato are more pure. You get a burst of flavor that can dissipate rapidly. Many people describe gelato as having a cleaner taste than ice cream.
There are also some differences in the temperature at which they should both be serviced. Ice cream is served colder than gelato. Because there is more fat in the ice cream, it cannot be served at the same warm temperature that gelato is served.
Often, gelato is frozen to be very hard. It is then thawed to a warmer temperature, which gets the dessert to the perfect texture and consistency. While you can have a similar experience eating ice cream at home or at the ice cream parlor, the gelato experience is best at a shoppe that specializes in the dessert. Plus at the stores, they have gelato spoons so you can sample different flavors.
The warmer temperature also makes the flavors taste stronger. When you bring gelato home, it s recommended that you remove it and thaw it before enjoying it.