If you have been to Italy or eaten at a restaurant that served authentic Italian food including desserts, you may have had gelato and assumed it was just a type of Italian ice-cream. The truth is, gelato and ice-cream are two different things altogether!
For one, and it may be hard to believe, gelato has less fat than ice-cream. By law, ice-cream has a minimum of 10 percent fat while in gelato the proportion of whole milk to cream is greater, which gives it a much lower content of fat. This also means – less calories!
Gelato usually is not always loaded with egg yolks, unless the flavor recipe really asks for it – think custard than ice-cream. This, of course, further reduces its fat content. So if you’re on diet, you can still have your gelato! Hoorah!
Another difference in regard to flavor is that because gelato does not have as much fat, it doesn’t coat the mouth the same way ice-cream does. It has a slow to melt creaminess and its flavor is much more intense and pure compared to that of ice-cream. Moreover, a good gelato shouldn’t contain ice grains –never ever! Not even in fruit-based flavors! Remember, gelato it’s supposed to be velvety and creamy!
Another difference between the two is that gelato is mixed much more slowly than ice-cream, and this produces a different texture – rich and dense. There is much less air whipped into it, and this is good because it melts less quickly than ice-cream, which tends to have a very thin texture as it is usually churned at high speeds to get plenty of air in. So those bites are a quarter to a half frozen air!
The way ice-cream is made differs from one manufacturer to another but some do use additional ingredients to keep it soft. Some use starch, alcohol, the protein found in eggs and milk and natural stabilizers such as carrageenan and guar gum. Gelato is naturally soft!
Also, ice-cream is usually served while frozen at about 10°F to keep it hard. Gelato is usually stored and served at slightly higher temperatures. Rather than being brick-hard, it has a soft, elastic texture that does not run. If ice-cream was stored or served at higher temperatures, it would run because of it’s just a high fat in water emulsion which would melt very fast.
Now, where to go to taste the best gelato in the world? Why of course, Italy! While every region has plenty of nice shops, Sicily and Calabria are known as the golden lands of gelato, where the finest artisans can be found, and where gelato is a refined art. Wouldn’t you flight there right now, just to be sure that what they say is the pure truth, and to finally find the answer to the age-old question “Is it better in a cone, or in a cup?”