Ice Cream or Gelato?
Creating ice cream or gelato involves the fine balance of fat content, the amount of air and temperature. The vast majority of ice cream is actually water which form ice crystals as the temperature of the mixture drops. We have all tried low quality ice cream where the ice crystals have not been minimised leaving an unpleasant crunchy cold surprise. What sets the best ice cream from the mediocre is a rich blend of fat and ice crystals that are as small as possible.
Essentially ice cream is the mix of emulsifying fats that surround and stick to water molecules preventing the formation of large ice crystals. Combined with this the addition of sugar also hinders crystallisation.
A water/sugar solution forms a syrup that has a lower freezing point than water on its own.
This base forms the initial part of the process. The incorporation of air during the churning process creates a final product that is well aerated, light and creamy.
Ice cream stored at a lower temperature will be more solid. Ever opened an ice cream tub to find it a soft unappetising mess? Just take of the lid and leave it in the freezer to harden up.
The fundamental difference between ice cream and gelato is that the former has a higher fat content and more aeration during the freezing process.
Gelato is actually the italian word for ice cream. This does lead to some confusion how to separate it from what we consider ice cream. Gelato often has milk rather than cream added as well as a lesser amount of egg yolks. To get the familiar and much loved ‘lightness’ of ice cream the churning process is pretty fast compared to that of making gelato. In contrast, Gelato is churned slowly creating a denser result than ice cream. Rather than being served a brick of gelato, temperature control allows for an elastic soft texture. Gelato is stored at a warmer temperature than ice cream. Usually around -12c while ice cream is stored as low as -20c.
So Ice cream or gelato?
The reality is that both can give as much pleasure as the other. Sugar content varies in both, some ice creams are richer than gelato, while others are the total opposite. Gelato has the reputation to be fresher, greater attention to its ingredients and usually more artesanal but excellent ice cream is readily available just as much as gelato.