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Gelato-Making 101 with Gruppo Dolci

November 19, 2019

We were pretty bummed out following Bar Dolci’s closing in 2017. Two years later, and we’re still here missing their desserts. So we were quite excited to discover that their signature gelatos weren’t really gone. In fact, it was still regularly produced—just on a larger scale. (Although, that said, they do sell it for retail in Magallanes.) On this episode of 101, we visited Gruppo Dolci’s FAB HQ to learn how to make the creamy Italian “ice cream”… and to reminisce about the good ol’ Burgos Circle days over a cup of Ferrero gelato.

Gelato vs. Ice Cream

Gelato and ice cream are often mistakenly interchanged. But the truth is, there are several fundamental differences in composition, production, and actual taste and texture between the two. Both use milk and sugar in the ingredients, but that’s about it in similarity.

Gelato uses whole milk and less cream than ice cream; while ice cream uses a heavy proportion of cream, plus uses egg yolks. (Some gelato recipes also use cream and egg yolks, but in very small dosages.) Ice cream, thus, has a higher fat content, so the flavors aren’t as prominent once tasted.

In production, the ingredients of ice cream are churned at a faster rate than gelato. This makes ice cream much airier. Once cold, the ice crystals formed in the air pockets of the ice cream also allow it to stay cold longer (therefore, it’s less prone to melting). On the other hand, gelato is churned at a slower rate, reducing the incorporation of air. This makes it much denser than ice cream.

Step 1: Mise En Place

All the ingredients are prepared before the process starts, then mixed into separate bowls of dry ingredients and wet ingredients. It’s important to weigh gelato ingredients carefully. The levels of the different sugars used (caster sugar, dextrose, etc.), in particular, play a large role in the taste and texture of the end-product.

Executive chef Avi Shani explained that finding the right balance of sugars is the most challenging—yet essential—part in gelato-making. It takes years to master. That said, FAB HQ does offer a crash course of this in their advanced gelato-making course. There are also some establishments (i.e. in Italy) that sell pre-mixed sugar bases for amateur gelato-makers.

Step 2: Turbo Mixing

All the dry and wet ingredients are then emulsified using a turbo mixer. The heavy-duty mixer ensures that all the components are well-incorporated, ending in a fine consistency.

Step 3: Pasteurization

Once the mixture is ready, it’s transferred to a pasteurizer. At Gruppo Dolci, they use the Cattabriga Compacta Vario 8, a double-duty heating and freezing machine to make their gelato. The top part of the contraption acts as a pasteurizer, which heats the mixture to about 85 to 90 degrees.

Step 4: Cooling

After about 15 to 20 minutes, the hot mixture is moved to the bottom part of the machine, where it cools to 5 degrees. This step typically takes another 15 to 20 minutes. But it can also vary depending on the desired texture.

Step 5: Extraction AND VARIEGATION

When the right texture is reached, the gelato is extracted. At this point, you can already taste it in all its creamy glory. The gelato streams out of the machine, and is caught onto metal bins. For some flavors, it’s also here where variegates (i.e. toppings) are added. They aren’t mixed in; instead, they’re topped onto one to two layers of gelato, usually one in the middle then another on top.

Gruppo Dolci sticks the finished gelato into a blast freezer for ten minutes putting it out for display. When serving, the gelato is scooped using a spade, then placed in a small cup.

Jica Simpas Jica Simpas

Jica hopes that by writing about food she'll actually learn how to cook. But for now, she'll happily just eat everything—especially cookies.

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