What is Good Gelato?June 16, 2019
From both their appearances alone, ice cream and gelato have stark differences. Ice cream is scooped up in round shapes and each scoop is layered to close the gaps in between. Gelato is smoother in its finish, thus allowing each layer to stack up easier in a cup. Gelato tends to appear like waves when placed on display and its dense, smooth nature lets you stretch the gelato from your cup, and into your spoon. But these are only at the surface—for the more discerning palate, what is the secret or the science behind gelato’s consistent flavor and ice cream’s airier feel on the tongue?
Gelato uses milk, and is usually only made up of four to eight percent fat.
Let’s begin with their names: gelato actually translates to “frozen” in Italian, while ice cream indicates the use of an emulsifier like cream or milk. Ice cream uses emulsified ingredients or an emulsifying fat in its base to keep the crystals formed by frozen water as small as possible. Gelato uses milk, and is usually only made up of four to eight percent fat. But just like ice cream, gelato also has water that freezes. To balance out the crystals that form from water freezing, gelato adds more milk to increase the solids and doesn’t need to use extra sugar to prevent crystallization. Thus, gelato has less fat compared to ice cream.
Gelato is churned at a slower speed, so it has less air in its base, which results to a denser, smoother texture.
The main difference, however, lies in the amount of air. Both ice cream and gelato’s volumes are made up of air, and the amount of air is referred to as the ’overrun’. Commercial ice creams have a 50% overrun, while the more expensive brands have less at 25%. Gelato is churned at a slower speed, so it has less air in its base. What results is a much denser base compared to ice cream, also resulting in a smoother texture.
Gelato stores have popped up in most malls, but only a handful of people are convinced of gelato’s superiority over ice cream. Perhaps it’s not a question of which is better, but what the palate should be looking for when you’ve opted for Italy’s version of ice cream. Gelato isn’t just defined by its chemical process and composition: there’s also a difference between how the more commercial brands are made, compared to the artisanal.
“BONO’s gelato uses fresh milk and not UHT.”
BONO artisanal gelato is one company proud to offer authentically artisanal flavors. BONO’s owner and founder, Rea Gomez, explains what makes their product stand out from the others: “We don’t use mixes, pastes, and emulsifiers. We’re all natural. We don’t even use food coloring. Each gelato is made of the base plus the flavor ingredient.” The base itself also sticks to a strict quality: “The bases uses fresh milk and not UHT,” she continues. “We pasteurize it ourselves. All the bases are made in the commissary, but the gelato served in each store is only kept for 24 hours. A fresh batch is churned each day to assure customers the freshest ingredients and best flavors. “From our commissary, all our ingredients are prepared, sent to the stores, and then churned on site,” she says.
To churn each batch, BONO uses the Cattabriga Effe, a machine that Rea describes as the “most prestigious brand; the Rolls Royce of gelato machines.” Its prestige lies in being a vertical batch freezer. “Most machines in gelaterias are automatic horizontal batch freezers. You open a door, throw in the ingredients, and then press a button. But the vertical batch freezer churns the gelato up and down; plus there’s another arm that actually massages the gelato,” she describes. We got to see the machine in action and saw the difference: between 12 to 17 minutes, the base and flavor mixture transforms from its liquid state to a not too thick, not too thin, and not too cool consistency that possesses equally distributed flavor. The churn is also much slower, unlike the horizontal batch freezer’s fast whip. Before the gelato is placed inside the churner, the base and flavor ingredients are combined with a turbo mixer.
“What you eat from us does not happen by chance. How we arrive at the sweetness, texture, and consistency is a confluence of so many different factors.” – Rea Harrow, BONO Gelato
Rea definitely knows what she’s talking about: she and her partner, Zarah Manikan, attended the Carpigiani Gelato University before starting their business. Rea describes the experience as very technical. “I honestly thought we were just going to cook. But when we got there, they gave us a chef outfit and a calculator. Then our teacher began writing all these formulas.” Each formula is responsible for that burst of flavor and dense texture in all of their gelatos. “What you eat from us does not happen by chance. How we arrive at the sweetness, texture, and consistency is a confluence of so many different factors,” she elaborates. All these factors are plugged into the formulas: such as the gelato ingredient’s amount of sugar, the amount of fat, and so on, to achieve a balance. The science also gets a little more challenging because BONO does not use anything artificial or even any emulsifiers. All flavors come from natural sources, and from small farms or small producers. “We only use flavors and ingredients when they’re in season,” Rea emphasizes. “If it’s not in season, we won’t do it. Otherwise that would mean we would need to add more sugar, and more enhancers.”
The consistency is also assured in how the gelato is preserved. BONO uses Pozzetto cabinets that seal the gelato flavors from any air and light contamination. “The state the gelato was initially in will still be preserved as soon as it’s used up,” Rea states. Apart from protecting each flavor’s daily batch, the cabinet goes downward along with cold air: a steadier way to keep the temperature constant.
BONO isn’t the only company that provides a taste of Italy for Filipinos. Morelli’s, a company founded by Italian Giuseppe Morelli in 1907 in the UK, also assures customers parallel consistency in their gelato’s flavor, density, and overall quality. Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc. is responsible for bringing in Morelli’s to Manila. Like other gelaterias, Morelli’s flavors follow the tried and tested method of making gelato.
“Morelli’s gelato is churned slowly, packing more flavor and less air.” – Patricia Malong, Morelli’s Gelato
“The gelato is churned slowly,” Patricia Malong, the Marketing Communications Officer of Global Restaurant Concepts explains, “packing more flavor and less air.” She also stresses that the difference lies in the gelato’s base: ice cream is mostly water and emulsified fat, while gelato sticks to a milk base. Temperature is another major factor to Morelli’s products: “Compared to ice cream that can be rock hard,” she explains, “gelato has a softer, yet not too soupy texture that can be stored in a warm temperature.” To assure that each gelato type packs in that much flavor, all ingredients are actually imported from Italy. It’s important for the company, as a franchisee, to maintain international standards in preparing what they served. A Master Gelatiere or ice cream chef from Italy even trains the store’s staff to assure that these standards are met.
Like most forays in the kitchen and in the food industry, gelato is a balance of science and taste. Without one or the other, that dense, easy on the mouth texture, and impactful flavor can’t be achieved. Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of how gelato is made, you’re more than ready to tease and please your palate with the flavors out there.