The hand-made gelato production process is a set of operations involving the arrival of raw materials, assaying and processing them with other ingredients, until the finished product is ready to be enjoyed.
Gelato can be prepared in many different ways. The main choice is whether to use a hot or cold process. In Italy, the hot process is generally used for milk-based products, while water, fruit and sugar-based products use the cold process. However, the European Union Milk Directive permits cold processes even for milk-based flavors This modern process uses cold water-soluble, neutral semi-finished ingredients to make an excellent gelato.
The main steps in the hot process are as follows:
• Recipe/formula and quantities
• Emulsification (where required)
• Batch freezing
• Hardening (where required)
Making a good hand-made gelato begins with the recipe (or formula), after which the quality raw materials and compound ingredients can be measured out. Making a good gelato needs a good recipe: you can make it up by yourself or ask an AIIPA-affiliated manufacturer of ingredients for gelato to make it up, as long as you are using their ingredients.
This is the phase before pasteurization. In the hot process, the first ingredient that goes into the pasteurizer is the liquid (typically milk, though sometimes it can be water if you are using milk powder) into which sugars already mixed with additives (emulsifiers and stabilizers) are slowly poured. That is the base mix done! In Italy, in most cases other ingredients (the core flavors) are added almost at the end of the freezing phase.
A gelato-maker who wants to make sure that his/her product is top quality will prepare at least one white base, one yellow base, one chocolate and one syrup for fruit. With a combo machine, each flavor can be prepared separately.
Pasteurization, a form of heat treatment which makes food biologically stable, begins at the same time as mixing. It eliminates most of the harmful or pathogenic bacterial flora which can spoil gelato, but does not affect its sensory properties. The process consists in heating the mix up to 82-85°C for 3 minutes, under continuous stirring, and then cooling it to 4°C.
Once the pasteurization is complete, the temperature is kept at 4°C for 6-12 hours, thus enabling all the ingredients to blend well, and the solid parts to hydrate, which gives a creamier gelato with a better structure.
This is the phase where the mix is transformed into gelato, changing from liquid to a pasty solid, when part of the now evenly distributed water is frozen. The mix goes from a few degrees above to several degrees below zero in just a few minutes. During this phase, air becomes folded into the mix, achieving the pasty consistency of the end product.
When it comes out of the batch freezer, the temperature of the gelato will be around -8°/-10°C, depending on the type of freezer. During this phase, the product can be put into a cold room or display case. If necessary, before display, it can be put into a blast chiller that lowers the temperature to -20°C or even less, thus reducing the amount of unfrozen water which otherwise makes the gelato less creamy and thinner.
Hand-made gelato is kept in a cold room at temperatures of at least -18°C. The refrigerated chain needs to be kept constant to make sure that the gelato has the right structure and creaminess and that the product is safe for the consumer. In the display case, gelato is kept at a serving temperature of -14/-15°C.