How to make a good hand-made gelato

How to make a good hand-made gelato

Making gelato used to involve a machine known as a sorbetière, refrigerated using ice and salt, with the mix being batch frozen by hand using a long spatula-shaped stick. Luckily, things have changed quite a bit since then! 

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

• Mixing

• Pasteurization

• Emulsification (where required)

• Maturation

• Batch freezing

• Hardening (where required)

• Storage/Display

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.

Mixing

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

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.

Maturation

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.

Batch freezing

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.

Hardening

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.

Storage/Display 

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.

 
How to make a good hand-made gelato
Brioche with gelato
Brioche with gelato

Sliced open and filled with gelato, with cream, or even with both, the brioche with gelato is a typical Sicilian speciality which has recently been exported to the rest of Italy; it is becoming increasingly common to see gelato shops offering this delicacy, with regional variations such as croissants and buns or the truly Sicilian “tuppo” brioche.

Vegan gelato, the new trend of Italian gelato-making.
Vegan gelato, the new trend of Italian gelato-making.

The last SIGEP, the International Homemade Gelato, Pastry, and Bakery Fair, in Rimini, saw a trend among all of the major companies in the industry to offer products – and in some cases an entire product line – for vegans. 

Part 2 - Pasteurization and homogenization of italian gelato
Part 2 - Pasteurization and homogenization of italian gelato

After selecting, assaying and processing the raw materials with the other ingredients, the next stages in making hand-made gelato are pasteurization and homogenization.

How to select ingredients for your gelato
How to select ingredients for your gelato

Why do manufacturer of ingredients for gelato parlours offer such a wide range of different bases? As user requirements differ so widely, the products are designed to help the gelato-maker to get consistently balanced mixtures, for creamier, more scoopable gelato.

Part 3 -Maturation and Batch freezing of Italian gelato
Part 3 -Maturation and Batch freezing of Italian gelato

After pasteurization and homogenization, it is time for the mixture to undergo maturation and batch-freezing, which are crucial stages for a good hand-made gelato.

Investments, costs and revenues in opening a gelato shop
Investments, costs and revenues in opening a gelato shop

Over the course of time, Italian gelato has earned itself a reputation for continuous innovation in production methods, technologies and ingredients, often dictated by the needs of both practising and would-be gelato-makers.

Differences between artisan Italian gelato, industrial ice cream and soft ice cream
Differences between artisan Italian gelato, industrial ice cream and soft ice cream

Often the differences between italian gelato, industrial ice cream and soft ice cream are not clear to everyone, even though in Italy the fact that there are so many gelato parlours as well as a history of hand-made gelato making would seem to facilitate this distinction.

How to make a good hand-made gelato
How to make a good hand-made gelato

Making gelato used to involve a machine known as a sorbetière, refrigerated using ice and salt, with the mix being batch frozen by hand using a long spatula-shaped stick. Luckily, things have changed quite a bit since then! 

The role of semi-finished products in gelato-making
The role of semi-finished products in gelato-making

Compound ingredients for gelato or semi-finished products are mixtures of ingredients in powder or paste that the gelato-maker keeps by his side when preparing mixtures (stabilization) and giving them flavor.

Selecting the gelato ingredients
Selecting the gelato ingredients

Choosing the right raw materials is a fundamental part of making outstanding hand-made gelato: the finest milk, eggs and sugar, and the best semi-finished ingredients and semi-finished products are a key component in the creativity of every craftsman.

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