The range of specific ingredients available for making gelato is extensive and without doubt complex for a beginner to deal with. Sometimes even professional users can suffer setbacks after choosing the wrong bases, if they are not particularly well-suited to customers’ needs. We’re often asked why companies from the AIIPA – Gelato Ingredients Group have such a wide range of bases in their catalogues and how to choose the right base. The answer is relatively simple – the bases are designed to cover a vast range of needs and anticipate trends. That’s why sitting down and carrying out an analysis with the companies themselves can help gelato-makers identify the most suitable base(s) for their needs.
What is a base?
Originally bases were made up of a mixture of stabilizers, to which emulsifiers were later added. This concentrated “heart” of the gelato stabilizing phase (which, put simply, serves to reduce water and bind fats) is normally referred to here in Italy as “neutrals” or “industrial neutrals”, as they are made up of thickeners and emulsifiers, bought in bulk from huge multinationals by the gelato industry, which generally uses no bases.
The development of bases was a simple way of making these “neutrals” more accessible to the gelato-maker, reducing the end product’s instability and variability and solving the objective problem of dosing extremely concentrated ingredients in tiny quantities with the right margin of error.
To help gelato-makers, some companies began to offer mixtures of milk powder, dextrose and neutral, thus making the craftsman’s job easier, by reducing the risk of making mistakes and ushering in the ingredients development process that ultimately led to the modern balanced gelato. This process has evolved rapidly, with each manufacturer of ingredients for gelato carving out their own unique niche, which has led to today’s gelato, enjoyed by so many consumers in Italy and around the world. Indeed, gelato is Italy’s favourite dessert, narrowly beating chocolate into second place.
We can in all honesty state that the development of gelato in Italy and around the world has been dependent on the development of gelato bases.
What bases to use
The decision about what type of base to use (here we’ll be concentrating on milk bases) should be taken very carefully, given that a whole series of different issues come into play, the most important of which are as follows.
● Quantities - You could be forgiven for thinking that an inexperienced gelatiere might use greater quantities of base (anywhere from 50 to 500 grammes per litre). But in fact this has been disproven by a study commissioned by AIIPA, which showed that over the course of their careers, gelato-makers tend to up the doses. This may well be due to the their desire to explore even more creative avenues, relying less on flexibility of their recipe, once their success has been firmly established and consolidated. High-density bases give “richer” results, probably because companies which invest in ingredients research on a daily basis can test and make the most of their knowledge.
● Production process - hot or cold? Cold-soluble bases are without doubt superior in terms of technology to hot-soluble ones, which remain the most traditional. If for any particular reason you were to opt for a non-pasteurized process (or even for combined machines), the need to ask for a base that will carry out most of its functions even with a cold process must be a priority.
● Vegetable or animal fats - Gelato parlours which base their revenues on serving bowls of gelato at tables, or a craftsman with a centralized workshop, will definitely be looking for a gelato which can handle temperature changes. Therefore, rather than non-fat or animal-fat bases, they will tend to plump for bases made with vegetable fats. In combination with the animal fats from cream or milk, vegetable fat raises the melting temperature, giving the gelato longer staying power at room temperature. Also, the creamier the gelato you are after, the more you’ll be looking to use bases made with vegetable fats.
● Marketing - The choice of base can depend on the type of marketing your gelato parlour needs. Bases containing only natural ingredients, or bases with no vegetable fat; vegan bases (which means vegetable fat), or bases for low-fat gelato; gelato bases for reduced-sugar desserts, or certified organic bases and so on. In the end, the choice will be dictated by the guidelines of the gelato parlour in terms of product positioning. The range of bases offered by manufacturers of ingredients for gelato is particularly innovative and covers all potential needs.
● Flavour - You might think this would be at the top of the list, but in fact, once you have dealt with the other points, you can start thinking about what flavour of base you need. Persistent and intense, neutral, vanilla, creamy, milky – the variables are endless, so now is the time for you to taste a whole host of finished products. Not that any aspiring gelato entrepreneur will be put off by such a task, of course!
The list of points to take into consideration when selecting a base is not that long, after all, but it’s not a decision that should be rushed into. Even skilled craftsmen should, at some time in their career, sit back and think about whether the base they are using truly still meets their needs and the direction they are going in. Often all it takes to get back on course is to sit down and have a chat with the experts at one of the specialized companies.