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.

The maturation process requires the mixture to be kept at a temperature of about 4-5°C under continuous stirring. This phase helps the mixture become denser, making it easier to incorporate air during the subsequent freezing process, and allowing more water to be absorbed by the solid ingredients. 

A proper maturation process will enable the proteins in the mixture to absorb free water content in the form of water of hydration. Complete hydration of the solids, in particular hydration of the proteins in the milk, eggs and  ingredients, is vital. Good gelato products need to be fully hydrated as this creates a finer, more spreadable structure, and proper maturation averts the danger of building up large ice crystals, which make for a coarser and less enjoyable product. At the same time, the fats harden and crystallize, which is the best way of incorporating air into the finished product. 

Until a few years ago, it was believed that mixtures had to mature for 48-72 hours, which made this key phase quite challenging. A new generation of stabilizers have enabled us to reduce those times down to 4-6 hours. However, it is good practice, if the aim is to make top-quality hand-made gelato, to mix the ingredients together in the pasteurizer in the evening and then pour it straight into the churn so that it is ready the next morning, which helps it to age for much longer (12-14 hours). 

Finally we come to the batch freezing or chilling phase, which is when the hand-made gelato transforms from liquid to solid. This requires three different actions to take place: the mixture first needs to be churned, then cooled and then filled with air. This is undoubtedly one of the most important phases in making gelato: indeed, most of its quality and yield are a consequence of this stage. 

What happens during chilling? Chilling involves freezing the water, which thus changes from liquid to solid. The mixture is cooled down while it is being stirred and in the presence of air, abruptly dropping from 4-6°C to approximately -15°C, while the free water solidifies to create a solid pasty substance, i.e. gelato. A sudden drop in temperature is required in order to prevent the build-up of water crystals, so as to obtain a smoother and less icy texture. Continuous churning of the mixture also helps to incorporate air and increase its volume.   

Part 3 -Maturation and Batch freezing of Italian 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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