What is hand-made gelato?

What is hand-made gelato?

We are used to eating it without asking too many questions. But if we were going to define hand-made gelato we could say that…

To explain what gelato is, let’s start with some of the best-known definitions:

Sweet food, consisting mainly of milk, eggs, fruit, chocolate or other ingredients, frozen so that it looks like a smooth, consistent ice-free paste.

Translated from the “Dizionario della Lingua italiana, Giacomo Devoto e Gian Carlo Oli”.

Food preparation consisting of a mixture of simple raw materials and semi-finished products (sugar, milk, cream, eggs, fruit, flavoured pastes) that is frozen while it is being churned until it reaches a certain consistency and smooth texture.

From the “Dizionario di Scienza e tecnologia del Gelato Artigianale”, by Luca Caviezel.

The word “gelato” has not always been used – in fact it was not introduced until the 19thcentury as an adjective (meaning “frozen”) for the word “sorbet”.

Gelato has three different states:

  •  Solid: ice crystals, consolidated fat, other non-soluble substances
  •  Gaseous: incorporated air
  •  Liquid: non-frozen water, mineral salts, proteins…

The factors to consider when we talk about hand-made gelato are as follows:

  • The ingredients
  • Taste/flavor
  • Appearance/creaminess
  • Quality
  • Hygiene
  • Consistency
  • Structure
  • Organoleptic values
  • Nutritional values 
What is 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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