Gelato is made by mixing together liquid and solid ingredients, that are then transformed inside so-called “batch freezers” into the cool, creamy product we find in gelato shop showcases.
How to make a gelato
1. For a professional gelato, you’ll need to mix everyday ingredients (milk, cream, sugar, fruit) with others specifically designed for making gelato (bases, milk powder, alternative sugars). This process is known as “balancing”.
2. Once you’ve pasteurized the mixture, it can be put aside to rest, in a similar way to leavening bread or for wine.
3. Once the mixture is ready, other specific ingredients called “flavours” or “pastes” can be added.
4. Put the mixture into the batch freezer and after about ten minutes the gelato will be soft and creamy, ready to go into the display cabinet.
The ingredients for gelato
To make a good craft gelato, you can choose from a wide range of ingredients, depending on your needs and on the tastes of your customers. Very common ingredients such as milk, sugar, fruit, water, cream, eggs, powdered milk and fructose are used.
Other ingredients are less well-known to the consumer because they are very specific to gelato: these are known as neutrals and bases, which may contain, in different proportions:
• a core made up of stabilizers and emulsifiers, which help create and maintain the gelato’s creaminess, stopping it from turning into an ice lolly.
• milk proteins and vegetable fibres that give the gelato its structure.
• sugars such as dextrose and glucose that make gelato softer and less sweet than ones made just with sugar.
Then there are the flavouring pastes, typical of Italian food production, which help create or enhance a flavour. They will either be pure nut pastes (toasted and refined) such as hazelnut, pistachio, almond, cashew, pine nuts, etc. or else blends with cocoa/chocolate (such as gianduia hazelnut cream, for example). The art lies in finding the right proportions. By contrast, traditional pastes are recipes such as zabaglione or tiramisu which combine eggs, coffee and mascarpone cheese, and which are stable and safe at room temperature. Fruit pastes are concentrated “jams” that enhance the often variable taste of fresh fruit. They contain various different ingredients, including fruit, sugars, citric acid, pectin and sometimes flavourings and colourings (mainly natural), etc.
Machinery and equipment for gelato
The main producers of machines, equipment and showcases for gelato parlours are Italian companies, which export all over the world, making a great contribution to the prestige and image of an Italian-design product such as gelato. One website with plenty of info is ACOMAG - the National Association of Machinery, Fixtures and Fittings Manufacturers for Gelato - which has a list of all its member companies with their websites.
A gelato-maker needs a constant supply of quality wafers, cones, and tubs. But of course, making hand-made gelato requires a whole range of equipment. The list below, which is not intended to cover every single aspect of gelato-making, briefly outlines the main machinery used in making gelato. Full details and plenty of other equipment can be found on the websites of the companies which are members of ACOMAG.
Display cabinets and trays
Display cabinet freezers have a dual purpose: keeping the gelato fresh and displaying it to the customer. There are various types and they can be adapted for spaces both large and small. There can be room not only for gelato (at a temperature of about -18°), but also separate compartments for pastries (+2°/+6°).
A pasteurizing machine is a must in any gelato shop. Pasteurizing provides you with a safe hygienic product, as the bacterial flora in the mix are removed and optimally homogenized.
Batch freezing is the stage when the mixture turns from liquid to solid. The batch freezer blends and freezes the mixture by pumping air into it, thus making the gelato homogenous and creamy.
Maturation vats help preserve and mature the gelato by keeping it at a constant temperature. They’re ideal if you’re looking to produce medium/large quantities of handcrafted gelato because it means you always have ready-to-use mixes to hand, stored in an optimal manner. Current technologies, however, enable you to skip the maturation phase altogether.