The very first Italian gelato portal, for both gelato makers and gelato lovers
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The variety of flavours used in hand-made gelato, is its distinctive feature that sets it apart from industrial ice-cream. Every gelato-maker refines his recipes, making them again day after day, experimenting, listening to comments from customers, updating techniques and ingredients.
A famous gelato parlour in London, in addition to the “usual” range of flavours, is selling a special gelato whose main ingredient is...mother’s milk. And they have recently begun advertising a pistol-shaped ice lolly with absinthe liqueur and “holy water”, which the owner swears is delivered on a regular basis from France. But these do not seem to be experiments, but rather gimmicks aiming to attract some new customers. The real skill of a gelato craftsman lies in dealing with the ingredients, however “strange” they might be – this is the hallmark of a quality product, able to satisfy the palate without giving up on experimentation, which has to carry on and explore new areas.
There is more to gelato than chocolate, strawberry and stracciatella. The art of gelato has such huge potential, so in theory you could make a gelato out of anything that is edible. Since the times of Bernardo Buontalenti, the Renaissance artist at the Medici court credited with creating the modern gelato, the art has evolved from the early simple flavours based on fruit and sugar to today’s culinary prowess.
During the last Gelato World Cup, gelato craftsmen from around the world went out of their way to come up with unusual flavours, with excellent raw materials and quality combinations, both for classic flavours such as Pistachio (but garnished with syrup of raspberry and rose), Almond (served with apricot sauce and amaretto decorations) or the use of herbs and spices in the mixture or garnish: bay leaf, rosemary, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, truffle... and finally the citrus family in all its variants: from the bergamot to the yuzu (a typical Asian fruit) were the stars of the recipes.
As Candida Pelizzoli, President of the Association of Master Gelato Makers, points out: “Hand-made gelato is extremely personal, so even though people can be doing the same job, the results can be very different. I would like to highlight the fact that our professionalism and experience enable us to bring our gelato-parlour skills to the American bar, to restaurants and to chocolatiers. And this year, after the gelato-drink range, the chocolate range, the gourmet range, where we combined gelato with savoury dishes (from salads to salami), we complete with the combination of gelato with “leavened products". Gelato combined with bread, made from different flours. An example? A hot roll, first heated up on the griddle, and then soft, fresh gelato. Gelato is a perfect food that works well for all sorts of combinations.”
Alberto Marchetti, recent winner of the Agugliano Festival, has a gelato parlour which serves up gelato at any time of day: for breakfast with barley malt gelato with a chocolate puffed rice waffle, while a good mid-morning snack would be a gelato served with rye or raisin bread. Meanwhile, Sergio Dondoli, owner of the historic Gelateria di Piazza in San Gimignano, has been taking our breath away for twenty years with his special creations: gorgonzola and walnuts, Curva Fiesole (ricotta and blueberries), Black Venus (blackberry and lavender sorbet), Dolceamaro (vanilla with herbs), but is still not willing to reveal the new entries for summer 2012.
But the new frontiers for gelato parlours are wines, spirits and herbal teas, both as an ingredient in gelatos, and served as an accompaniment, and especially the increasing cross-overs with the world of haute cuisine. This leads to gelato craftsmen making sorbets from wines such as Passito di Pantelleria, Vin Santo or champagne, often supplying them to local restaurants.
The savoury gelato, or gourmet gelato is the final frontier for the gelato parlour, because it is designed to be consumed at any time during the meal. Whether it’s goat cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, with cereals, Parma ham, radicchio, cherry tomatoes or saffron, it is still gelato. Found increasingly in the kitchens of larger restaurants, gourmet gelato is used to accompany the main course. The hardest part is getting the right proportions of sweet and savoury flavours. A well-made savoury gelato should be as faithful as possible to the flavour of the original ingredient, must be at the right temperature and have a texture that enables it to be spread even at -18°, the temperature at which most restaurant owners keep their gelato. By replacing sugar with glucose and dextrose, and using balanced semi-finished ingredients you can get good results, and new compact batch freezers make it possible to make just a few kilos of gelato at a time, which is just right for a restaurant. The real challenge now is to find a recipe that has not yet been tried out, but without sacrificing craftsmanship.
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