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Gelato vs. Ice Cream

Posted November 16, 2015 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

I remember the first time I had gelato. I was in Italy on a school field trip and we were all stopping at a gelato stand for a snack. Since I had never heard of gelato before I asked one of my friends what it was and his response was "It's like ice cream….but better." When it was finally my turn I tried half mango and half strawberry in a small dish.

Well, he was right! Gelato is like ice cream….but better. But that got me thinking…what is the difference between these two delicious frozen treats?

Image Credit: Taccuinistori

There are actually many things different between gelato and ice cream. Gelato dates back to the Italian Renaissance. In the late 1500s the Medici family in Florence commissioned Bernardo Buontalenti to prepare a feast for the visiting King of Spain. It was at this meal that Buontalenti created gelato, but it was Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli who made gelato famous all over Europe when he opened a café in Paris serving gelato in small glasses.

But enough with the history lesson. The real difference comes in the taste and texture. Gelato is a lot creamier than ice cream. It's smoother, silkier, and denser. Another difference is the ingredients and recipe used.

Both treats start with cream, milk, and sugar. Ice cream uses more cream and typically uses egg yolks to pack the mixture together. Gelato has more milk than cream and authentic gelato rarely uses egg yolks (if they're in there it's just for flavor). Since ice cream uses more cream there is more butterfat. The FDA defines ice cream as containing no less than 10 percent fat. Most ice creams contain anywhere from 14 to 25 percent fat. Gelato only has about 4 to 9 percent (yay healthier!).

To get to the real science, you must know that these frozen desserts are a mixture of water and fat molecules. These molecules form crystals as the mixtures freeze. The longer it takes for ice cream to freeze the bigger the crystal, resulting in a crunchy mouthfeel. Butterfat keeps the crystals small by preventing water molecules from clumping together to form giant crystals. It makes the mixture thick and heavy resulting in a nice, firm scoop of ice cream. Then air (up to 50% volume) is mixed in to make the ice cream soft and fluffy.

Meanwhile, scoops of gelato are soft and fluid-like. Gelato mixture starts out lighter since there is less butterfat and then only 20 to 30 percent air is mixed in as it thickens and freezes. This keeps the product dense and therefore creamy. Gelato machines churn at a slower rate than ice cream machines.

Since butterfat coats your pallet the flavors in ice cream can be muted, gelato flavors are much stronger. The flavors also stand out because gelato is served 10 to 15 degrees warmer than ice cream. Image Credit: Williams - Sonoma

According to the article, the best way to enjoy gelato is fresh and with a spade, not a spoon!

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#1

Re: Gelato vs. Ice Cream

11/16/2015 12:11 AM

What no free samples? School field trip to Italy? We only got to go to the skating rink...

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#2

Re: Gelato vs. Ice Cream

11/16/2015 8:25 AM

Okay I remmember setting on my grandmother's porch turning the ice cream maker. There were no eggs in the batch. Best ice cream I have ever eaten.

Since it was churned by hand there was no excessive air churned into it. I doubt it was churned any faster then a Gelato machine.

The only difference I see is the lower butter fat content. Which the fat freezes at a lower temperature. So ice cream would have to be served a little cooler.

The biggest difference I can see is freshness. How soon it is being consumed after it has been churned. If both have been stored in a freezer at 0 deg for months on end then they both would lose the taste test.

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