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Ice Cream or Gelato?

One of the new debates that has come to rage in the foodie circles of the world is the question of ice cream versus gelato. While both are delicious, frozen desserts, there is still good degree of confusion about how they’re different from each other, and which one is better. While we can’t say that one is definitely better than the other, we can certainly provide a crash course for the frozen dessert novice looking to potentially incorporate them into the menu--and luckily, restaurant supply stores have the equipment to make both; in fact, the equipment to make either one is largely the same, so you could make both.



There are a few key differences between ice cream and gelato, but the first major difference is in the ingredients list for the two. Ice cream recipes vary somewhat by tradition, with some recipes calling for eggs, some calling for cooked custard, and some calling for pure dairy; but heavy cream is used in just about all of the recipes you can find. Gelato, on the other hand, uses a lower-fat dairy option--generally whole milk or something similar. This one aspect of difference is the key to the other differences between the two finished products: higher butter fat in ice cream (the USDA requires a minimum of 10% butter fat to qualify as “ice cream,”) creates a firmer, richer product, which takes on more air and melts more slowly. The higher fat content in ice cream also means that the flavors tend to be a little more subdued in general; the rich fats coat the tongue to a degree. While there are of course many, many options for flavoring ice cream, the medium tends to lend itself more to robust, dairy-loving flavors--caramel, strawberry, peach, chocolate, vanilla, and so on.

Gelato also differs from ice cream in its texture, as we briefly mentioned above; where ice cream is dense and rich, gelato tends to be softer. The high butterfat concentration in ice cream means that the base it’s made of can take on more air in the churning process--up to 50% in fact. Gelato has a lower air content, generally around 25%, so the resulting dessert isn’t as “fluffy” and dense in the mouth. However, those same quality lend themselves well to the intense flavors that gelato traditionally comes in: by using a lower-fat dairy and processing the dessert into a warmer temperature, more intense flavors--fruit, coffee, dark chocolate, and so on--are easier to taste. This is part of why gelato has developed a reputation for being a “fancier” alternative to ice cream: the base that it’s made from is versatile, so more powerfully-flavored ingredients can be added without risking that they’ll be lost in the creaminess or the cold.

Finally, there’s the question of how the two products are stored. Ice cream, to maintain its integrity, must be stored and served at about 10 degrees Fahrenheit--a very chilly temperature, but one which allows the air bubbles to remain in place while also keeping the fats from freezing into harder crystals. Gelato can and should be stored at a slightly higher temperature, to keep it from becoming hard and overly crystallized. Of course, this is a challenge if you wish to serve both at your restaurant, but there are ways to get around the issue; keeping the gelato at the same temperature as ice cream for storage is okay, but it should be taken out a little longer before serving, to let it reach the proper temperature.

Luckily for those who can’t decide, most of the basic tools to make either of these delightful confections are the same: apart from storage and scoops and other restaurant supplies that are needed to serve, gelato and ice cream are both made with ice cream makers. There are a wide variety of machines to choose from, with different capacities to suit the demand whether you want to make small batches of very specific and highly curated flavors or large amounts suitable for an entire dessert service. Particularly with summer right around the corner, it’s worth considering adding gelato, ice cream, or both to the menu--patrons will appreciate the fresh taste and the interesting desserts they can sample from a restaurant that makes its own frozen confections.


2018-04-17 19:04:25
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