Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Is gelato ice cream?

Sera is enjoying 'pink & purple' gelato a.k.a. strawberry & blackberry-cream flavors
I've never really been a fan of ice cream. It's sticky, cold and generally overly-sweet for my taste buds but, living in Italy sooner or later someone is going to propose the afternoon or after-dinner tradition of 'going for a gelato' and I am sure glad that in my case it came sooner rather than later.

So while I don't quite like ice cream, I do enjoy gelato!  What's the deal? What could be so different between the two?

Firstly you have to talk about the fat content. Ice Cream cannot officially/legally be called 'ice cream' in the US and Canada without having 10% fat. I guess that makes sense because milk cannot be called cream until it is at 10% fat either. So a lower fat content ice cream is really just ice milk.

Gelato is served slightly warmer than ice cream is. You shouldn't have a nice balanced scoop on the top of the cone with gelato but rather a carefully-crafted, spread on with a spatula and eat it soon structure.  Ice cream will melt slower, which is a plus, but eat it too fast and you'll get one of those frozen headaches.

Ice cream is also made more quickly than gelato which is rotated very very slowly until it reaches the right consistency. Therefore gelato has less air in it, officialy none added, than ice cream and should not suffer as heavily from freezer burn if stored (but generally, it's all eaten before it goes back in the freezer anyhow).

Do you like creamy or fruity flavors?  Gelato has them both. My first year in Italy I would venture to Piazza Oberdan to a gelateria with green-apple flavour. Tangy and sweet and yum!  In terms of the creamier versions there are dark chocolate (with or without added flavors such as pepperoncino, orange, coffee etc) or various creams, vanillas and hazelnuts. Most gelateria have on offer at least 10-15 flavors at any one time, most of which are of the creamy variety with seasonal fruits flavors mixed in the lot.  One warning about gelato however (for those of you with allergies or mums-to-be) quite a lot of the cream flavors contain egg yolks which, due to the nature of gelato, obviously haven't been cooked.
The verdict is that gelato simply isn't ice cream at all and my mouth knew it all along.

One universal and terribly annoying common factor that both Gelateria and Ice cream shops have in common is those strange plastic napkins they offer on the counter. Is it just me, or do the people who work there love seeing you wipe the drips all over yourself as you struggle with the napkins and end up with a puddle on your dress?

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