Is gelato just the Italian name for ice cream? Or is there more of a difference than just the name? There actually is a difference in both how they taste and how they’re made. If you’ve ever eaten gelato, it’s got a denser, milkier texture and a more intense flavor than its American cousin, ice cream.
Some people describe gelato as having a soft, elastic texture and slow-to-melt milkiness with a clean taste. According to Morellis Gelato, a worldwide gelato creamery since 1906, they describe the difference like this: Gelato has a more intense flavour than ice cream, since it has less cold fat that coats the tongue and gets in the way of tasting things. Gelato’s flavours come through directly and quickly then melt away, leaving a clean mouth.
On the other hand, ice cream has a heavier, richer taste and a creamier body. But, what accounts for the difference? It comes down to both a slight difference in ingredients, the way the two products are prepared and the storage/serving temperature.
Difference in Ingredients
One of the big difference between the two is that ice cream uses more cream, giving it a higher fat content (at least 10% by U.S. labeling laws) while gelato uses more milk than cream, reducing the amount of fat considerably.
Custard-based ice cream uses egg yolks, an additional source of fat, while gelato typically doesn’t contain egg yolks.
The amount of sugar isn’t such a cut and dry difference between gelato and ice cream and that’s because so much depends on the amount of sugar called for from the recipe.
Difference in Preparation
Ice creams are whipped and churned hard and fast, which means plenty of air (called overrun) is created during the preparation of ice cream. Higher-end ice creams contain around 25% air and cheaper commercial ice creams can contain from 50% all the way to 90% air. The more air the ice cream has, the less flavorful it is. That’s because when you bite into cheaper varieties of ice cream, some of those bites can be fifty percent air!
Gelato is churned slowly which means much less air gets added to the end product, making it a much denser product than ice cream.
Ice cream is usually served at about 10°F and gelato is served a bit warmer. If you turned the temperature down and froze gelato to a much colder temperature, it would be much more like ice cream. But served at a warmer temperature, you get that perfect soft-but-not-soupy consistency we’ve all learned to associate with a delicious scoop of our favorite gelato. If you tried storing ice cream at warmer temperature, it’d just get soupy due to the high fat.
So gelato vs. ice cream? Is there much of a difference? The only true way to find out is to fill up a big bowl of each and do your own taste test. Go ahead! You have our permission. Let us know what you think?
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