Italians do many things well, and gelato is definitely one.
Gelaterias have become more common in the United States where you can sample this famous Italian import. When you go to Italy, you'll be able to taste the real thing.
What's the difference between gelato and ice cream? Gelato is made with milk rather than cream, yet it's surprisingly rich and textured. That's because of the way gelato is made, at a much slower pace and served at temperatures warmer than ice cream. The flavors are intense.
Nutty, Fruity and . . . Peperoncini?
The variety and creativity of gelato flavors put American ice cream makers to shame. There is cioccolato fondente, a dark chocolate, cioccolato al latte, milk chocolate and the heavenly bacio, a combination of chocolate and hazelnut, with little bits of candy and chopped hazelnuts mixed in. For a bit of heat, try cioccolato con peperroncini.
Even Limoncello, based on the famous Italian liqueur.
Then there are gelatos with a cream base, which combine beautifully with other gelato flavors. Try a French vanilla crema or a zabaglione, blended with Marsala wine. The latter flavor has a strong egg custard taste that is complemented by the added flavoring of the wine. Amarena contains sour cherries in a thick syrup.
Without dairy, gelato becomes sorbetto, which is like eating the essence of the fruit. Chunks of fruit and a smooth texture with a strong fruit flavor is perfect for cold refreshment on a hot Italian summer day. Try strawberry, fruits of the forest or Frutti di Bosco with berries, lemon, raspberry, raspberry with dark chocolate, pineapple.
If you love nuts, try pistacchio, almond, hazelnut (without chocolate) and walnut. Zuppa Inglese is based on the well-known English dessert called trifle. It has a custard base and bits of cookies inside, combined with either a sweet wine like madeira or sherry.
There is a black licorice flavored gelato that is said to be just like eating actual licorice. Cannella is a cinnamon flavored gelato that's commonly eaten in combination with a fruit or chocolate flavored gelato.
This section would not be complete without a mention of Viagra, made with African herbs that ostensibly have the same effect as Viagra. Try it if you dare.
All gelato is made using the same ingredients such as egg yolks, milk, sugar, emulsifiers and stabilizers. But new methods have come along to speed up the process. Purists stick to the ancient methods, but tradition has its challenges.
How Gelato is Made
The old fashioned method has been used for thousands of years. After the core ingredients were mixed, they were then chilled, frozen, and the gelato mixture given air to add texture. It’s a long, tedious process but still used by some traditional gelato makers.
Today machines have been pressed into service to make the process a little easier. There is a quick method called the sprint process, designed purely for rapid production and consumption. This involves a pre-packaged gelato mix and all that is added is milk and water. It’s then frozen until ready for consumption.
This process removes the need for a skilled gelato maker but it places limits on the creativity and inspiration that traditional gelato makers are known for.
The process most used today is neither the traditional one nor the fastest one. Gelato is made either with heat or cold. When the ingredients are heated a pasteurizer is added and everything mixed by machine. If it's not heated first, then no pasteurizer is added and the ingredients are mixed using a cold process base. Then frozen before it’s ready to be served.
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