One question we get asked all the time is: “Why do gelato, when the name is iScream? Isn’t gelato just poncey ice cream?” Instead of sighing and rolling their eyes, Graham and Jen happily explain: “Like all food, it’s down to science. In this case it is all about fat, air and temperature.”
A traditional British seaside soft ice/whip can be up to 50 – 80% air, whilst there is almost no air at all in gelato. Why? Because gelato has a much lower fat content than ice cream. It is made with milk and very little cream and, as it has less fat, it can be churned at a much slower rate than traditional ice cream. Churning keeps it smooth by preventing ice crystals from forming. So, if you have less fat, you can churn slower, so there is less air and the ice cream is smoother and denser.
Unlike in savoury dishes, where the “fat is flavour”, the fat in the ice cream masks the flavour of the ingredients (such as vanilla or fruit). This is how it works: fat dissolves in your mouth to form a thin film or barrier on your palate, which is fine for savoury foods, because that is where the flavour is. Conversely, in gelato and ice cream, the flavour comes from the non-fat ingredients such as fruit, so, the lower the fat content, the higher the intensity of flavour. Being low in fat, gelato delivers knock out flavours. Equally, as sorbetti are fat free, they can deliver flavour fireworks.
Because of the slower churn, gelato is denser than ice cream and must be stored and served at a slightly higher temperature. Too cold and it is too solid too serve, just right and it is smooth, silky and velvety.
So, there you have it. The difference between ice cream and gelato is not foody hyperbole or fluff, it is pure science and you can see the whole process going on down in our lab at iScream. One lick, never forgotten.