Gelato simply means frozen in Italian. The art of making the Italian frozen dessert extends beyond the literal meaning of the word. Gelato has become a generic Italian word for ice cream, though true gelato contains no cream. The same word is commonly used in English speaking countries to refer to "ice cream" that is prepared in the Italian way.
Gelato is a creamy low-fat ice cream style product. Even without all the butterfat gelato has a really silky texture. American ice cream typically has 50 to 100 percent air when it's being frozen, gelato recipes overrun 20 percent. This produces a unique smoothness and truly creamy product. The combination of intense flavor with density of the product offers the most balanced, fresh, natural flavor that impresses the human palate and senses. Gelato is made from milk (also soy milk) and sugar, combined with other flavorings.
The gelato ingredients are super-cooled while stirring to break up ice crystals as they form. Typical gelato is also made with fresh fruit or other ingredients such as chocolate (pure chocolate, flakes, chips, candies, truffles, etc.), nuts, small candies, sweets, or cookies. Outside Italy it is often made using flavors imported from Italy. Gelato made with water and without dairy ingredients is also known as sorbetto. Traditionally, milk-based gelato originated in Northern Italy, while the fruit-and-water based sorbetto came from the hotter parts of Southern Italy and Sicily.
Dairy gelato is made with whole cow's milk and contains 4-8% butterfat depending on the ingredients. Like high-end ice cream, good quality gelato combines high quality ingredients with milk and cream, soy milk, or water. Gelato is usually made with whole milk which is 3 - 4% butterfat - and often cream is added to increase creaminess. Unlike ice cream, ingredients in gelato recipes are not homogenized together, and the result is that the product melts faster than ice cream.
In some gelato recipes you can use the standard ice cream recipes and replacing the cream with whole or 1%-2% milk. There are some gelato recipes that call for eggs, although with the homogenization of the Italian gelato culture and mixes and stabilizers readily available and in use, eggs are being phased out as emulsifiers.
Gelato has high nutritional value; soft and thick at the same time, flavorsome, refreshing and genuine and, especially if it is homemade fresh daily, is a joy for the eyes and the palate, just right for persons of any age.
Gelato is served from a special forced air freezer. This allows the gelato to be served immediately after being extruded from the gelato machine - the "forced air" blowing around holds the product at a consistent temperature. You may not serve gelato from an ice cream freezer - the gelato would become too frozen. The best gelato is made fresh daily.
Gelato can be purchased from a gelato supplier in 1/2-Gallon and 3-Gallon containers. Gelato is hard to describe, it must be tasted. One try and you'll be hooked for life!