Gelato and ice cream are both delicious treats and though they've been pleasing crowds for some years now, many people still don't know the main differences between them. When it comes to gelato vs ice cream, a lot of people usually stick with what they like or assume the two are one in the same. But, they do differ quite a bit.
In 1686, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a Sicilian fisherman and chef, opened the first gelato cafe in Paris. He named it Café Procope and it still stands to this day.
Gelato uses ingredients such as cream, milk, and sugar. It very rarely uses egg yolks, however, which is a common ingredient found in ice cream. Egg yolks in gelato are only ever really used if they want to add extra flavor, and gelato generally has a strong enough flavor due to the slow churning process to make it.
Ice cream has been around since the fifth century when ancient Greeks were eating desserts similar to ice cream. So, even from way back in the day people seemed to be digging this treat.
Composed of ingredients such as cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks, ice cream is a less-dense frozen treat, due to the fact that gelato is churned very slowly, whereas ice cream is churned at a much higher speed -- speeds that many consumer models of ice cream makers are unable to reach. Despite being less dense than gelato, ice cream has a much creamier texture, due to the high cream content and churning process in standard ice cream recipes.
Author Morgan Morano spoke to NPR in 2015 to talk about the main differences between the two. She wrote a book The Art of Making Gelato and was trained in Italy about how to make it. She broke down distinct features.
While both frozen treats use cream, milk and sugar as base ingredients, gelato uses much more milk than cream. Add to the fact that gelato generally refrains from using egg yolks, and the fat content between these two desserts is very noticeable -- ice cream is anywhere between 10 to 25 percent of fat, whereas gelato stays around four to nine percent.
Ice cream is stored at much lower temperatures than gelato, with standard ice cream ideally being stored at around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 °C) while gelato is usually stored at 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 °C). The higher temperature allows you to taste more of the sweetness of the gelato, whereas lower temperatures dilute the intensity. Take note, as ice cream being stored at gelato's temperature will begin to melt!
Gelato is churned at a much slower rate, with a special gelato machine being needed to achieve the desired speed. This yields a thick, dense product with only 20 to 30 percent air. The butterfat in ice cream is what keeps the creamy and thick texture of the product, as the churning speeds of ice cream left it with up to 50 percent air, which can make it soft and fluffy.
They are also served differently. Gelato is generally served with a spade, which is a flatter version of an ice cream scoop (think of it as a spatula) that allows you to work the gelato to soften it up without ruining the whole product. It's recommended to eat gelato closer to the time you purchase it -- the lower keeping temperatures mean the ingredients will start to decline, whereas ice cream can sit for a reasonable amount of time and maintain its thick, creamy texture.
Because to the lower temperatures that gelato is stored at, the sweet flavors and the necessity of a spade to effectively eat it, it's recommended to give gelato its due and eat it on its own, although topping gelato with a nice whipped cream or some fresh fruit can make for a wonderful sweet treat.
Ice cream is a wonderful dessert on its own, and it also pairs nicely with several warm dessert and breakfast items. Try throwing a scoop on a warm piece of pie after a large meal, or serving it alongside some waffles of French toast for an early morning treat.