The Untold Truth Of Gelato

We might all love ice cream, but there is one part of the world that we know of that where the words "ice cream" can't really be mentioned. This is at the Carpigiani Gelato University, which sits outside Bologna, Italy. The facility was built by Carpigiani, a name frozen delight manufacturers might recognize as the world's biggest manufacturer of gelato-making machines. The campus itself is built for one purpose: to spread the Gospel of Gelato, that most Italian of frozen delights (via NPR).

The word "gelato" comes from the word "congelato," or frozen. Like its cousin ice cream, gelato is dairy-based and contains milk, sugar, and add-ins like fruits and nuts that give it an intense pop of color and flavor. But while gelato is denser as a result of its manufacturing process (ice cream is pumped with air), it also has less cream and no egg yolks (via Mental Floss). It shouldn't come as a surprise then that ice cream has between 14 to 25 percent fat, which is definitely more than gelato, which has between 4 to 9 percent. Gelato is also served at slightly higher temperatures than ice cream, making your mouth less numb, and the treat is easier to taste as a result (via Food Network). 

Gelato in its current form was first enjoyed in France

Gelato University tracks the frozen delight's roots back to early Mesopotamia, where folks enjoyed consuming frozen treats fashioned from mountain snow mixed with fruit and beer. Catherine de Medici is also credited with bringing the idea of a frozen treat made with water instead of milk from Italy to France in 1533. 

But gelato didn't start looking like the treat we enjoy today until 1686, when a man named Francesco Procopio Cuto left Sicily for Paris, bringing with him his grandfather's sorbet-making machine. He then opened Cafe Procope, where he served both gelato and coffee to the likes of philosophers Rosseau and Voltaire. Voltaire reportedly said (via Good Reads): "Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal." And while Voltaire didn't refer to gelato exactly by its Italian name, we're pretty sure that that's what he meant.

It may not have been illegal, but the frozen treat wasn't exactly enjoyed by the masses. "Gelato was a symbol of... power," Valentina Righi, vice president of the Carpigiani Foundation, tells NPR. "Only rich people or aristocrats had ice cellars in their houses, in their palaces, to store the ice during the warm season." The coming of electricity in the 19th century popularized gelato, making it easy for everyone to get their hands on the traditional ice cream.

Gelato recipes can be considered heirlooms

For Gelato University instructor Alice Vignoli, making gelato is a family affair.  "My grandmother do gelato, my mother do gelato, and I always live for gelato," she tells NPR. "And for me, gelato is a passion, is not only a job. When I prepare gelato, I have a smile. [It] is a creative job, and you have the possibility to put your soul in your gelato."

In a blog for Jamie Oliver, London gelato maker Sophia Brothers nixes the idea of gelato being difficult to pull off as she shares her family's recipe for Fior di Latte (flower of milk), which only needs an ice cream machine, a candy thermometer, and a hand blender to produce. Her gelato calls for whole milk, double cream (or heavy whipping cream), unrefined sugar, skimmed milk powder, and corn flour. 

The ingredients need to be mixed in a pot and stirred over medium heat until it reaches 85C (185F). Once it reaches that temperature, the pan needs to be plunged in an ice bath for 30 minutes, with the mixture stirred occasionally until its temperature hits 10C/50F (use as much ice and cold water as you need). The mixture needs to be refrigerated overnight, strained, and blitzed with a hand blender before it is poured into an ice cream machine for the final churn. Brothers' gelato can be kept for up to a month.