There’s no better companion on a bright, sunny day than a sweet scoop of ice cream or perhaps gelato depending on where you live. Our recent Italian adventures got us thinking about these two great treats. They’re so similar, yet so different. Is there really a difference between gelato and ice cream? Or did we just fall hard for gelato because we were so romanced by Italy as a whole?
We did a little digging and learned that it’s not just us. There are actually quite a few things that make ice cream different from gelato, starting with the ingredients used to make each one.
Traditional ice cream is made with milk, cream and sugar. Sometimes egg yolks are added in to help bring everything together. These ingredients are first cooked to make a rich custard and then rapidly churned until the mixture transforms into the smooth, creamy, comforting delicacy we all know and love. This high-speed mixing also dramatically increases the amount of air that’s in ice cream, giving it that soft and fluffy, whipped texture.
The recipe for gelato is similar, but the difference lies in a few key ingredients. Like ice cream, gelato also starts out with a custard base, but is actually made using more milk and less cream. This difference in milk versus cream ratios is important. It explains why the main flavor of a scoop of gelato, like chocolate, hazelnut, or pistachio, shines through stronger than it does with ice cream. Gelato ingredients are also mixed at a much slower rate, which gives your scoop a less airy and denser consistency. This helps create that luxurious, silky-smooth gelato texture that we love.
Another big difference between ice cream and gelato is actually the temperature at which they’re served. Italian gelato is usually served about 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than ice cream. So, while it’s still a frozen dessert, it doesn’t have that tongue-numbing cold that often comes with the first lick of an ice cream cone.
Either way you scoop it, both of these classic frozen desserts are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. But don’t just take our word for it! With more and more gelato shops popping up around the country, when the weather is right, why not go out for ice cream AND gelato with your family and see if you taste a difference? (You wouldn’t have to sample both in one day, but we’ll fully support you if you do!)
Have you or your little citizens ever tried gelato? Share your favorite flavor with us in the comments section below!