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Different kinds of coffees on display

Gelato (pronounced jeh-lah-toh) is the Italian word for "frozen". In the context of frozen desserts, gelato refers to ice cream.


But gelato is not simply an Italian word for regular ice cream. In fact, gelato is an entirely different and unique product separate and distinct from ice cream. Gelato contains essentially all of the same ingredients as ice cream -- water, milk, cream, sugar, flavourings and air, but in uniquely different proportions.


The three most distinctive differences are 1. low butterfat content, 2. low overrun, and 3. extreme freshness.




Low Butterfat


North American ice cream has a butterfat content of approximately 17%. In fact, in many jurisdictions, a frozen dessert cannot be called "ice cream" if it does not have at least a certain percentage butterfat content, typically 10%.


Gelato butterfat content is typically in the neighborhood of 1-7%. Sorbets have a butterfat content of between 1-3%. Cream flavours have a butterfat content of 3-7%.


Low Overrun


Overrun is a measure of the air which is injected into the ice cream during production. A high overrun means a lot of air is added to the ice cream during creation. A low overrun means there is not much air added.


Typical North American style ice cream can have an overrun of 100% or more. This literally means that half of the ice cream by volume is composed of air. In contrast, typical gelato has a much smaller overrun in the neighborhood of 30-40%. Much less air is introduced into the gelato product compared to ice cream.


Extreme Freshness


At an authentic gelateria, the gelato is made fresh daily. Unlike many North American ice cream parlours, the gelato is made on the premises. True Italian gelato is not made in large quantities and then stored. There are no preservatives added to create an artificially large shelf life. Typically, gelato is made fresh for consumption within a day or two.


Good gelato is made from the freshest natural ingredients - water, milk, cream, sugar, fruit and other natural flavourings. While gelato can be made from powdered base mixes, the inferior quality is immediately apparent in the taste.


Furthermore, gelato is elegantly displayed in attractive stainless steel bins and handsomely decorated.



What Does this All Mean?


The combination of exteme freshness, low butterfat and low overrun results in a product that is denser, creamier and more intense than traditional North American style ice cream. It is served at a warmer temperature than ice cream and has a cleaner, more natural perception on the palate. Combined with the exceptional manner in which it is displayed, gelato is more a dessert experience than a mere frozen treat.

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