With summer arrives the heat and in most parts of the world, the urge to cool down with ice cream or gelato. Walking around any urban areas from small towns to big cities, in any part of the world and this frozen cream desert continues to be a favorite.
In this article, we will be addressing the difference between ice cream and gelato while exploring how they’re made and other factors such as nutritional value.
Origins of Ice Cream and Gelato
Although the inventor of ice cream is unknown, there is proof that human beings have been enjoying an ice-based dessert for many centuries! Amongst the earliest versions of this dessert can be traced back to ancient China, where a combination of milk, flour, and ice was used to make a dessert that was enjoyed by the elite in that society.
As with any food, human beings have been creative with adapting their dessert to the times they live in and using readily available ingredients, depending on the geographical location. This remains true with Ice cream, which has had many versions over the years, including but not limited to, the addition of fruits, juices, or honey over fresh snow to make for a tasty treat!
With time, the dessert was being made with cow milk (as opposed to buffalo milk earlier used by the Chinese), egg yolks, which were served as a dessert to the elite guests of English King, Charles I, in the 17th century.
It wasn’t till much later (sometime during the 19th century), when an ice cream machine was invented to help make the dessert faster. Due to the technological advances of the time, especially concerning refrigeration techniques, Ice Cream became a much more popular dessert and one that was enjoyed by all people, as opposed to being restricted to the rich and elite.
As for Gelato, this is Italy’s Ice Cream (so to speak). Although its exact origins aren’t clear, research suggests that Gelato was first made in either the city of Sicily or Florence.
Ice Cream vs Gelato
Let’s start with a brief explanation of “what is an Ice cream?” and “what constitutes gelato?”
Well, essentially, ice cream is a dessert that is frozen and made of milk, cream, sugar, and eggs (although not necessarily).
Even ice cream can be different depending on their origins. For example, American-styled ice cream differs from French-style ice cream as the latter had egg yolk and is richer than the former, which didn’t initially contain egg. Nowadays, however, styles are being exchanged and adapted so that even American-style ice cream includes yolks.
Process of Making
How is ice cream made in comparison with gelato? The method of making ice cream and gelato does not differ too much.
First, the ingredients mentioned earlier are cooked together to make a custard which is quite rich! This custard is then allowed to cool before being churned at high speed to incorporate air so that the volume is increased.
The difference in the making of gelato (“Italian Ice Cream”) is that it tends to have a higher proportion of milk in comparison to ice cream. Further, gelato also has a lower proportion of cream and eggs (in many cases, gelato does not have any egg at all).
Finally, the process of churning gelato is at a slower speed than in the process of making ice cream. This means that gelato incorporates less air, which is what gives it its dense texture when compared to ice cream.
Gelato is also served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream. Therefore, its texture is thicker, silkier, and softer than Ice cream. This is also because gelato has less butterfat than ice cream.
Another quirky fact that is a difference between ice cream and gelato would be that the former is usually scooped with a profoundly rounded spoon. The higher fat content allows the ice cream to be shaped into firm, round ball-shaped “scoops.”
However, with gelato, since it is served at a warmer temperature than ice cream, the tool used to serve gelato would be a flat spatula, which is called a “spade,” which helps soften the dessert.
Nutritional Value and Profile
In general, this makes gelato a healthier option than ice cream (keep in mind, both are desserts with high sugar content and should be consumed in moderate amounts).
The numbers would show that most types of ice cream may have between 14% to 25% butterfat, while gelato tends to have between 5% to 10% butterfat, although this may differ. Concerning temperature, Italian gelato is usually served about 6 to 8 degrees centigrade warmer than ice cream, which also enhances the flavors as the mouth isn’t numb from the cold.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration, U.S.A.) defines ice cream as a dairy product with at least 10% of its calories from fat, although this could go up to 25% from a carton of ice cream.
As mentioned earlier, the calorific derivation from fat is much lower in gelato, although gelato has more sugar than ice cream.
On average, a half-cup serving of vanilla ice cream can contain 210 calories and about 16 grams of sugar, whereas, in an equal-sized serving of gelato, there would be 160 calories and 17 grams of sugar.
Flavor and Texture
Higher butterfat coats the tongue of the person consuming it and therefore delays or suppresses the main flavor of the dessert.
This is one of the key reasons for the difference in flavor between ice cream and gelato as the lower fat content ensures that gelato’s primary flavor is emphasized, and therefore, gelato is considered to pack more of a punch per serving, concerning its flavor when compared to ice cream.
The flavor itself depends on the main ingredient used in the making of ice cream and gelato. This main ingredient can be almost anything such as a citrus flavor, chocolate, hazelnut, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, espresso, and the list goes on! This allows a consumer to choose from a huge variety of flavors and never get bored!
Concerning the texture and to adding to what was mentioned earlier, stabilizers such as egg yolk which is very often used in ice cream, but rarely in gelato, add fat to the ice cream that ensures that large ice crystals are not formed, thereby making sure the experience of eating ice cream remains a comfortable and tasty one!
Another stabilizer used by commercial ice cream companies is guar gum, which also helps bind the water and fat in ice cream to avoid large ice crystals. All this adds to the overall texture and flavor of the dessert.
This issue of larger ice crystals forming in the dessert does not arise when discussing gelato, as they usually do not have egg yolk or a stabilizer and also because gelato is served at slightly warmer temperatures.
Summary: Gelato vs Ice Cream
So which is better, Ice cream or gelato? Well, the answer depends on the personal preference of the consumer.
Ice cream has a colder, firmer texture, which adds a buttery feel to the mouth when consumed while gelato has more flavor packed in with a silkier texture and is also lower on fat!
The high calories and sugar can increase the risk of disease or developing conditions such as obesity, diabetes, etc. That said, the high cream and milk content does provide calcium to any who consume this tasty frozen treat and can form a part of a healthy diet, but both desserts are meant to be eaten in moderation.