May 1, 2011

Gelato vs Ice Cream

Bittersweet Chocolate Gelato is a delectable treat this time of year. The sun is finally peeking out through the clouds here in the Pacific Northwest although we are still at temperatures in the low 60's. Sunshine is always a welcoming nod toward my favorite summertime...really anytime treat! Creamy & decadently mousse-like; the mouthfeel of gelato is much silkier than ice cream.

Ice cream you'll find is much fluffier than gelato as there is anywhere between 50-100% of air churned into ice cream, where the traditional Italian Gelato has only 30-35% air incorporated during the much slower churning process.

At home I serve my ice cream on the softer side, but out in the universe ice cream is served at sub zero temperatures. This is definitely why my love of stirring it all up into a sort of soupy frozen pudding consistency while eating it was born as little girl. Ice cream is served completely frozen typically around -10 degrees F and gelato is traditionally served at about 7 degrees F.

Although it may seem like gelato would be fattier because of its creamy texture and rich flavor, surprisingly gelato's fat content ranges between 5-8% while ice cream has a minimum fat content of 10%, but often ranges between 15-20%. Gelato is made with a higher content of whole milk versus heavy cream.

All of this boils down to flavor, which is the main reason why I'll always choose Gelato over Ice Cream....well that and because I am Italian!

The flavor is affected by all of the above. Gelato is much more intense in flavor, think of the best ice cream you've eaten and now envision that first bite of true Italian gelato. Perhaps, walking around the streets of Italy help make this lovely scoop of gelato better than that 31 Flavors scoop on a hot summer day. But the facts add up to more flavor for gelato.

Gelato vs Ice Cream
1) Less Air incorporated during the churning process
2) Warmer storing & serving temperatures
3) Overall less fat

For my bittersweet chocolate gelato recipe, I use the best chocolate found here in Seattle, my go-to chocolate bar from Theo, the 70% Dark chocolate bar. You may have heard me once or twice before but really I can barely bring myself to use any other chocolate in the kitchen. Made here in Seattle. The first and still the only Fair-Trade & Organic certified Bean-To-Bar Chocolate Factory in all of North America! I'm yearning for a cocoa powder some day from our darling I do use a dash of cocoa powder in my gelato, Fair Trade & Organic of course, but it's no Theo!

Victoria's Bittersweet Chocolate Gelato

Makes about 3 cups

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened & unprocessed cocoa powder
4 ounces Theo Chocolate 70% Bar, chopped (1 bar = 3 ounces, therefore 1 bar + 2 rectangle pieces, so you're left with 2 ounces for nibbling) *If using another chocolate use at least 70% cacao content
5 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

In a medium saucepan bring the milk, cream and sugar to a light simmer and stir constantly until the sugar is melted.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the cocoa powder until fully incorporated and then whisk in the bittersweet chocolate until melted.

In a medium bowl beat the egg yolks together. Temper the egg yolks with the warm chocolate mixture by adding a small amount of the warm chocolate mixture to the egg yolks and whisking constantly. This method is used to bring the temperature of the eggs up to the temperature of the hot chocolate mixture without scrambling the eggs.

Once tempered add the egg yolk chocolate mixture into the saucepan with the remaining warm chocolate milk and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until thickened and a thermometer registers 180 degrees F.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, stir in the vanilla and the sea salt. Place plastic wrap over the top of the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour.

After chilled pour the gelato base into the bowl of an ice-cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Freeze for 20-30 minutes prior to serving.

Can be made several days ahead of serving. If making ahead, pull out of the freezer about 10-15 minutes to soften prior to serving.

Serve with fresh berries and a sprinkling of roasted cacao nibs!

Buon Appetito!


  1. Yum! Thank you for the nice explanation of the differences between gelato and ice cream. I'm wondering if the type of machine used to churn the gelato makes a difference for the amount of air incorporated? What kind of ice cream maker do you have?

  2. Ciao Becky, Yes the type of machine definitely affects the consistency. As discussed less air is churned into Gelato than into Ice Cream. Therefore, a slower churning method is needed. I just have a cuisinart machine, nothing fancy. Now if you were making this recipe and using DeLonghi's gelato machine or even a Lesso or a gorgeous Lussino model, you would think you were in Italia! Buon Appetito!