You have to hand it to the people of Italy, they deserve major kudos for all the wonderful culinary creations they’ve brought into the world. From pizza and pasta to pesto and marinara sauce, many of the things we enjoy have roots in Italian culture. Although these dishes are wonderful, nothing instantly satisfies the palate on a hot summer day like a cold cup of gelato. With a history as rich as its flavor, there is a wealth of information out there on gelato and its origins. Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about gelato.
Congelato is the Italian Word for Frozen
The word congelato translates to frozen in Italian and congelare means to freeze. Though gelato is basically the Italian version of ice cream, it isn’t just Breyer’s with an artisanal flair. Much like ice cream, gelato contains sugar, milk, ice, and flavorings such as fruit, nuts, or caramel, but also has less air whipped into it, less cream, and no egg yolks.
Early Gelato Was Closer to Sorbet than Normal Ice Cream
Although gelato has its roots in Italian culture, food historians tell us that the history of ice cream begins with ancient flavored ices dating back to as early as 3000 BC. The ancient cultures of China and Egypt added fruit and salt to snow to make a primitive cold dessert. Allegedly ancient Roman emperors ate similar desserts, and frozen treats were one of the myriad of culinary inventions brought to Paris from Florence, Italy by Catherine de Medici upon her marriage to the King of France. The lack of milk at the time meant that the Italians had to use water, making early gelato more closely resemble sorbetto, or sorbet.
The First Gelato Café Opened in Paris, 1686
In 1686, a Sicilian fisherman and chef from Palermo by the name of Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli made the first gelato machine. He proceeded to open up a café in Paris called Café Procope, which sold coffee and gelato to Parisians and great literary thinkers like Rousseau and Voltaire. To this day you can still visit Café Porcope, which now serves classic French dishes such as duck foie gras, beef tartare, and snails.
Gelato Packs More Flavor but Less Fat than Ice Cream
By some miracle straight from the divine maker him/her-self, gelato somehow contains less fat than ice cream but seems to taste more flavorful. Gelato expert Morgan Morano explains in a conversation with NPR, gelato is smoother, softer, and denser than ice cream because less air is churned into it and it has less butterfat. “Butterfat coats your palate, and if you have less of it you can taste the flavors more quickly,” explained Morano.
It's Warmer Temperature Packs a Stronger Flavor
Gelato is properly stored at a temperature slightly above that of ice cream. While ice cream is typically served between 0-10 degrees Fahrenheit, gelato is served at temperatures between 7-15 degrees Fahrenheit. That slight difference in temperature makes all the difference, and gives gelato its soft, silky texture that is more pleasing to your taste buds. The higher temperature also means your tongue is numbed less by the cold, allowing you to better appreciate the flavor of your gelato.
Just a few interesting things to consider next time you decide to go out for a nice cup or cone of gelato. Stop by anytime and check out our massive selection of gelato flavors to cool you down and satiate your palate in the Florida summer heat!