There are ice cream shops and gelato shops all over the Bay Area these days. Since “gelato” is the Italian word for ice cream, it would make sense that ice cream and gelato are one and the same. There are differences, however, which you probably noticed when you tried gelato for the first time after eating ice cream most of your life.
One big difference between the two is that gelato is made with more milk and less cream than American style ice cream. Gelato has between 4% and 9% butterfat, while ice cream is a minimum of 10% butterfat. Most ice cream stores in the Bay Area have 14% butterfat ice cream, and Mitchell’s has 16%. That means that gelato is lower in fat, and ice cream is richer and creamier.
Another difference between the two is that ice cream is churned at a much faster speed than gelato, so ice cream has more air, which makes it lighter in texture. Gelato is churned at a very slow speed, which allows less air into the base, thus making it denser than American style ice cream.
Since gelato is denser and lower in butterfat than ice cream, it must be served at a higher temperature. Ice cream is usually served at about 5 or 6 degrees above zero, while gelato is best served at between 10 and 12 degrees above zero. If the temperatures for each were reversed, the ice cream would be melted and the gelato would be hard as a rock!
While there are definite differences between the two, they also have a lot in common, and some recipes are so similar that it’s hard to tell whether you’re eating ice cream or gelato. One thing’s for sure, everyone loves ice cream, whether it’s American style or Italian style!