Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gelato dreaming

I don't usually eat ice cream, it hurts my teeth and I'm dairy intolerant, but I ate gelato nearly everyday while we were away although some days it was more sorbet than a dairy food. We even ate it in negative temperatures in Milan and on what felt like the coldest day on our trip in Pisa which made my lips turn blue and my insides freeze in horror.

Stories of cold icy desserts can be traced back to ancient Chinese Emperors who flavoured snow with fruit, wine and honey and Nero who added spices, leaves and fruit. In Italy gelato has been made for centuries. Those in the north used a more creamy recipe with milk, cream, sugar and eggs whereas the Sicilians, way down at the bottom of the boot, made a water based mixture but used more sugar calling it sorbetto. Over the years the recipes have been played with and refined to create todays gelato, the milky version, which has between a third and a quarter less fat than ice cream but nearly twice as much sugar the proportions of which are responsible for the gloopyness. It is frozen in small batches to expose more surface area (than in traditional ice cream production) to the air which gives it it's velvety, gossamer texture and intense flavours. The Italians are justifiably proud of their luxurious desert.
Incidently it was the Italians who invented the cone too.

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