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It’s the summer season and if you’re not eating strawberries and cream at Wimbledon then the only other dessert to enjoy at this time of year is a frozen one. But do you opt for traditional ice cream or an Italian style gelato? If you’re going to make that decision then you need to have a good understanding of the differences between the two.

Gelato – the facts

Although gelato is basically the Italian word for ice cream it’s not quite the same in terms of ingredients and eating experience. Gelato has a basic custard base – which is largely the same as ice cream. However, it’s then made with much more milk than you’ll find in an ice cream recipe. It tends to have less cream than ice cream and some gelato recipes include eggs but others don’t feature them at all. It’s also quite a different eating experience to ice cream for a number of reasons:

  • Gelato is churned at a slower rate than ice cream – the result is that gelato tends to be denser, as it hasn’t got as much air in it as ice cream.
  • On a hot day gelato won’t last as long as ice cream – it’s served at a higher temperature than ice cream. Although this ensures that the consistency is much silkier it can also mean that you have to eat gelato slightly faster, as it’s likely to melt more quickly.
  • Less fat than ice cream. If you’re dieting then gelato might be a better option, as it’s got a lower fat content. Some people feel that this reduced fat means that the flavours in gelato are more noticeable too.

Ice cream – what you need to know

Ice cream recipes tend to vary but most will follow the same basic list of ingredients – sugar, cream, milk and egg yolks. The egg yolks used to be optional and when ice cream was first pioneered in America they weren’t included. However, the French were big advocates of egg yolks in ice cream and the richness they brought to the continental version soon converted the Americans too. So, if you’re ordering an ice cream what can you expect?

  • More air. Ice cream is churned faster and so has a lighter, airier texture. Some whipped ice creams are incredibly light and barely have any density at all.
  • Colder to eat. Great on a hot day, ice cream is colder than gelato so your scoops won’t go sliding off when the sun is shining.
  • Very tasty. Thanks to the egg yolks and the higher percentage of cream, ice cream is a bit of a taste sensation. It’s smooth and creamy and comes in a range of classic flavours – like strawberry and vanilla – as well as the more innovative salted caramel or earl grey tea.

Whether you have gelato or ice cream this summer, the key is to ensure that you’re able to get out and enjoy a cone or a tub in the sunshine.