I've been making a lot of gelato and ice cream this summer. Using the freshest peaches and the ripest berries, or one of the rich nut pastes I've brought from Italy, we're turning out deliciously cold treats to serve to our guests at the restaurant. You can eat gelato all year round, but somehow it's the perfect summer treat.
A frequently asked question is "what's the difference between gelato and ice cream?" and I've read lots of answers both on food websites as well as in print media. The standard answer is that gelato uses less whole cream and more whole milk, and that's what gives it the silky smooth texture that makes it so special. But the fact is, it isn't the lower milk fat that makes it creamy, it's the higher sugar content. Gelato is creamy and easy to serve, no matter how long it's been in the freezer. Increased sugars keep the water molecules from freezing solid, so gelato stays creamy. Try freezing whole milk and see how solid a block of ice it becomes!
If you simply added more sucrose, or table sugar, the ice cream would be too sweet to eat. So we need another kind of sugar -a dextrose or inverted sugar syrup, which is less sweet than fructose or sucrose. You can get more sugars into the gelato, hence getting a mixture that won't freeze solid, but also won't be too sweet to enjoy. The easiest thing to use is corn syrup but you can make simple syrup with equal parts water and sugar, boiled for 1 minute and cooled.
I've had the best luck with fruit gelato, since the high level of fructose in the fruit is added to the sucrose and dextrose to keep the final product scoop-able. Although I eye-ball my measurements, of course, I've included a recipe for you to try.
You can make gelato with almost anything seasonal, even avocado, which is beautiful scooped on chilled gazpacho. Nut pastes from Italy can be ordered on line and I recommend hazelnut from Piedmont as well as pistachio from Sicily. And the peaches, apricots, plums and berries are a perfect end to the meal!