‘Tis the season of ice cream! This month I’m paying tribute to ice cream or to be precise, gelato – Italian ice cream. Though it may not be the most nourishing fuel for our bodies, ice cream is a favourite summer-time treat for kids and adults alike and every now and then there is no harm in indulging in something scrummy!
Without doubt, the founders of Il Gelataio, Christian and Francessca Cucca are passionate about gelato. For those like me who don’t speak Italian, ‘Il Gelataio’ translates to ‘ice cream maker.’ And for the Cucca’s it is fitting – a master gelato maker in their team and Italian blood in their veins, they have the winning formula for creating delicious flavoured gelato which is natural, without preservatives, artificial flavours or colourings.
In fact, they source some of their ingredients from regions in which it grows the best to ensure the ultimate taste – 100% pistachio paste from Sicilly and vanilla pods from Madagascar (where vanilla is like gold.) For the fruit based gelato and sorbet, they like to use local seasonal produce here on island when they can.
From tree to freezer
I had great fun spending a morning at the Il Gelataio laboratory in Palma, to find out exactly how their gelato is produced…and sample some flavours too. I arrived with two bags full of lemons, picked the evening before with my daughter, from the tree in my garden.
In exchange for lemons, I would walk away that day with lemon sorbet, made using my own fruit! Now that is satisfaction – from tree to freezer in less than a day! For my children too, such a lovely way to experience food made with something home-grown.
Gelato or ice-cream?
When making gelato, there is precision in the process and differences which set it apart from the rest. Compared to regular ice cream, gelato is denser due to a slower churning rate. As less air is incorporated, the texture is found to be creamier.
The flavour is often more intense and this is because more whole milk and less cream and eggs are used, also giving it a lower butterfat percentage. It is served 10-15 degrees warmer than regular ice cream – another reason for an enhanced flavour…though best eaten quickly on a hot day as it won’t hold it’s shape for long!
Carefully perfected flavours
In the laboratory, each gelato flavour has its own unique recipe. The fruit sorbets (with the exception of coconut) are made using only fruit, water and sugar. Whereas your vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio and stracciatella flavours require a milk and cream base.
I’m not going to lie to you here, sorbet and all types of ice cream contain a lot of sugar. However, it is a necessary ingredient because it is the sugar which prevents the water from freezing into it’s crystallised ice form. So as there isn’t a replacement for it, we just have to make our kids aware of portion size and the importance of brushing our teeth.
The journey to your tastebuds
Once the ingredients have been carefully weighed and blended by hand, they are transferred to a surprisingly small, but intelligent piece of kit which does everything else.
The gelato machine works by using it’s one hundred and fifty sensors to circulate water around a cylinder containing the gelato or sorbet mix. In super-fast times of eight to ten minutes, it can reach the temperature of eighty five degrees (for pasteurising gelato) and then in another eight minutes, have it cooled to minus seven degrees.
The cylinder, all the while, churns the mix to create that creamy texture. As sorbet doesn’t need the heat process, this clever machine at one point, had a pistachio mix heated to 85 degrees in one compartment and in another, it cooled the lemon sorbet.
For extra consumption safety, both gelato and sorbet are transferred to another freezer and frozen to minus twenty-five. All in all, a fascinating procedure to be part of especially given the self-allocated role as the chief tester!
During the final cooling at gelato o’clock, we had just enough time for me to try some other flavours. By far for me, the tastebud sensation of them all is pistachio. The texture is certainly smooth and creamy and the flavour just exceptional.
It does exactly what it’s meant to – make you smile and say ‘mmmmmm!’ And the taste test verdict for my lemon sorbet? Silky sweet and refreshingly tangy. Of course there is nothing quite like treating family and friends to a dessert with a home-grown story. So if your fruit trees are overflowing and you’d like to trade fruit for ice cream, it’s well worth getting in touch!
To taste Il Gelataio gelato for yourselves, stockists here on island are The Marina Bar at Club de Mar in Palma and Il Chiringo on Palmanova beach. Or you can place your own order of whatever flavour you like by calling Christian directly.
Christian Cucca +34 666328155
Written by Gemma Sherlock
About the author
After many years of moving around, Gemma, her husband and 2 children settled in Mallorca.
She loves exploring novels and plays, words and meanings and writing in a variety of ways. Not realising that it was something that she would miss, Gemma is happy to have found a new outlet in Nourish.
Why Nourish the Kids? Words, language and especially writing have always been a focus and priority for Gemma.
She likes to express herself thoughtfully and with clarity whether writing or speaking and enjoys discussing and researching new ideas and topics, particularly when it comes to health and well-being.
Likes: Circuit training, pilates, cooking from Ottolenghi books, pukka tea, hummus, reflexology, the audible app, Spanish lessons at MTA and thoughtfulness.