Gelaterias in Italy are as commonplace as coffee shops or cafes are in Australia, I think there must be some law that says “no-one should be further than 500m walk from a gelato store”.
My local gelateria in Parma was called Il Gelato… Naturellement and is located at Piazza Filippo Corridoni, 15 (on Via Massimo D’Azeglio). Il Gelato was opened by Marina Larini only in June 2016. Google Maps still hasn’t updated the listing from the previous shop. You can , however find Il Gelato on Facebook. Things are simple and demand driven. If you’re passing through Parma then pay Marina a visit, you will not be disappointed.
Many gelaterias in Italy have departed from traditional methods and make Gelato using a powdered mix to which water is added. Marina worked for one such gelateria and had had enough. So she opened her own store! I saw a lot of Marina during my stay in Parma as her store was on my walking path into town. One day I asked her if she would be so kind as to show me how to make Gelato naturally. Marina so kindly obliged!
Fitted out in my own apron and cap, we got to work one Monday morning (before opening time) to make coconut and chocolate flavours for the day.
Base Gelato ingredients are simple:
Milk, cream, sugar and baobab fruit fiber (a natural stabiliser).
The secret is being able to calculate the precise proportions to get the most creamiest, flavourful gelato. This is something that each natural gelato maker must refine themselves. The balance of sugar, fat and fiber is important to optimise water crystal size when freezing.
Mainstream ice cream can often also use eggs and other additives, emulsifiers and stabilisers to help with this. But when made naturally, it is really a work of art to get the recipe right.
After the base ingredients come the ingredients to make your desired flavour! For Coconut we added dehydrated coconut milk and desiccated coconut. For the Chocolate, we added raw cacao powder.
Heat it up
Everything is precisely weighed and added to a pot, then heated on a stove while whisking constantly to mix everything together.
Cool it down and Churn It!
Then we poured the mixture to a professional ice cream machine which churns the mixture while cooling it down to freezing so that it forms the creamy gelato you see here. This literally only took about 12 minutes of churning (watch the video to see it in motion).
The Storage Temperature
The last trick to real Italian gelato is the storage. While most home freezers are kept at -18 degrees celsius or lower, the counter top of a gelateria is kept at about -10degC, allowing the gelato to stay nice and soft.
I go into more detail about this in my blog post about the difference between gelato and ice cream if you’re interested.
Marina was so kind in letting me help her that day. She let me weigh out all the ingredients, mix them up and pour them into the churner! Plus I got to lick the spoon!
I’m inspired to make some of my own (smaller-scale) ice creams at home now – look out for some recipes to come your way!
Seriously though, if you’re ever visiting Parma, you must visit Il Gelato. You will not be disappointed.