Gelato from a Commercial Mix

If super premium ice cream is around 16% butterfat, and homemade ice cream is around 19%, how can gelato, made without cream and eggs, be so smooth and creamy when it’s only 3-8% butterfat?  It’s a mystery, for sure.  Making gelato at home is tricky.

Search for gelato recipes on the web, and you’ll find anything and everything.  I’ve even seen gelato recipes calling for 2 cups of heavy whipping cream.  I’m sorry, but that’s just not gelato — that’s ice cream!  Most definitions of gelato say it’s made with just whole milk, plus sugar and flavoring (often fruit or nuts).  But if you try to make gelato with just whole milk, you’ll get a horrible icy mess, exactly like you think you would — there’s just not enough butterfat in whole milk for it to come out smooth and creamy.

So how do the “gelaterias” do it?  They compensate for the low butterfat content with two things: dry milk powder and stabilizer.  But they don’t usually go to the trouble of making their own mix — they typically buy a powdered base mix and various flavorings from a gelato company, and then mix it up and freeze it in their own shop.

So I decided that if they can do it, I should be able to do it too!  It took me a bit of searching to find a company that sells gelato making products to the public, but I finally found a gold mine with Villa Dolce Gelato in California.  I ordered a powdered gelato base for about $15 (to make about 2.5 quarts of gelato) and a jar of pannacotta flavor paste for about $17 (to make about 5 quarts), plus $8 for shipping.  A week later, I was making my first batch of gelato.

As I discovered in the past, making ice cream from a commercial mix is really easy.  I just mixed one part powdered base with two parts milk, added flavoring, and spun it in the ice cream machine.  And out came perfect gelato that was every bit as delicious, smooth, and creamy as any I’ve had from a gelateria.  Success!

Now, I’m not sure I really want to pay $6 plus shipping for each quart of gelato I make, but at least now I know it’s possible.  (But if I did go into the business of selling gelato, this would be a great way to do it.)  My next task will be to figure out how to make the base mix myself, using similar ingredients.  It’s not that I want to make gelato all that often, but gelato is a good lower-fat alternative, and well, it’s an ice cream challenge!  :-)

I can see that the base powder I bought contains non-dairy creamer, whole milk powder, and non-fat milk powder (plus things like sugar and flavoring).  And for stabilizers, it uses locust bean gum (made from carob) and cellulose gum (made from plants).  I’m hoping to make something similar using milk powder and xanthan gum, which I’ve had good success with in the past.

In the meantime, I’ve got homemade gelato!


9 comments for “Gelato from a Commercial Mix”

  1. TripleScoop wrote:

    Hi Thanks for adding me to your blog roll. I’ll keeping checking back for your latest post!

    November 23, 2010, 10:48 am
  2. Stephen Schwneker wrote:

    Gelato is the best! Villa Dolce Gelato is great and is incredibly easy to make.
    Have you been able to make REAL gelato using just milk? BTW, I’ve always wondered if ice cream makers sold in the U.S. churn too much air (overrun) into the mix. Might that have an impact on the gelato?

    April 28, 2011, 4:20 pm
  3. Jbgelato wrote:

    Xanthan gum works best in conjunction with locust bean gum. Remember, Xanthan is cold water soluble, while locust bean needs to be heated to be fully hydrated.
    You can find these different gums online, then experiment. The companies that sell those stabilizer mixes rip everyone off. Save money.
    Something I want to start trying is corn fiber in sorbet production.

    September 24, 2011, 4:30 pm
  4. Jbgelato wrote:

    I’ve been making gelato professionally for years, and I’ve always made my own base, and it always has some heavy cream in it. Not nearly as much as standard ice cream, but some for sure. Without the cream, you need to have more stabilizer, and you always want the least amount of stabilizer possible.
    Also, the all around best product company for making gelato is probably Fabbri. I suggest you check em out.

    October 1, 2011, 9:49 am
  5. Lin Schmidt wrote:

    I just made my first batch of gelato from a mix I purchased off Amazon. I was happy with the results, but made the mistake of freezing it too hard. Now I’m dealing with the leftover that seems to have crystalized after a few days. So do I need to add stabilizer the next time? I thought the mix would have enough in it. The instructions said to add both whole milk and heavy cream, which I did. I’m hoping to make more for the holidays and may even give some as gifts. Can anyone tell me how to make it stay creamy and last longer?

    November 9, 2011, 7:23 pm
  6. Freeda Flynn wrote:

    I enjoyed your Philadelphia Vanilla. Since Breyer’s changed there formula, I will not touch their ice cream. I hope you develop a good natural strawberry and peach. No artificial coloring please. I think natural vanilla bean and maybe the touch of brandy Breyer’s used to use was great but the new formula is totally disappointing as many bloggers have reported.

    November 24, 2011, 5:52 pm
  7. raj krishan ghai wrote:

    what is the correct r p m required to get 30% over run in a gelato machine.Thanks Raj

    March 28, 2012, 9:41 pm
  8. Sarah Begonia wrote:

    But when they DO go to the trouble of making their own mix, you can really taste the difference! check out True & 12 in Munich Germany. They don’t use any industrial bases, they do everything themselves and the ice cream is awesome!

    May 21, 2015, 7:10 am
  9. Alexandre wrote:

    The secret of gelato texture is a kind of corn sugar called dextrose. A good gelato contains something between 6% and 8% of it. Those “gelato base” contains dextrose, glucose powder, stabilizer. Gelato has a shelf-life of 1 to 2 weeks at maximum, because of the low buterfat and the dextrose.

    February 2, 2018, 12:00 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *