Celebrate German spring with a scoop of gelato

Celebrate German spring with a scoop of gelato

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Now that the days are warmer and brighter, ventures into the great outdoors are something we can all embrace. Another small but sure way to step over that winter/summer divide?  Indulge in your first gelato of the season.

Gelato, ice cream…it’s all the same, right? Or is it? While it’s true that both are sweet and icy, dairy-based treats best enjoyed during the warm months of the year, there are a few differences between the two. Here are some of the most important ones:

Ingredients: Both ice cream and gelato contain milk and cream, but it’s the proportions of each that vary. Gelato contains more whole milk than cream; ice cream is heavier on the cream. This affects the total amount of fat in the final product. And the fat content in turn affects how the product feels in your mouth.

Preparation: The equipment used for the production of gelato is different from that used to make ice cream. Gelato is churned at a much slower speed than ice cream. Less air enters the mixture, creating a much denser final product. Gelato might contain 25% air; ice cream can contain up to twice that. 

Serving temperature: Ice cream is served frozen to a temperature of around 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Gelato is sold at a temperature of approximately 15 degrees F. This gives gelato that soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture and enables its bold flavors to shine through.

While meandering through the downtown areas of many a German city, you might just find yourself overwhelmed with all the different “Eisdielen” or ice cream/gelato cafes. They’ve made up part of Germany’s urban landscape since the 1950s, when the post-war economic boom gave workers some extra pocket money to spend on life’s little luxuries.

It’s no coincidence that so many of these places have Italian-sounding names. By many estimates, more than half of Germany’s ice cafes are run by Italian owners. Despite names such as Roma, Firenze and Venezia, many of these gelato sellers hail from the Dolomites region. It’s not uncommon for their owners to shut up shop for the winter, or rent their premises out temporarily, and spend a few months back in their native land.

New to Germany, and a little self-conscious about using the German language? A visit to your nearest Eiscafé is the perfect place to practice your new vocabulary. At the walk-up counter, you’ll need to be able to express how many scoops you want— “eine Kugel Eis, bitte” (or “fünf Kugeln” if you’re having ice cream for your lunch). You’ll be asked, “In einer Waffel oder in einem Becher?” (in a cone or a cup?). As far as flavors go, the beauty of the neatly labeled tubs in the glass display makes it easy to read out the name of your flavor of choice or simply point with a finger. Another good reason not to be shy as you place your order? There’s a good chance your server is a non-native speaker of German, too.

On a menu, you might notice two categories of gelato: Milcheis and Fruchteis. As you’ll no doubt guess from the name, the “Milcheis” is made of milk, whereas “Fruchteis,” or fruit ice, generally contains no dairy products (but you should always ask if in any doubt).  On a diet? According to Bild der Frau, a scoop of Zitronen-Eis (lemon) contains about 40 calories, as compared to Cookie-Eis, which comes in at around 120 calories. Nowadays, lactose-free and vegan options are widely available too.

In terms of flavors, you’ll almost certainly be spoiled for choice. Be sure to sample Amarena, vanilla with a dark cherry swirl; Malaga, rum raisin; Waldfrüchte, forest fruits; After-Eight, mint chocolate chip; and Mozart, pistachio ice cream mixed with a marzipan and gianduja chocolate-hazelnut spread. The Fior di Latte, made of milk, sugar and cream, is sometimes ordered to take the measure of the gelato maker, as it’s here in this fared-down flavor that the quality of ingredients comes shining through.

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