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Sweet Science
In every issue, Gelatician deconstructs your gelato and analyzes an ingredient so you can reconstruct it better than ever!

Carob, aka Locustbean Gum  

Click for Gelatician Home Page and Introduction
Gelatician Home Page & Intro


SHOWCASE

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Featured Machinery
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SWIPES

Making More with Less
Bigger is NOT Always Better: The Upside of Downsizing

Sweet Science
Taking a position on 'neutrals'

Ingredients for Success
Got (the RIGHT) Milk?...

Chillin'
Gelato lingo...

SIGEP
The mother of all gelato tradeshows may very well be worth that trip to Italy!

 

Taking a Position on Neutrals

First the bad news. There is no fixed percentage of neutrals to use for your bases. Every recipe is different and actually requires a different amount of neutral(s) to make perfect gelato. In fact, many flavors do not require any neutrals at all. Some flavors may need neutrals depending on what temperature and for how long the product will be stored and subsequently served. The good news is that once we understand how neutrals work, we can fine tune our gelato EXACTLY to our desired texture...

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Gelato is made up of water and solids. Neutrals are used to stabilize all of the water and the parts of the solids that contain fats. These two parts of the mix are referred to as phases: the water phase and the fat phase. Gelato is considered stabilized when all the water elements are frozen and are amalgamated with highly viscous fat elements. Each of these phases need to occur under optimum conditions in order to render an optimum product.

Two Phases of a Gelato Mix

Water

The water phase must freeze with minimal crystallization. Ice crystals are water molecules that have bonded with each other. Even though they are bonded, while being very close to each other, the molecules are not actually touching. If the crystals are large then so is the space between them. This leaves a lot of room for drainage causing the product to melt faster. It also stimulates a breakdown of viscosity in the fat as the two phases begin to separate. At this point, there are many other defects that result including a “crunchy” texture where smoothness was intended which happens when melted gelato re-freezes.

If the ice crystals are small, there is less space between water molecules and the melting is slowed considerably. Therefore, in order to ‘stabilize’ the water phase, the ice crystals must be as small and close as possible.

Anything that is placed in between these molecules will inhibit their capacity to grow. This is why gelato with a higher amount of solids is generally more stable. Air also acts as a hindrance to ice crystal formation, just one of the many reasons why big industry loves to pump in so much of it in their products.

Fat

Fats are obviously an extremely important part of gelato. They define mouth feel, are responsible for a great part of the flavor and are an essence of richness. For the fat phase to be stabilized it needs to be emulsified and bonded with the water phase. Stabilization is evident when the fats stay evenly distributed throughout the mix.

Although in a frozen state, gelato is also a foam. Even though it has much less air than ice cream, the incorporation of some air is indispensable both for stability and texture. Fats add viscosity to the mix which in turn provides greater overrun.


Neutrals

Neutrals, also called stabilizers, can be divided into two categories: hydrocolloids and emulsifiers

Hydrocolloids

Hydrocolloids actuate with water by absorbing it, reducing its diffusion and effectively gelling it. This makes for a ‘drier’ product. Hydrocolloids slow down drainage, decreases separation and retards foam collapse and crystallization. Consequently, the gelato is more stable when it is displayed waiting to be consumed. The most common hydrocolloids used in gelato making are Carob powder, Guar, Carrageenan and a variety of others including Agar, Alginate, Arabinoxylan, Carboxymethylcellulose, Cellulose, Curdlan, Gellan, ß-Glucan, Gum Arabic, Pectin, Starch, and Xanthan gum.

Hydrocolloids all have different reactions with water and their effectiveness is determined according to temperature, pH and, if applicable, salt content. It is for this reason that we need to create a synergy and use several different neutrals. Guar, for example, is soluble and functions without having to be heated. So when it is added to our mix at a relatively low temperature during pasteurization, it begins to work immediately ensuring that the mix is being stabilized from the onset.

Guar slows the formation of ice crystals. It does so by retarding movement between solids and liquids. Essentially, it reduces the spaces between the water globules that we mentioned earlier. This is indispensable to ensure that the mix is stabilized prior to freezing and during the aging process. Carob powder and other hydrocolloids that are polyelectrolytes go beyond that. Carob, while being soluble only in hot water, also secures a strong hydration on a per-molecule basis. This is basically a protective coating of sorts that slows ice crystal growth. So whereas the Guar reduces the spaces between the molecules, the Carob reinforces each individual molecule giving a double protection against unwanted drainage/melting.

Therefore, when using hydrocolloids its usually better to have an assortment. As we mentioned, crystallization is inhibited by limiting the space between molecules. Since each hydrocolloid works differently and has a different shape, more variety means more space is filled ultimately resulting in more stability. Perfect synergy!

Emulsifiers

Emulsifiers are used when the water phase of the mix needs to be bound with any other substance that may be in a liquid form, usually fat. Emulsifiers homogeneously distribute the fat globules throughout the mix. This renders a finished product that is more structurally stable by having an increased resistance to separation.

The first emulsifier for gelato was egg yolk effective for its high lecithin content. Now, commonly used emulsifiers are monoglycerides, monodiglycerides, lecithin in its purest form, etc. It is important to consider that other components of your mix may already be emulsifiers. Powdered milk is an excellent emulsifier. Even sugar has some emulsifying properties.

Homogenizing the phases ensures that the fat globules are placed evenly throughout the mix by blocking them from coalescing in the finished product. At the same time, however, some coalesce is also desired as it ensures a foamy, rather than fatty, texture. This is where the usage of emulsifiers come into play. The emulsifiers work by REDUCING the stability of the actual fat globules by placing themselves next to proteins in the globules which makes them less resilient and renders a creamier product.

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The usage of each neutral is different. Some are more soluble than others and, as mentioned, the hydrating capacity of each one varies according to specific conditions. It’s important to consider that no neutral will ever add anything that contributes to the creaminess of gelato. They contribute to an overall better texture because they either inhibit the growth of ice crystals and/or help to retain an homogeneous product.

Even as gelato making requires adhering to the laws of chemistry and physics, there is really only one rule to making great gelato: Education. There isn't enough room on the pages of this magazine to truly explain all the different possibilities, variables and interfaces regarding the use of neutrals. There isn't enough space in a thousand magazines! But once we understand what each element does, under what conditions it does it best and with what other ingredients it works well with, then we can draw our own conclusions and choose what neutrals are best for us and, most importantly, our gelato!
Send your comments, observations and thoughts to info@italianculinary.it.
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