March Food for Thought: Gelato on Call

When operating a small business, don’t skimp on technology... Several years back, a trusted veteran restaurateur shared with me the top five reasons small businesses fail; too little cash, thinking small, skimping on technology, underestimating the power of sales and lastly, losing focus. But he said the one most overlooked is “skimping on technology.” The kitchen has come a long way with products like sil-pats, the turbo-chef oven, fleximolds, dehydrators, chain saws, shrink-wrap machines, smokers, and a unique machine called a paco-jet. I start off by wanting to share with you a very popular Italian dessert called affogato di gelato.This simple but very satisfying dessert is made by pouring just the right amount of fresh brewed piping hot espresso over vanilla gelato as its being served. Affogato means “to drown,” but add too much espresso and the dessert becomes just an unappetizing liquid mess. By adding just the right amount of espresso, you begin to experience the hot and ice cold, then the bitterness from the espresso and the sweetness of the gelato, also the firmness of the gelato and the liquid of the espresso. And don’t forget the crunchiness of a great biscotti served on the side. Two scoops of gelato to one shot of espresso and you’ve got the correct ratio. A touch of whipped cream on top is a nice touch, but not needed. But then, I’m reminded of the question I’m often asked, “What’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?” The simple answer is, it comes down to fat and air. Gelato contains less butterfat and less air than ice cream. Ice cream must contain at least 10 percent butterfat, while gelato contains about 5 percent, due to the fact that whole milk is used in gelato and no heavy cream. Also ice cream has more air incorporated (overrun) about 50 percent or more while gelato has about 25 percent overrun or less. Which leads me to tell you about the paco-jet ice cream/gelato/sorbet machine. I first heard about this piece of equipment in the early ’90s, and just recently had the chance to purchase one for a restaurant concept in the works. With this machine making excellent gelato almost to order, putting the affogato di gelato on the menu was a perfect fit. This piece of technology can produce a rainbow of fat-free sorbets with the push of a button and just as creamy as ice cream. Also, full-flavored gelatos — all made with natural ingredients and no preservatives just as fast. In this economy today we must work smarter, so don’t skimp on technology. It just might mean the difference between good and great.
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