Gastronomic ice cream represents an exciting frontier in the contemporary culinary scene, going far beyond the traditional understanding of ice cream as a simple dessert. This culinary art form is based on a particular balance, transforming ice cream from a main player at the end of a meal to a surprising topping in serving dishes, playing with contrasts of hot and cold, sweet and salty.

In this article, I want to talk to you about the creative process of gastronomic ice cream: from the idea of the dish to be revisited to the balancing of its “ice cream” version, going through the challenges encountered in this process and how to solve them, even bringing some examples in the form of an already balanced recipe. Get ready to discover the secrets of gastronomic ice cream and bring a touch of creativity and innovation to your kitchens!

The topics covered in this article will also be put into practice during the free, interactive webinar on March 20, 2024, check it out 😉

Happy reading!

What is gastronomic ice cream?

Imagine ice cream that is not just served on a cone or in a cup, but becomes an integral part of a dish, creating a unique dining experience. From the sauce of a vitello tonnato that turns into an ice cream quenelle and goes with a veal roastbeef cooked at low temperature, to a Roman-style liver gelato that makes a parmesan risotto just perfectly creamy, to a olive oil ice cream served on a bruschetta with confit cherry tomatoes, creating an explosion of flavors and textures in one unforgettable bite.

Gastronomic ice cream is a real invitation to explore new dimensions of taste, where ice cream becomes the main actor, capable of transforming every dish into something surprising.

How did the idea of gastronomic ice cream come about?

The genesis of a gastronomic ice cream is a fascinating creative process that begins with the spark of a dish that strikes my imagination. Often, I am inspired by a traditional culinary classic (such as carbonara) or a well-established flavor combination (such as bread with butter and anchovies). The fundamental question I ask myself is: what element of this dish could be made into an amazing ice cream? It is a game of experimentation and intuition, where I select a key ingredient that can shine in its new frozen form.

Sorbet or ice cream?

Once I have chosen the ingredient to turn into ice cream, I am faced with another crucial choice: to opt for a sorbet (water base) or an ice cream (milk/cream base)? This choice depends on the effect I wish to create and the combination I have in mind.

If the intent is to add a note of freshness, sorbet is the ideal choice. Its lightness and lively taste pair beautifully with dishes such as raw meats, tartare, fish ceviche, or even crispy vegetables, enhancing the ingredients without overpowering them.

In contrast, when I want a richer, more enveloping effect, I lean toward ice cream. Due to the higher fat content in ice cream, there is a fullness of flavor that envelops the palate, perfect for accompanying dishes that tend to be hot such as risottos, pastas, or cooked meat, fish, and vegetable dishes. Ice cream in these cases acts as a binder of flavors, creating a harmony of tastes and textures that enriches the dining experience.

Consistencies and temperatures

Having made the main choice, a consideration of textures begins. Ice cream, by its nature creamy and cold, needs a counterpoint that enhances its texture. This leads me to explore the other elements of the dish, considering how they might complement the ice cream, not only in terms of flavor, but also in terms of texture. It is essential to ask whether the cold element blends well with the other components, creating a balance that is pleasing to the palate.

The visual appearance

Finally, the visual aspect plays a crucial role. Presentation is just as important as taste, so I pay special attention to how to plate gastronomic ice cream. The goal is to create a dish that is not only delicious but also visually appealing, inviting the eyes to taste before the food even reaches the mouth.

Extraction of flavors in gastronomic ice cream

When I create a gastronomic ice cream or sorbet, the fundamental question I ask myself is, “How can I best bring out the flavor I have in mind?” The answer is almost never as simple as whisking together powders and liquids. It is necessary to adopt the most appropriate cooking techniques to extract and intensify flavors.

The infusion

One of the most effective techniques is infusion, which can be done in several ways: hot, cold, vacuum, or simply on the stove. This method captures the pure essence of the ingredients, using time and temperature to release their most hidden aromas.

Infusion is certainly suitable for very aromatic ingredients such as herbs or spices, but it can also be implemented with cheese crusts or foods of which you want to leave only the scent, without necessarily integrating them into the recipe with all their substance.

Making use of the cooking water

Sometimes infusion alone is not enough to achieve the desired depth of flavor. In these cases, I combine multiple techniques to load the flavor. One example is cooking a vegetable in water and then using that flavor-rich cooking water by combining it with an extract obtained raw. This layered approach allows for the construction of a more complex and multifaceted taste profile.

Blend the ingredient

Of course, we will not always opt for infusions. To extract the taste of bread, for example, one might be tempted to use infusion. Being a starch, however, bread has a large capacity to absorb liquids, so it is more practical to blend small amounts of it after a good toasting in the oven to load its flavor. A good example is my (non-gastronomic) bread butter and jam ice cream.

The layering of taste

In some recipes, such as my red onion essence ice cream or tomato umami gastronomic ice cream, I take this concept even further. Here, the extract is made on the ingredient cooked at a low temperature and then reduced to further concentrate the flavor. This reduction process transforms the essence of the ingredient into a powerful concentrate, capable of giving ice cream an amazing intensity and depth of flavor. In these recipes, the entirety of the ingredient is often exploited, which is moreover declined in multiple forms in the dish: such as the powder made from the remains of the onion or tomato and used in finishing.

The balance of gastronomic ice cream

The balance in gastronomic ice cream and sorbet deviates somewhat from the traditional canons of ordinary ice cream. One of the most crucial aspects is the handling of the dessert, which should not be marked, since the ice cream is in a salty context. To achieve this, sugars with low sweetening power (POD), such as trehalose or atomized glucose, are preferred. These sugars not only reduce overall sweetness, but also contribute to ideal texture, which is essential for a balanced taste experience.

Not a classical balancing

In gastronomic ice cream, we often deviate from the classic balance to suit the specific needs of the dish. Ice cream is created to be consumed immediately, in combination with other elements of the dish, and not to be stored for the long term. This feature allows greater freedom in composition, encouraging bold experimentation and innovative combinations.

Ice cream and its context

The combination of ingredients is another key pillar in balancing gastronomic ice cream. Unlike traditional ice cream, which is often served on a cone or in a bowl, gastronomic ice cream is designed to harmonize with other elements of the dish. This requires a thorough consideration of how to balance flavors, savoriness and sweetness, while also considering the interaction between the cold ice cream and the other, often hot, components. The balance must take into account the possible melting of the ice cream and how this affects the overall composition of the dish. This is generally done by balancing the neutrals and PAC (anti-freezing power) of the recipe.

Balancing tools

An ice cream balancer like BilanciaLi Gold is an essential tool for anyone who wants to explore the art of artisanal and gastronomic ice cream. Using software transforms the process of creating ice cream, making it more efficient and precise. By using Balanciali, homemakers and ice cream makers can accurately quantify ingredients, tailoring recipes to their specific needs for flavor, sweetness, and texture, dramatically reducing experimentation time. Instead of relying on trial and error, they can use software to accurately predict how different ingredients will affect the final result. This means being able to achieve the ideal ice cream much more quickly, with less wasted ingredients and time.

If you want to approach the world of ice cream balancing or simply see the software in action, you can do so by signing up for my free online course on ice cream balancing.

Insights into gastronomic ice cream

For those who have been inspired by these explorations into the world of gastronomic ice cream and wish to dive further into this fascinating culinary art, I have something special to offer. My online course on gelator gastronomic (in Italian) is designed to cater to both amateurs and professionals in the field, providing the skills and knowledge needed to master this discipline, delving into all aspects of recipe and balance needed to master the technique and turn more or less anything into ice cream. Your limit is your imagination 😉

Recipes and examples

To fully immerse yourself in the world of gastronomic ice cream, there is nothing better than exploring concrete examples.

Gastronomic ice cream recipes from the blog

I have shared several gastronomic ice cream recipes on my blog, offering a practical starting point for anyone who wishes to experiment. Here are some of my creations that you can find on the blog:

An avalanche of recipes in the Gelato Project

In addition to these recipes, I also want to introduce you to the Gelato Project, my iterative eBook on ice cream.

In this project, I explore new frontiers in gastronomic ice cream and beyond, developing innovative recipes in an iterative and collaborative way. Gelato Project supporters have the opportunity to request specific recipes, which are then developed by me and added to my ice cream recipe book each month.

This not only allows for an ever-evolving product, but also creates a direct connection with my readers and supporters, who can see their ideas take shape in delicious ice creams and sorbets.

how does gelato project work and how do I get my requests to be published in the next iteration

FAQ: frequently asked questions about gastronomic ice cream

What is gastronomic ice cream?

Gastronomic ice cream is an innovative version of traditional ice cream, used as an element in savory dishes. It features unique flavor pairings and is served as part of a larger dish, often creating a play of contrasts between hot and cold.

What are the main differences between gastronomic ice cream and traditional ice cream?

The main difference lies in use and composition. Gastronomic ice cream is often less sweet, can have unusual flavors, and is used as an integral part of a savory dish, unlike traditional ice cream, which is generally a sweet dessert.

How do you choose the flavor for a gastronomic ice cream?

The choice of flavor is guided by the dish with which the ice cream will be paired. The ingredients in the dish, their flavor profile, and how they may complement or contrast with the ice cream are considered.

Is it difficult to make gastronomic ice cream at home?

Making gastronomic ice cream can be a greater challenge than traditional ice cream because of its experimental nature and unique flavor pairings. However, with the right guidance and practice, it can also be accomplished at home.

Where can I find recipes and inspiration for gastronomic ice cream?

In addition to blogs and websites dedicated to innovative cooking, CucinaLi offers several recipes and ideas for gastronomic ice cream. You can also sign up for the Gelato Project for exclusive and innovative recipes.

Are there specific courses to learn how to make gastronomic ice cream?

Yes, you will find a wide range of ice cream courses on CucinaLiOnline, including an online course specifically on gastronomic ice cream (in italian) that covers all aspects from theory to practice. It is suitable for both amateurs and professionals in the field.

Andrea Rapanaro
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