To prepare a good gelato at home, there are specific steps to follow, namely:

  • choosing ingredients
  • creating a balanced recipe
  • preparation and maturation of the mixture
  • freezing of the mixture
  • hardening of gelato at low temperature.

Let's see them in detail.

The choice of ingredients to use naturally depends on the type of gelato you want to make.
For a milk-based gelato the main ingredients are milk, cream, sugar, characterizing ingredients such as dried fruit (hazelnut, pistachio or other) and sometimes eggs.

I suggest you to use the best milk you can find, perhaps from organic farms.
It could also be unpasteurized milk that you find at the farmers market; no problem you can simply pasteurize it at home.
I usually use whole organic milk (because of course we need milk fats for gelato).

You will probably need other fats in addition to those provided by milk, for this reason we also use cream.
The intake of fats can also be provided by other ingredients such as dried fruit pastes such as hazelnut, pistachio, almond, etc .; to choose a good paste, check the number of ingredients: there must be only one ingredient, nuts, no other added fat.
The dried fruit pastes provide excellent vegetable fats, very healthy, a valid alternative to animal fats.
Other types of vegetable fats are often used, especially for the creation of vegan gelato, but this topic will be further investigated.

Sugar. Usually sugar means sucrose, that is white or brown sugar.
I usually use organic brown sugar; sometimes this type of sugar can also provide a contribution to the flavor of gelato (e.g. mascobado sugar); evaluate it according to your recipe.
You can also use other types of sugars: various combinations of fructose and dextrose from different types of fruit. However, the quantity to be used must be carefully evaluated because they have a different sweetening and above all anti-freezing power.
What interests us from sugars is not only the ability to make gelato sweet, but above all the anti-freezing power, without which gelato could not be made.
We will explore the different types of sugars in another article.

Sometimes egg yolk is also used: it provides us with a fat intake, but above all it has a strong emulsifying power: it allows to bind fats to water, helping to create a complex macromolecular structure and incredible smooth and creamy texture that is typical of gelato.
If you use eggs of course you will have to pasteurize the mixture and also in this case try to find the best, maybe organic.

gelato equipment
gelato equipment

For a fruit-based gelato or a sorbet, usually ingredients are fruit / vegetables, water, sugar and any thickeners.
The latter are used to have a better consistency and greater resistance to melting; sometimes they are also used for milk-based gelato or in any case for vegan gelato recipes.
Since you do not need to pasteurize the mixture, I suggest using a natural thickener for the sorbets that does not need to be heated for activation: the guar seed flour.
If you can't find it, you can make a sorbet even without or even trying another thickener, but be careful if you need to heat the mixture to activate it.
The use of thickeners is a fairly complex topic that will be explored later.

For the recipe you need to use the ingredients in certain proportions, there are in fact ranges within which we have to be to have a good texture and a good flavor of gelato.
For each ingredient used, we must be able to evaluate its contribution in terms of sugars, fats, other types of solids and water.
To learn more, I recommend reading the article on creating your own balanced gelato recipe.

After choosing the ingredients, you can then prepare the gelato or sorbet mixture.
You need a kitchen scale, an immersion blender, a scraper and a kitchen whisk and thermometer.
The fruit must of course be washed, optionally peeled and cut into pieces of about 1-2 cm.
You will have to weigh all the ingredients, even the water; let loose measurements by volume (tablespoons, teaspoons, cups), for a balanced recipe we need precision.
I recommend you give two different containers: one for ingredients in powder (cocoa, sugar, guar gum, etc.), the other one for liquids or ingredients in pieces (milk, cream, water, fruit, dried fruit paste ).
This is because it is good to separately mix the powdered ingredients using a whisk; guar gum must be dispersed in the other dry ingredients before being mixed with liquids.
The exception is the egg yolk which has to be mixed with sugar before adding to liquid ingredients; this is to prevent unpleasant aromas during the pasteurization of the mixture.
Then add the dry ingredients to liquid and mix with an immersion blender until the sugars have not completely dissolved.

If you used unpasteurized ingredients (milk, eggs) you must proceed with the pasteurization by heating the mixture up to 82 °C (180 °F) under continuous stirring with a whisk; then quickly low the temperature until you reach that of the refrigerator.
I advise you to soak the pan in cold water or better in an ice bath and then move it to the refrigerator to complete the cooling.

Even unpasteurized mixtures must be brought to refrigerator temperature.
Often the mixture is also left to mature in the refrigerator for a few hours (6-8 hours may be sufficient); in this way the structure of gelato will be better.

home gelato maker
home gelato maker

Now the mixture is ready for the freezing-churning step.
For this you need a gelato or ice cream maker; you can find more details in my guide on gelato and ice cream makers.
Mainly there are two different types: some need to store the bowl in the freezer for several hours before using them, others more expensive have a self-refrigerating system.

You will now need to follow your gelato maker's instructions until the gelato is ready.
In this step the mixture is quickly cooled down to about -7 °C while it is kept in motion by the rotating scraper blades; this allows you to incorporate small air bubbles in gelato which are essential for having the right consistency.
For this step it is also possible to use special techniques that use liquid nitrogen or dry ice: they are very interesting and allow you to have a gelato with an optimal texture thanks to the very small size of ice crystals; we will talk about it later in detail.

When the gelato changes its consistency, it is ready for any additions of chocolate chips, chopped hazelnuts or whatever you want to enrich it with.
These ingredients do not enter the balance of the recipe because they are added when it is almost ready.

Now you can remove it from the gelato maker and put it in the freezer for 30-60 minutes before eating, so that it reaches the optimum temperature of -12/15 °C.
If you don't want to consume it immediately, you can of course leave it in the freezer, but remember to leave it at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before eating because in the freezer it reaches about -22 °C.

The hardening of gelato is the last step of preparation and is usually done with specific freezers that reach -35 °C.
This allows you to freeze as much water as possible in small ice crystals. Over time, the ice crystals tend to grow, incorporating the water that has not yet been frozen and thus worsening the quality of gelato.
For a home production you needn’t a blast freezer, I'm sure your gelato will quickly disappear from the freezer.