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I know that Italian ice cream (home made, most of all) doesn't use any stabilizers or gum ingredients.

How can they be made soft, and agreeable to taste?

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There are several major factors that affect the texture of ice cream or gelato in the absence of stabilizers or gums:

  1. Air mixed in during the churning essentially creates a foam, which is softer than a solid product would be. While this air may be only 10% by volume, it makes a huge difference in texture.
  2. The churning and rapid freezing also minimizes the size of ice crystals, so the non-air phase is essentially a syrup of sugary water with emulsified milk fat, with very small ice crystals suspended in it. Since it is not solid, it is easier to cut.
  3. The serving temperature for gelato I believe is traditionally warmer than the serving temperature of ice cream, which provides a softer texture (more syrup, less ice) allows the flavors to be perceived more easily as they are more aromatic at warmer temperatures.
  4. The gelato may contain ingredients with alcohol, such as Franglico in a hazelnut gelato; this contributes a small anti-freeze effect. Similarly, the pectins from some fruit ingredients will also naturally interfere with ice crystal formation--but these influences are specific to a given recipe.

The lower milkfat percentage makes the flavors in the gelato more apparent, since they are not drowned out by the richness of the diary.

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@SAJ14SAY = 4. Gelato home-made can contain alchool or not, depending on the recipe. I talked about basic gelato. 2. Water is not necessary (viceversa, forbidden) to have a perfect gelato. 1. I agree about foam, we need a cream, not a stone. 2, I agree about rapid churning and rapid freezing, to not alow that water, which is always also contained in the cream in certain percentage, be divided from fat. But remember, you have to put at -20^ deg C for saving it. That is very very solid- –  violadaprile Apr 24 '13 at 1:21
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Recall that 100% dairy is still mostly water. Yes freezing temperature and serving temperature are different. –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 24 '13 at 1:29
    
Let's say I use half milk and half cream (normally use less milk, but admit it). The problem doesn't change, since that is the metod and not ingredients that makes the difference. You always has to put at -20^deg C. for a good conservation. –  violadaprile Apr 24 '13 at 1:37
    
@violadaprile: You're commenting as if you already know the answer, so why ask the question? And where are you getting -20° C from? Home freezers don't get anywhere near that low. –  Aaronut Apr 24 '13 at 1:55
    
@Aaronut She posted stuff about gelato as a not-an-answer to another ice cream question, and I mentioned that she could potentially ask and answer her own question... I guess we only got half of that. –  Jefromi Apr 24 '13 at 3:13
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Technically, Gelato is not ice-cream since there is no (well, ~1%) cream fat to speak of.

The commonality with ice-cream is that they are both emulsions. In the case of the gelato, the protein in the egg yolks act as the emulsifier and through the churning process traps and keeps air. The sugar also impedes the formation of ice crystals to allow for the smooth and stretchy/creamy consistency. In a weird way, ice-cream and gelato have a lot in common with budino-cremoso/creme-caramel/flan/creme-brulee (taste your gelato batter next time). Of course, the difference being the three-way emulsion of sugar solution/ ice crystals / air for gelato and throw in fat for ice-cream.

The stabilizers and gums you see in other ice-creams are usually there as the substitute to lower the cost and achieve a similar kind of emulsion, not as much to improve texture. Xanthan and guar gum are less expensive than egg yolk and anything you can do to reduce the bunker-buster cost of cream. A carrageenan mixture has non-newtonian qualities (different viscosity at different speeds, like why ketchup gets runnier the harder you shake the bottle) this allows the ice-cream manufacturers to pump the ice-cream faster into containers, and again doesn't provide a big advantage for homemade ice-cream/gelato making.

the issue of temperature: ice crystals tend to grow in the freezer, that's why ice-creams and gelato lose quality over time. In making the ice-cream, besides the temperature, the time matters as well (as SAJ14SAJ noted) which is why the liquid nitrogen ice-cream ends up so smooth (requires serious safety precautions). From what I've been told (well, by a salesman) Italian Gelato machines run colder (and think faster) than regular ice-cream machines.

sharper taste: with the fat from the cream out of the way, the main flavor of the batter lifted by the sugar can come through easier. Our taste buds can't taste the sugar as well in lower temperatures so essentially the only thing left is the fragola or whatever flavoring is in the gelato.

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egg is not necessary into gelato - maybe my english is very poor =( –  violadaprile Apr 24 '13 at 1:59
    
@violadaprile corretto. But if you take the eggs out, you use more sugar to do its job. I have an old recipe for hand-making gelato using essentially sugar and coffee without a machine. I know the 'Il Gelaterie' near us so I'll ask him about it. What baffles me, is how they make the 'sugar free' gelato. I guess if they're using Aspartame or some other nastiness, they might as well make a gum and gel soup. –  MandoMando Apr 24 '13 at 2:09
    
My "Manuale del Gelataio", a rare edition given with an old SIMAC, gives "Gelati e sorbetti con il dolcificante sintetico". It is not sugar, but a chemical product. My book doesn't say anything but generically "dolcificante sintentico". But today we have many types of it, including a liquid one for cakes: I think it is Aspartame, since dosis are in grams. But they give also gelati without gluten and so on. They are not true gelato, but an acceptable substitute for those who have health problems. –  violadaprile Apr 24 '13 at 2:24
    
@violadaprile: Sounds like that might be Sorbitol. It's not only an artificial sweetener but also a cryoprotectant - it's added to other foods to prevent damage from freezing. Mostly solid foods, but I've seen it as an ingredient in several store-bought ice creams and gelatos. –  Aaronut Apr 25 '13 at 2:05
    
yes it is possible. But usually when you avoid sugar (saccarosio, lattosio, glucosio, maltosio and "so-on-osio"), ie natural sugars, it's why you are affected by diabetes or other metabolic disease. Probably my book is too old for such medical distinctions. I think you should ask your doctor individually Metabolist. I personally use liquid saccharin for cakes (it doesn't burn) and aspartame for the egg and gelato mount. –  violadaprile Apr 25 '13 at 2:12
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