Imagine creamy cheesecake flavored waves and swirls cascading out of a pan, drizzled with a vibrant strawberry sauce and garnished with fresh, juicy strawberries – sound delicious but almost too beautiful to eat?
Perhaps, but while gelato should always be consumed and never wasted, it is important to understand the artisanal gelato experience! Gelato is not only an Italian ice cream but an art form. From the classic waves that are created right out of the machine, to spatulart, and an array of toppings and garnishes, and plated desserts, the aesthetic gelato creates is just as important to gelato makers as the overall taste.
Gelato waves are the classic way gelato is presented in a pan. The waves are created during the extraction from the batch freezer. The gelato maker takes a gelato spatula (note: gelato is traditionally served with a spatula and not a scooper) and carefully collects the product as it leaves the machine and places in the pan. The technique is to collect the gelato so that it is almost in the form a tear shape and drop it into the pan, and this has to be done so each wave contains an equal amount of product. Once the base of the pan is filled, the gelato maker then stacks the gelato waves among the base waves. Once completed, a beautiful cascade of gelato waves fill the pan awaiting to be dived into and devoured.
Decorating techniques of gelato are endless with the many varieties of spatulart. More like a sculpting tool then a spatula, spatulart is a flat handheld tool that shapes gelato into various patterns that include shapes, rows, grooves and so much more. Gelato makers use certain designs for certain flavors and toppings to really highlight the stunning colors and properties of each gelato. Below are some great images of gelato sculpted with spatulart.
Toppings & Garnishes
While gelato waves and spatulart focuses on sculpting and designing the actual gelato, toppings and garnishes can be added to take artisanal gelato to the next level.
- Arabeschi®: Arabeschi®, a filler and topping for gelato, can be added to create texture throughout the gelato and also add color as well as taste. Arabeschi® is worked in using a standard gelato spatula, or it can be distributed on top either by splattering or drizzling.
- Toppings: While toppings can also add color and flavor, they are also a great tool for creating specific designs. Toppings can be drizzled or carefully applied to leave lines, swirls, patterns and more on gelato. Toppings range from vibrant colors consistent with fruit flavors, to decadent favors such as chocolate and caramel.
- Garnishes: The finishing touches of artisanal gelato lie within the garnish. The garnish can be used to describe the flavor of the gelato if it cannot easily be distinguished, or it can be used to dress up an already beautifully sculpted gelato. Fruit-flavored gelato looks best when garnish with fresh fruit, however depending on the fruit, gelato makers often carve the fruit into fun shapes, cuts, flowers, etc. to add to the display. Other gelato flavors are also usually garnished with items that match the flavor profile as well, these include coffee beans, chocolate, pastries and cookies, and cinnamon sticks.
Garnishes however do not have to match the flavor profile of the gelato. Sugar pieces, fresh flowers, spices, cones and more can be added to create a special ambiance for each pan.
Plated Desserts and Serving Dishes
Plated gelato generally caters to upscale gelato shops or restaurants, but the most creative gelato makers are always looking for unique ways to serve their specialties.
Gelato has been served in everything from the traditional sundae cup and cone, to the more trendy small white plates and mini mousse cups. Gelato has even been served in dishes made of all sugar. Creative dishware is a natural addition to the overall gelato presentation.
Gelato has also been known to add to the presentation of other desserts, not only by adding a new texture and flavor to plate, but also by the way it is served. The traditional ice cream scoop is again a classic look, but in more recent years carefully sculpting the gelato with a spoon so that it makes a certain shape has also been demonstrated in the culinary world. Below is an image of gelato actually shaped into spaghetti.