Italian Food: Gelato University in Italy
There comes a time in a girl’s life when her needs must be met. When it’s no longer enough to simply enjoy the gelato of Italy. When she must take the plunge, take the berries into her own hands and …yes, make the gelato herself.
For me, that time was now.
Carpigiani Gelato University | Gelato
To say that Carpigiani is known for its gelato technology would be a major understatement. The company, in business since 1946, is now the world leader in the “production of equipment for fresh ice cream, pastry and much more.” In addition to its production facilities it is becoming increasingly well known for its Gelato University. Located about 30 minutes from Bologna Centrale station, it is the premiere destination for anyone hoping to master the creation of Italian gelato or sorbet.
While we’re told that the key to a great gelato (or sorbet) is the ingredients used, watching students at work it was also clear that passion is a big part of the equation. Many of the people who come here to learn the craft through courses that range from hours-long to weeks-long are planning second careers as gelateria owners all over the world. About 70% of the students are visitors from abroad. It’s clear that the students love the stuff as much as the instructors do. In fact, my favourite gelatiere – James Coleridge from Bella Gelateria in Vancouver – learned his skills in these very halls and announced plans to set up the school’s first North American post in Vancouver’s Yaletown this past summer.
Gelato Museum | Gelato
And there’s more. Along with production facilities and the university, Carpigiani’s head office is also home to the Gelato Museum.
Come for the masterclass – a 3- hour experience – and you’ll begin with a tour of the Gelato Museum. It’s the only Gelato Museum in the world which is fitting because Bologna is known as the Gelato capital of the world. At first, it seemed odd that I would start with a tour of a museum rather than a cup of the good stuff especially since I could see the gelato freezer from where I was standing, but I quickly saw the rationale. Gelato is such a simple idea that to fully appreciate what has led to what you are about to do (and eat!), you have to have a sense of where it all comes from.
When you enter there are quotes from some of the most famous works in literature that reference the dish. (My favourite is below.)
And from there it only gets more interesting. There’s the original gelato recipe written in the form of a poem which brings to the product exactly the sort of romantic feel that eating it does for the consumer.
And as you continue to work your way up to the modern day, the beauty of the simplest things – from an original cone maker to the boxes that they were shipped in to the ice cream bicycle cart with it’s light and bell – holds your attention. (Family Travel Tip: I think kids in particular would get a real kick out of seeing how far the dish has come and the various iterations of the machines that make both the desert and the holders. The ability to get up close and touch some of these items will also hold their interest.)
Master Class| Gelato
With a new appreciation for the art, I entered the lab space to try my hand at making something myself. My masterclass program included workbooks, information and a uniform that I got to use in class and take home with me.
And then the real work began. Our task today was to create a strawberry sorbet. And to do that we would need a crash course in chemistry, food preparation and ….math! (Not my forte.) When my instructor Brunella first handed me a calculator I considered making a run for it but in the end, the facts and figures were more than manageable. Among the learning was the reminder of a point James had hammered home when we met him on our way around the world in 2011. Gelato is better for you than ice cream! It has less fat! I didn’t need another reason but that was a good one. :)
It wasn’t all strict learning. While we waited for our own concoctions to churn in the machine, we took a bit of a gelato break – learning to paddle and serve in the company store. It’s harder than it looks but even more difficult was the realization that our finished product would be sold from the case as soon as we were done. Major pressure.
In the end it worked out. We made this!
And sure, it looks like some weird fluorescent mess in this photo, but trust me when I say it was the best strawberry gelato I’d ever tasted. My very first customer agreed. :)
Despite my new masterclass certificate and the proclamation from those in attendance that it was in fact the best strawberry gelato made
EVER that day, I haven’t let the experience change me too much. Sure, I made my #blogville roommates refer to me as a Master of Gelato for the rest of the trip and yes, I made sure to continue my research by eating more than a few cones as I toured the Emilila-Romagna and Lombardi regions as “research” to make sure the country was up to standard, but really, I’m still nothing more than a girl with a cone and a dream.
Just the Facts| Gelato
* Gelato was created in the 13th century as a treat for the rich. It has multi-cultural roots. Greeks used a combination of snow and jice, Egyptians used snow and wine and Romans mixed snow and honey! Arab countries took it a step further when they created what would essentially become the first fridge and is scarily close to the current day gelato machine in form and function.
*Carpigiani also operates a shop on-site that is a popular stop for gelato lovers. Gelato is produced daily with fresh ingredients. It opens at noon to allow staff and students to prepare 14 different flavours in the morning.How much: Classes range in price but are a great bargain for the level of hands-on experience.
* There are plenty of options for learning with the kids including these:
You can find full lists of course offerings and opportunities online at www.gelatouniversity.com