Pastry Chef, Pangea Kitchen
One of my favorite questions to answer from customers is — Where do we make our gelato? The answer is — Right here in the restaurant.
Gelato is actually quite simple to make, if you have the right equipment. We have two beautiful Cattabriga machines imported from Italy that enable us to do it well. The first is called a Masterchef, and this machine does everything we need to prepare a gelato base. We add the ingredients — whole milk, nonfat milk, a little heavy cream, some sugar, and a stabilizer. And the machine does the rest. It slowly raises the temperature to blend the base, then freezes it. (This process would be quite labor intensive without the Masterchef. It involves a chef standing over a stove stirring for hours. You can’t walk away, milk scorches.)
Once the base is prepared, we add our fruits or other flavors. Then we put the mixture into our second machine, called an Effe. This large machine is basically a rotating bowl with a paddle. It carefully stirs and freezes the mixture without incorporating much air — which is key for a good gelato. The process takes about 25 minutes.
Gelato originated in Italy. It’s different from ice cream in that there’s less air incorporated in the mixture, and there’s also less fat. Ice cream leaves you with a thick feeling on your tongue, almost like you need a drink of water. That doesn’t happen with gelato. Also, because there’s less fat, the flavors are a lot more pronounced. There’s no subtlety. And, finally, gelato is kept a bit warmer than than traditional ice cream. It’s still frozen, but it’s much easier to scoop.
Randy Hobson, owner at Pangea Kitchen, knew from the beginning he wanted to serve gelato (and traditional Neapolitan pizza) here. The combination was something Evansville didn’t have, and he thought it would take off. He was right. When I came on board, I wanted to make sure we were doing it well, and that the process was simple. So I took a class in North Carolina, then did a tour of New York City bakeries to see how they did it. We came back with an understanding of how to make it — and a lot of ideas for flavors.
Altogether, we’ve made around 150 different flavors of gelato and sorbetto since opening. There are, or course, the traditional favorites. (My all time favorite is strawberry cheesecake and chocolate hazelnut!) But there’s also been a lot of experimenting. Some of those experiments become big hits. We recently made a mimosa sorbetto, for example. It was delicious. Others turn out a little weird. A customer once asked us to make a goat cheese gelato, and it was hard to eat a full portion!
But that hasn’t discouraged us. We are always searching for new flavors. Lately, I’ve been interested in incorporating more savory flavors in the gelatos — perhaps trying pistachio and Mike’s Hot Honey, the ingredients used on our pistachio pizza. I’ve also wanted to make a Lucky Charms gelato, using just the Lucky Charms marshmallows.
And, of course, we are always open to requests. Have you had a gelato somewhere you’d like to see at Pangea. Do you have any ideas?