I've owned a few ice cream machines in my time. And while I've churned out a sublime mulberry sorbet, and an acceptable vanilla bean ice cream, great gelato has always eluded me. So when I saw that La Macelleria Gelateria was willing to share some trade secrets via its 1.5 hour gelato workshop, I simply had to sign up. Tiramisu, fior di latte, nocciola, caffe, cioccolato, and all my other favourite flavours ... here I come!
I was one of only three participants - group size never being more than five, to ensure a personalised experience. Our warm and welcoming instructor Serena introduced us to the surprising origins of the store's name (which, in Italian, actually means butcher's shop). Next, we talked about the many crucial differences between ice cream and gelato, and some of the science behind its composition. And then it was into the kitchen to make a little iced magic of our own.
Our time in the Laboratorio del Gelato, as it's called, was all too brief. Crucially, this part of the night involving taste testing the raw ingredients, such as three different types of sugar used in gelato-making. Did you know that sugar isn't just used to add sweetness? Me neither. We also sampled a range of other ingredients, including roasted hazelnuts, thick oozy house-made caramel, pistachio paste that is slow-ground on the La Macelleria Gelateria premises, and plump rum-soaked raisins.
We were invited to measure, weigh, mix and churn the raw ingredients, creating the bases upon which all gelato rests, such as 'base cacao' and the foundation 'milk base' used in many other flavours, such as salted caramel. Stracciatella, I learned, is not vanilla with a random handful of chocolate chips tossed in, but rather a milk base to which molten chocolate is drizzled in a thin stream during the final stages of churning. Hardening on contact with the chilled gelato, the chocolate is broken up as the mixture churns, resulting in a smooth texture with a gentle crunch in every bite.
Participants were also tasked with pouring the prepared mixtures into the giant gelato chill-and-churn machines on site, which are unlike any I have at home. These included the Cattabriga Effe, which imitates the stir-and-stick movement of traditional Italian gelato makers, creating a superior quality product. When the time came for the gelato machines to dispense the finished product, we were there with our disposable spoons at the ready. Let me just say this - you haven't lived until you've tasted gelato five seconds after it was created.
Learning a bit more about how gelato is produced has definitely enhanced my appreciation of this product ... not that it needed much enhancing. Gelato workshops are held on Monday evenings, alternating between La Macelleria Gelateria's Teneriffe and West End locations. Bookings are required. The $75 cost includes a one-litre takeaway pack of flavours of your choice.
La Macelleria Gelateria at West End. Author image.