1800 – the golden age of gelato

Creativity has no limits: everything can be frozen

Vincenzo Agnoletti starts his activity as a cook in Italy and France, and then specializes in the art of sideboard attendant and works at the service of Maria Luigia of Habsburg, the Duchess of Parma. In his Essay, Agnoletti claims the primacy of Italians not only in the presentation of sorbets, but also in their making. He starts the classification of sorbets and gelato: made of cooked milk, of raw milk, of fruits, infusion; and then, graniti, spongiati, spume, poncio graniti sorbetti where he affirms there has to be a high dose of liquor. Agnoletti reveals the secret of colors, explaining which ingredients to use to give colors to foods.

 

Gelato according to an esthete of pastry and a giant of haute cuisine

Marie-Antoine Carême, born extremely poor in Paris in 1784, is considered one of the most important characters of global high cuisine. He had a decisive influence in French pastry and gelato-making, especially for the pièce-montée, made not only of sugar and marzipan but also gelato. The pièce-montées were over a meter high, like reconstructions of architectural structures (pyramids, temples, buildings). Later, Carême expanded his research becoming one of the most celebrated cook: he worked for Minister Talleyrand-Périgord, in London he was chef de cuisine for King George IV, in St. Petersburg for Tsar Alexander I. Carême is universally recognized as the man who codified the haute-cuisine.

 

Sorbets and gelato must be in the menu, for the cook of Italian Risorgimento

At the service of Carlo Alberto of Savoy and Vittorio Emanuele II, Giovanni Vialardi writes his “Essay” in 1854, listing over 2000 recipes; he dedicates a section to the art of gelato: it starts with detailed instructions on the preparation of gelato churn, then gives the percentages of ice and salt to obtain different negative temperatures and finally describes, precisely, how to make gelato and sorbets and how to serve them. Vialardi uses molds for gelato that have the most varied shapes. He introduces, in his recipe book, the metric system and over 300 drawings: from the setting of the tables with Russian services, to demi-Russian, to French, etc.; from the kitchen tools to the presentation of various dishes.

 

The recipes of gelato collected by the famous gastronome

They say that Artusi made, with gastronomy, more than what Garibaldi made for Italy: he unified, but also enhanced the varied and dispersed universe of local and regional cuisines. Pellegrino Artusi, born in Forlimpopoli in 1820 and lived up to 91 years in Florence, collects and publishes at his own expenses 760 recipes in “Science in the kitchen and the art of eating well”, which he publishes in 1891. Among these recipes, a good number is dedicated to gelato and sorbets. “You will be almost sure to satisfy the last of all your guests if, at the end of the lunch, you will offer them sorbets or a piece of gelato”.

 

The gelato of the Belle Epoque

With George Auguste Escoffier gelato and sorbets enter the circuit of high catering and hotels. Escoffier is the top notch chef, an icon of the Belle Epoque, a great sponsor and propagator of the “cold dessert”. In his “Guide Culinaire”, the XV chapter illustrates the main workings of gelato: from egg cream to fruits, to essences and liquors. He distinguishes the “light gelato” from the others and ends with the Sorbets, divided in Granité, Marquises, Punch à la Romaine, Spooms. Each gelato must have a name and a dedicated shape: star-shaped molds, squared molds, bomb-looking molds, obelisks and pyramids, animal subjects or fantastical subjects. He dedicates his frozen creations to famous people of the time (like the immortal Cup Melba, dedicated to the eponymous soprano) and leaves a ton of extraordinary recipes and presentations.