So if you know me, you know I’m obsessed with ice cream. In Australia, that means gelato. And the best gelato IMHO comes from Gelato Messina, a small business run by bunch of guys from Adelaide, creating authentic gelato and sorbet with a really fun twist.
For Valentine’s Day this year I booked Alec and I into one of Gelato Messina’s Gelato Appreciation Classes, run out of their new factory in Rosebery. I didn’t know what to expect, and just really hoped that I would be able to gorge myself on gelato.
After meeting Diego, Messina’s social media manager, at the Gelato Messina Darlinghurst store early in the morning, we then took a short bus ride to the new factory.
At the factory we were met by Alex, Messina’s charismatic operations manager, who ran the appreciation class as well as entertaining us with his fun stories of gelato wins and woes (note to everyone: Fosters-flavoured gelato is NOT a good idea).
The class took place in a room adjacent to where the gelato magic happens. Through glass walls we could see the machines that cranked out the gelato and sorbets, and the pastry chefs hard at work making, in this case, our innovative (and delicious) five-course dessert degustation. NOTE: The five course degustation will feature in a follow up blog post.
Between the five courses, Alex, who’s been making gelato for 16 years, gave us a fascinating lesson on how to make a basic gelato and sorbet from scratch, and let us taste the products before and after freezing. A great deal of the lesson was spent talking about the produce, which is one major area that sets Messina apart from a lot of other ice cream and gelato stores. The Messina team take their gelato very seriously (even though if, judging from Alex, they’re pretty irreverent, fun guys), and every single ingredient is sourced from the best possible place to ensure the highest quality of gelato and sorbet possible.
If you’ve ever eaten a scoop of Messina’s gelato, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The flavours are like an explosion in the mouth of pure deliciousness – and it all comes back to using the best possible ingredients.
For example, for their pistachio gelato, Messina imports pistachios from Sicily at $500 a pail. Their frozen berries are shipped in from South America (where they are washed and snap frozen so when defrosted are fresher than using actual fresh berries). The lady finger biscuits used in the tiramisu gelato are shipped from Italy. Their hazelnuts are also from Italy – sourced from from Nutella company. When they can’t source their premium ingredients they take the flavour off the menu.
Another reason the Messina creations taste so amazing is that every single batch is created from scratch, rather than them using a generic base and just adding a different flavour. This accounts for each ingredient in the recipe having it’s own fat, protein and sugar content that needs to be accounted for.
During the sorbet-making, we learned about the differences between gelato and ice cream. Namely that gelato has less air in it, making it more dense to eat and letting the flavour linger on the palette longer. Another difference is the fat content: Ice cream is 35% fat while gelato has 10-15% fat content.
After the gelato and sorbet demonstrations, French pastry chef Flo came out to show us how to make the famous Messina Dr Evil Mushroom Cake. We hear that in the old factory, it was so small that pastry chefs worked around the clock in 24 hours shifts, 7 days a week, to produce everything needed. Yikes. With more space in the new facility, the pastry chefs are sure to be greatful that they now have something resembling normal hours.
The pastry chefs are crucial to Messina, as they make all of the delicious bit and pieces you find in their gelato, such as brownies and cheesecake. These ingredients are all made from scratch in the factory, and are specially formulated to not freeze when mixed with gelato so when you bite into your scoop their not frozen hard, they’re gooey and chewy.
The mushroom cake was Messina’s first gelato cake, and was name after Austin Powers – just one of their creations named after pop culture. The cakes are produced in batches of 100 by hand, and then shipped to stores or customers. They use a special kind of gelato in the cakes that stays frozen longer, enabling the cakes to be glazed as well as transported without melting.
After the mushroom cake was completed, it was sliced up for us to eat.
When there was no more gelato to be had, we were bused back to the Darlinghurst store to try every flavour they make before the store opened to the public.
We were sent home with a litre of our choice of gelato as well as the Gelato Messina Cookbook (and a bit of a tummy ache for some of us who ate way too much gelato!).