The different types of ice cream explained

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10 Jul The different types of ice cream explained

Different types of ice cream defined - The Messy Baker

We tend to use the term “ice cream” generically, but the fat and calorie content between a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream and an equal portion of peach sorbet can be significant. So, what’s in your bowl? Ice cream, ice milk, gelato, sorbet, sherbet or a simple ice? The different types of ice cream can be as confounding —  as if the flavour options aren’t confusing enough.

I’ve had several people ask me the difference between the various frozen desserts, but until now, I haven’t blogged about this topic specifically. To address this egregious error, here’s a glossary of the terms to help you the next time you’re at the cone shop or frozen food section. Or if you’re like me, in front of your ice cream maker.

ICE CREAMS

  • Ice cream: The modern commercial versions contain little cream and lots of milk products like “whole milk solids”. Government regulations about what does and doesn’t meet the definition of ice cream can be so convoluted you’d choke on your Rocky Road. Let’s just say ice cream is made with cream and / or milk and is churned to keep it from freezing into a solid mass. Expensive ice creams have less air (also called “overrun”).
  • French Style Ice cream: A cooked egg-yolk custard makes this ice cream very rich and smooth. It’s dense and almost silky.
  • Philadelphia Style Ice cream: This ice cream has no eggs and is simpler to make. Without the custard base it’s firmer, freezes harder and is slightly lighter than the French version.
  • Gelato: This is the Italian word for ice cream and simply means “frozen”. True Italian ice cream is less sweet but more dense than its commercial North American cousin. It has less air and may or may not contain eggs.
  • Semifreddo: Although this can be a wide variety of frozen desserts, this Italian treat is usually a variation on ice cream or frozen custard. Literally meaning “half cold”, this dessert isn’t churned like ice cream or gelato. Instead it’s frozen in a form, often a loaf pan, and then sliced once slightly defrosted.

OTHER FROZEN TREATS

  • Ice milk: This lower-fat frozen dessert doesn’t have enough milk fat to meet the legal definition of ice cream. It’s lighter, lower in calories and less creamy.
  • Sherbet: Classic sherbet is made with fruit juice, sugar and water or wine. Some versions contain milk, buttermilk, egg whites or gelatin. Technically sherbet and sorbet are different, but most people play fast and loose with these definitions. Don’t be surprised to see them used interchangeably.
  • Sorbet: Also called sorbetto, sorbet (pronounced sor-BAY) is often used as a palate cleanser between courses or as a lovely, fresh and light dessert. A true sorbet is vegan, made without milk, eggs or gelatin.
  • Granita: Sometimes called ices, granita is an Italian term for flavoured shaved ice. It is not churned, but mashed with a fork. The resulting ice crystals can be eaten on their own (like a high-end Slushy) or spooned over ice cream.

Now that you know the difference, what’ll it be? I’ve got to make my $112 ice cream maker earn its keep, so give me some suggestions.

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21 Comments
  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 14:38h, 10 July Reply

    What will it be? Any and all of the above, please! You're killing me, Charmian … I was just explaining to my husband last night that everyone is making and blogging about homemade ice cream and I feel so left out! Naturally, he took the opportunity to remind of all the forlorn appliances collecting dust in my kitchen … like that titanic sized crockpot. He's powerfully afraid I'm going to buy an ice cream maker. LOL

    But … I'm not. So, I'm casting my vote for some kind of salted caramel ice cream … maybe with a bit of chocolate thrown in for good measure. I'll live vicariously through you!

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 14:38h, 10 July Reply

    What will it be? Any and all of the above, please! You're killing me, Charmian … I was just explaining to my husband last night that everyone is making and blogging about homemade ice cream and I feel so left out! Naturally, he took the opportunity to remind of all the forlorn appliances collecting dust in my kitchen … like that titanic sized crockpot. He's powerfully afraid I'm going to buy an ice cream maker. LOL

    But … I'm not. So, I'm casting my vote for some kind of salted caramel ice cream … maybe with a bit of chocolate thrown in for good measure. I'll live vicariously through you!

  • The Food Hunter
    Posted at 15:21h, 10 July Reply

    this is a very interseting post.

  • danamccauley
    Posted at 20:52h, 10 July Reply

    Nice glossary! Just what we all need.

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 21:47h, 10 July Reply

    The only thing we need now is a road trip to test for the best of each catagory!!
    Love,
    Robin

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 14:07h, 11 July Reply

    I just got home from my month away and I'm putting my ice cream maker's insert in the freezer RIGHT NOW. Fair warning: if you don't take Diva up on her suggestion for salted caramel ice cream, I will. I second her emotion.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 15:08h, 11 July Reply

    DivaD, salted caramel ice cream? Okay.

    Food Hunter, thanks. Glad you dropped by.

    Dana, I'm sure you knew this already but thanks for the note.

    Robin, your husband wants triple butterscotch, so I'm guessing salted caramel would be right up his alley.

    Cheryl, DIBS on salted caramel ice cream.

  • Suzy
    Posted at 15:28h, 11 July Reply

    Thanks for the education! Your collage is great…so pretty. I'm having a little Ice Cream Social event on my blog this weekend. Come check out all of the recipes that people are sharing. You could link your post up there too if you'd like.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 18:46h, 11 July Reply

    I need to post my latest ice cream adventure – strawberry with a rhubarb swirl. I've been procrastinating because my food styling skills leave something to be desired. But oh, the ice cream! And as soon as my raspberries have little red berries that survive The Monster I am definitely making that Raspberry Maple. And some cherry sherbert with dark chocolate chunks. Cookie dough with Julie's White chocolate maple walnut cookie dough. And I want to try some of the avocado stuff I've seen floating around.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 18:46h, 11 July Reply

    I need to post my latest ice cream adventure – strawberry with a rhubarb swirl. I've been procrastinating because my food styling skills leave something to be desired. But oh, the ice cream! And as soon as my raspberries have little red berries that survive The Monster I am definitely making that Raspberry Maple. And some cherry sherbert with dark chocolate chunks. Cookie dough with Julie's White chocolate maple walnut cookie dough. And I want to try some of the avocado stuff I've seen floating around.

  • amyproulx
    Posted at 22:36h, 11 July Reply

    Beware the "frozen dessert"! Since the vast fluctuations of commodity prices, many manufacturers have come in under the radar by putting the unregulated term "frozen dessert" instead of the regulated "ice cream". All the more reason to buy an ice cream maker.

    We found a five dollar mixer in a garage sale. It has earned its keep many times over, with Iranian saffron ice cream. A scoop, floating in fresh carrot juice, is dreamy.

    Last time I saw you, I was to have brought frozen strawberry yogurt. Someone was plotting, and put the freezer bowl on the shelf, slowing the process down past my potluck deadline. Someone also ate a quart of said yogurt, and has been asking for more.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 10:43h, 12 July Reply

    Suzy, thanks for the heads up. I did post a link, but managed to mess up. That's what I get for touch the computer before the caffeine hit my system.

    Cheryl A, post your adventure!! Now!!! This sounds amazing.

    Amy, good point about "Frozen dessert". That's like the term "beverage" when it's really "fake juice" or "chocolatey coating" when there's no cocoa used at all. I know that homemade ice cream takes time, but at least I know what's in it — no fillers either.

  • Kevin
    Posted at 10:52h, 12 July Reply

    Great info on frozen treats!

  • Allan Rencontres
    Posted at 03:22h, 13 July Reply

    Out of all the different types of ice cream you described, i realized that I haven't stumbled on the French version yet. And my day has a whole new purpose: I'll be making French ice cream!

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 09:26h, 13 July Reply

    Allen, if you need a recipe, I posted one on Accidental Hedonist last year.

    Here's the link:
    http://www.accidentalhedonist.com/index.php?title=three_speeds_of_ice_cream&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

    You can easily omit the lemon balm and up the vanilla to a whole pod.

  • Dallas from Bitchin' Lifestyle
    Posted at 13:33h, 13 July Reply

    Ooh, great explanation. I am drooling.

  • Elra
    Posted at 21:33h, 13 July Reply

    What a perfect post!!!!! Great info, and very interesting indeed. Thank you dear.

  • Doris
    Posted at 01:18h, 26 March Reply

    Hi Charmian.
    Thanks for explaining all those terms! Where would you place Frozen Yogurt?
    I came across a delicious Vanilla Ice Cream Dessert at http://www.spaghettiicecream.org.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 01:54h, 26 March Reply

      Frozen yogurt would definitely come under “Other Frozen Treats.” Can’t believe I didn’t include that one. I’ll have to do an update. I’ve never heard of Spaghetti Ice Cream before but it looks like fun. When I pull my ice cream maker out this summer I’ll definitely have to give this a try. Thanks for sharing the link to your site.

  • July is All About Ice Cream Month! - Easy Home Meals Blog
    Posted at 14:15h, 02 July Reply

    […] Sherbet: Classic sherbet is made with fruit juice, sugar and water or wine. Some versions contain milk, buttermilk, egg whites or gelatin[4]. […]

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