Ice cream is typically made from milk or cream, created using various methods of chilling and freezing. Often flavors such as chocolate, vanilla or strawberry are added. It usually contains sugar or other sweeteners. Additionally, food coloring is often added to obtain desired color.
The dairy mixture is slowly stirred while chilling in order to incorporate air as well as prevent ice crystals from forming. This process creates a semi-solid cream that can be scooped.
Some ice creams are made with an egg mixture made into a yellow-custard base. These are often called custard or custard style ice cream. Additionally, many ice creams contain stabilizers or emulsifiers, such as corn starch to enhance the creaminess.
In the United States most ice creams are 20-29% fat and solids from milk, cream or other dairy, 12-16% sweeteners, .2-.5% stabilizers, and 55-64% water which comes from the milk or other ingredients. Higher quality ice cream contains a high percentage of cream than water and less air, which makes it richer and creamier. A premium gourmet ice cream has 40-60% overrun, which means that there is 100% product plus 40-60% air in a scoop. Most good ice creams have 60-90% overrun.
The are significant differences between gelato and ice cream even though gelato is commonly considered the Italian word for ice cream. Gelato contains less fat than ice cream, has less incorporated air and is served at a higher temperature than ice cream. Gelato is usually lower in calories than ice cream. Gelato is said to have a better flavor because there is less fat that coats the tongue, more concentrated flavor due to less air and the taste buds are more sensitive since the serving temperature is not as cold. Most gelato are 14-22% fat and solids from milk, cream or other dairy, 16-18% sweeteners, 4-8% yolk solids, .2-.5% stabilizers, and 60-65% water which comes from the milk or other ingredients. Gelato typically has 40-60% overrun, which means that there is 100% product plus 40-60% air in a scoop. Gelato is often made with fresh fruits and selected nuts and dried fruits and many gelato recipes also begin with an egg custard base.
Sorbet and Sherbets
Sorbet is frozen fruit puree, wine or liqueur mixed with sweetened water. Sorbet is often touted as fat free due to the lack of dairy content and is a great palate cleanser. Because of the frequent occurrence of liqueur in sorbets, they often require lower freezing temperatures than traditional ice creams. Contrarily, sherbets, similar to a sorbet in their fruity flavor have added milk or cream to create a creamier flavor. Both sorbets and sherbets have a sugar content of 25-35%, higher than ice cream and gelato. And sorbets are 5-30% overrun while sherbets are usually 25-50% overrun.
Granita or Ices
Granitas are similar to sorbets but usually have a more coarse texture.A granite or granite is a semi-frozen treat that usually has sugar and a fruit flavoring. The granite hails from Sicily, but is found all over Italy these days. Many Italian cities have their own version of granite and can vary in flavor and texture.
Soft serve ice cream is dispensed from a machine that is constantly churning the mixture to create a softer creamier texture. Soft serve ice cream is 30-55% overrun and has a higher water content that could be over 70%.
Often called froyo, Frozen Yogurt is similar in consistency to soft serve ice cream but it is made from yogurt instead of the traditional milk and cream, making it lower in fat. Because it’s made with yogurt, frozen yogurt is often more tart than traditional cream based ice cream. It is often served soft serve style like soft serve ice cream.
Ice pops are made using a mixture similar to the sorbet, sherbet or even traditional ice cream, but are created using a mold and stick during the freezing process instead of an ice cream maker. Ice pops have no air content at all.