Ice cream has been pleasing palates for generations with its smooth and creamy texture and summer friendly chill. Ice cream has risen to new heights as many companies have embraced the gourmet approach to unique and enticing flavours which has also lead to over the top concoctions that are making it more fun to enjoy something beyond the basics of vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. Adding to the mix is more gelato varieties hitting your grocer’s freezer not to mention the appearance of ice cream parlours and gelaterias appearing throughout the GTA. There are also sorbettos or sherbets to enjoy. Here is little primer on the differences between ice cream, gelato, sherbet and sorbetto to help you find your favourite way to enjoy a chilly treat.
The Difference in Ingredients
What makes the most impact on the flavour and texture on ice cream, sorbetto and gelato is the difference in ingredients. Gelato contains less fat, using milk as opposed to full fat cream. Ice cream often combines eggs and cream adding to the richness of the flavour and texture. Sorbetto focuses more on fruit juices and purees and usually does not contain any dairy but may contain egg whites. Sherbet does tend to use a small percentage of one to two percent milk products. Many ice creams use a custard base depending on the flavour of the ice cream as not all flavours work well with the addition of egg. In some cases eggs are also used in gelatos and sorbettos however they use only the whites and not the yolks like custard based ice creams. All three contain sugar in varying degrees and amounts based on the recipe, flavours and brand/parlour.
Difference in Preparation
With an explanation of ingredients it might be easier to understand how the difference in preparation affects the texture and flavour. The way ice cream is churned allows more air to be added during the preparation process. The churning in hand with the heavier fat content adds a fluffier and creamier texture and consistency to ice cream. The higher the quality of the ice cream the less air will be contained. A good quality ice cream contains only 25 percent air where as many store bought brands will contain as much as 90 percent. This certainly explains why there is such a drastic difference in the consistency and flavour of gourmet/ parlour ice creams and the ones found in your grocer’s freezer.
When it comes to gelato, sorbetto and sherbet the churning process used is very slow and deliberate in order to lessen the amount of air allowed to enter the dessert. The result is a denser treat and very often a far more intense flavour.
Difference in Flavour
If you consider a combination of the ingredients used and the preparation process it becomes easier to understand how each product varies in flavour. Because fat tends to mellow flavours, ice cream is creamier and less intense but also much richer in flavour. The more ingredients added into the churned ice cream the more layered the flavours become. The ice cream itself remains creamy while things such as ripples of caramel or chocolate combined with chunks of fruit, nuts and other ingredients offer more texture and flavour. Gelato on the other hand tends to focus on the intensity of a single flavour without all of the added ingredients. At the most a traditional gelato might contain nuts or bits of cookie. Both sorbetto and sherbet contain fruit and fruit juices for a more refreshing choice and the fruit tends to be pureed so it is smooth not chunky. Each dessert is equal in decadence.
From the velvety smooth creaminess of ice cream to the intense refreshing flavours of gelato, sorbetto and sherbet you are certain to find a mountain of flavour to fill your cone or bowl this summer.