By Amanda Kohr
Summertime is all about the frozen treats. Regardless of whether you’re hitting the soft serve stand while cruising the boardwalk, or building a candy mountain on your favorite flavor at Menchie’s, frozen goodies are the best (and tastiest) way to cool off come summertime.
And while ice cream, gelato, fro-yo, and soft serve are all delicious, they’re also totally different. How so?! We didn’t know either, and decided to do some research.
The USDA reports that regular ice cream must consist of 20 percent cream and ten percent milk, and contain at least 10 percent fat. Some brands will have a fat percentage closer to 15 or 20, which can lend for a very rich ice cream.
You may have also heard of “nitrogen ice cream.” In this case, the ice cream-makers use liquid nitrogen (which is super cold) to speed up the freezing process. This reduces the amount of ice crystals in the cream, yielding a unique, smooth texture.
Gelato is an easy-way to send your tastebuds on an Italian getaway. Gelato is made with with whole milk, but unlike ice cream, it does not have any added cream. This leaves the milk fat percentage closer to around 3.8%.
Most of the time, gelato is whipped using very little air, creating a dense texture. It’s not hardened in a blast freezer like ice cream, but instead served in its own, semi-frozen texture. If you ever travel to Italy, you’ll find gelato places on every street, with fun flavors such as Nutella or strawberry cheesecake. There are also lots of gelato brands you can buy at your local grocery store.
What sets custard apart from other frozen desserts is the addition of the egg yolk. This makes a thick and heavy cream-like texture. Frozen custard was made popular in the Midwest, and is now often found along boardwalks, in country fairs, and at carnivals.
Custard is frozen before serving, but it’s not left to harden, like ice cream. There’s also not much air whipped into the ice cream, giving it very few ice crystals and allowing the eater to focus on the sweet, silkiness of the custard.
Frozen yogurt, or fro-yo, has exploded in popularity over the last few years. There are fro-yo places everywhere, allowing you to decorate your ice cream with whatever toppings your heart desires.
Fro-yo has a smaller fat percentage than traditional ice cream, yields a tangier flavor, and contains yogurt cultures. These are also known as probiotics, and can help aid your digestive system. Sounds like a great reason to grab a bite.
Last but not least, sorbet is very different from the aforementioned frozen desserts, in that it doesn’t contain any dairy products. Rather it’s made from sweetened water, and then paired with some sort of flavoring, such as strawberry, lemon, or chocolate.
Despite it’s lack of dairy, not all sorbets are vegan. Some are made with egg whites, but this isn’t a general rule.
With so many types of frozen treats, it’s a good thing you have the entire summer to pick and choose a favorite. But the best way to learn the differences? It might have to be a taste test.