You’ve got your dessert cup and your tasting spoon. In front of you is ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and even some non-dairy frozen dessert. What differences are there among all these desserts? What are the pros and cons of each? Read on for everything you need to know about frozen treats.
- The thing that started it all: ice cream Actually, the first frozen desserts were eaten in Rome and China and involved shaved ice and fruit. However, we’re sticking with ice cream. Ice cream has to have at least 10% milk fat to be called ice cream. High-end ice cream has milk fat closer to 15%. Basically, the more milk fat, the creamier the texture. Ice cream gets churned while it’s freezing to incorporate air. Ice cream is more than 50% air at the end, in fact. Some ice cream (the best, many would say) includes egg yolks.
- The Italians weigh in: gelato While the word gelato does come from the Italian, the Greeks will happily argue that they invented it first. Whoever did, the gelato you’re spooning into your dessert cup is 3% to 5% milk fat and 25% to 30% air. Because less air is incorporated, gelato feels denser and weighs the same as ice cream, but with less fat. It also typically comes with a bit less sugar.
- The “healthy” choice: frozen yogurt Frozen yogurt is seriously delicious, but it’s not healthier, people. It’s made with even more sugar than ice cream, and since the typical frozen yogurt is fat-free or at least low-fat, it has to be laced with thickeners and emulsifiers. Some frozen yogurt comes with live cultures, but plenty do not, so if that’s important to you check before you scoop.
- Fruity and tangy: sorbet and sherbet Some people think these are just different spellings for the same thing, but that’s not the case. They both come from the same word (Arabic: sharbah ) and both tend to come in mostly fruit flavors. Sherbet can have milk and eggs in it. Sometimes it contains gelatin. In the United States, sherbet must have between 1% and 2% butterfat to be called sherbet. Sorbet is completely dairy-free, almost always a fruit flavor, and has a lot more sugar than any other frozen treat. “A lot more sugar” means three times as much.
- The vegan choice: non-dairy frozen dessert. Some people eat this for ethical reasons, others because they can not tolerate dairy. This type of dessert is usually made with coconut milk and lots of soy, contains a lot more sugar than regular ice cream, and has many additives to make it feel creamy on the tongue. The list of ingredients can be longer than a small college essay.
- What should I be putting into my dessert cups and containers? It depends on what you want. First, know that anything which mimics ice cream’s texture but does not have real milk fat and eggs is using things like guar gum, soy, and carrageenan to achieve this feeling. People have been eating those things for thousands of years; however, they did not eat them in anything like the amounts that we’re now eating them now in our frozen desserts. Second, remember that fat and sugar are typically inverse in ice cream. The more fat, the less sugar you need to get a luscious taste. The lower the fat, the more sugar you need to make it taste good. Also, fat slows (not stops) the absorption of sugar. Finally, think about the needs or desires of the moment, If you’re hot and active, a sorbet can be a very refreshing treat. If you want to be satisfied with a smaller portion and keep your sugar intake low, get real ice cream that uses cream and milk.
Whatever you choose to put in your dessert cup, frozen treats are an American tradition. In this country, 90% of households regularly indulge. So grab a spoon, pick up an ice cream cup, and enjoy!