If asked to rattle off as many ice cream types as possible, how far do you think you’d make it? Gelato, tick. Sorbet, tick. Soft serve, semifreddo, sherbet. Tick, tick, tick. Italian ice, dondurma, kulfi? Maybe you’d nail it. But maybe there’d be a point near Midwestern frozen custard and straight-up frozen yogurt you may throw in the towel. This National Ice Cream Day, we’ve selected a handful to explain. Something to mull over in the time it takes you to slurp away on your favourite flavour!
Let’s begin with the whimsical and romantic, gelato. Italian for ice cream, gelato comes in as many regional variations as its North American counterpart. But generally, you’ll find the Italian ice cream type has about 3% less milk fat content than it’s creamier US friend. They also churn it more slowly so it’s 70% less aerated. There’s often less/no eggs added. Basically the density is different and so the flavours are able to pack more of a punch. What’s more, it’s served at a different temperature, which affects the taste as well!
Sorbet is the dairy-free option often made using fresh fruit purees that are mixed with sugar. It can also combine liqueurs and honey to make it more ‘syrupy’ and contribute to lowering the freezing point. This lower point ultimately creates a softer dessert. Max Falkowitz wrote an interesting article on the science of sorbet. In it, he described the importance of sugar in making a more concentrated syrup that never really freezes. Instead, the resulting ice crystals exist “in a sea of syrup” that not only taste great, but determine the perfect structure, or final texture, of your sorbet.
Often referred to as traditional Indian ice cream, the creation of kulfi is just as interesting as sorbet. While it looks like ice cream, you’ll find the texture to be more dense and creamy than the other ice cream types. This is due to the cooking process, in which they gently stir sweetened milk over heat until it is half evaporated! The caramelization of the milk increases the fat, protein, and lactose content giving kulfi a particular taste. This concoction is poured into moulds that are buried in salty ice, a combination that freezes it much faster than other ice creams are accustomed to. The density and lack of ice crystals mean it melts more slowly than regular ice creams, too.
The last of the ice cream types we’ll discuss is the swirl-tastic soft serve. A relative late-bloomer in the scheme of commercial ice creams, a fact that doesn’t make it any less delicious. If you thought kulfi freezes quickly, wait until we explain the process for a soft serve…
First, we begin with a liquid combination that we place in the top chamber of the soft serve machine. This waits patiently until a small child goes up to the counter to stand on their toes and order “one serve, please!” from the adult with the hat. The adult pushes a button that engages the machine causing the liquid product to then springs into action. Then they draw it from a valve to quickly aerate, this time in the freezing chamber, before churning alters its physical state. Finally, it’s swirled out into an ice cream cone in the soft and light state we’re all familiar with.
The best machines are the ones that dispense two flavours at once, and this is the type of machine we hope you find today. Here’s for the many ice cream types around the globe!
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