For centuries, ice cream has been a favorite summer treat. Or, if you’re anything like me, it’s a favorite treat any time of the year.
Through the years of its existence, and from country to country, different varieties of ice cream have been created for the enjoyment of mankind.
With options like hard ice cream, frozen custard, gelato and sorbet, it’s not surprising that Americans are the No. 1 consumers of ice cream in the world. But while we love to love ice cream, do we know the difference between the varieties?
The first time I had custard, I had no idea what it was. I just knew it looked like ice cream but tasted a little different. With gelato, the only thing I knew about it is that it was an Italian thing.
Hard ice cream is what most people are most familiar with, since it’s what’s mostly sold in pints and half-gallons at the grocery store. It’s often referred to as “classic” ice cream.
For a frozen treat to be grouped with this style, the mixture has to contain at least 10 percent milkfat, and the more milkfat, the creamier it tends to be. Other ingredients include sweeteners, sometimes eggs, cream and stabilizers such as guar gum, carob bean gum and cellulose gum. Stabilizers help prevent ice crystal growth in ice cream.
To turn that mixture into ice cream, it’s frozen in a machine that stirs it, using paddles, combining air to keep the ice crystals small and freeze it at a perfect rate to create a smooth ice cream.
When I want to grab some classic ice cream I often go to Cloud 10 Creamery, 711 Heights Blvd., which is more of a specialty place. The best, however, can be found in the grocery store in the freezer section. My favorite ice cream is Blue Bell.
Soft-serve ice cream is hard ice cream, just made a little differently. During production, soft-serve ice cream is kept at a lower temperature and churned more constantly, which creates a smoother and lighter texture.
If you’re looking for a good soft serve, you can’t go wrong with going to Jason’s Deli, 11120 Northwest Fwy. While you have to eat there to get the ice cream for free, it’s still one of the reasons I love going to the deli.
A few key differences are what makes frozen custard an ice cream variety of its own. It contains 1.4 percent egg yolk by weight, which gives it a rich, full taste. When it’s being made it’s churned constantly, keeping it from retaining too much air. Typically, custard has 30 percent less air than classic ice cream. This also makes the custard denser.
Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, 2802 White Oak Dr., is one of my go-to places for custard. Though I will admit I haven’t tried the Italian Ice.
The Italian word for ice cream is gelato. This type of ice cream starts off with a similar base as classic ice cream, but it has a higher portion of milk and a lower portion of cream with no eggs. It’s churned at a slower rate, which incorporates less air, making the gelato denser. It tends to have a silkier texture and because there is a lower percentage of fat, the main flavor shines through.
I have two favorites when craving gelato. First, Dolce Neve Gelato, 4721 N. Main St. Ste. H, and second, Gelazzi at 3601 White Oak Dr.
Then we have the ice cream cousins, sorbet and sherbet.
Fruit and sugar are the two main ingredients in sorbet. The main difference between sorbet and other ice creams is that no dairy is added. And while there might be additions like water or flavoring, sorbet is basically blended fruit that’s churned and frozen.
Fat Cat Creamery, 1901 N. Shepherd Dr., occasionally has sorbet in push-up packaging that I enjoy.
Sherbet is the creamier version of sorbet. It’s made with fruit and water, but with the addition of dairy. Dairy is what makes it creamier, but because it’s required to have less than 2 percent fat, it’s lighter than classic ice cream.
I’m a longtime fan of the rainbow sherbet from Baskin-Robbins, 1354 W. 43rd St., because it’s good and I’ve been eating it since I was a kid.
Frozen yogurt is made with similar ingredients as ice cream but includes a yogurt culture. The yogurt mixture is then churned like classic or soft-serve ice cream.
My favorite place to go for frozen yogurt is sweetFrog, 1214 W. 43rd St. Ste. 1200.
The variety in ice cream continues to grow and new versions are bound to pop up soon enough. It’s pretty rare I try an ice cream I don’t like, so the more options, the better.