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Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet, Sherbet – what’s the difference?

7 black bowls with different kinds and colours of ice cream

We recently bought an ice cream maker as a birthday gift for our daughter-in-law. With her reliable Thermomix on hand, she can make delicious desserts this summer in a flash. She asked me about the difference between ice cream and gelato, and I thought others would like to know. Do you know the difference? In Australia, as a pastry chef, we have a module on ice-creams and the like. It’s a great topic.

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If you’ve ever stood before a dizzying array of frozen delights feeling bewildered, you’re not alone. Choosing between ice cream, gelato, sorbet, and sherbet can be as tricky as picking a favourite movie. They all have their charm, their fans, and, yes, their differences. So, let’s melt away the confusion and dive into the chilly, delicious details.

I have also created an eBook containing basic ice cream recipes suitable for various dietary needs, such as dairy-free, egg-free, and rich ice cream. You can download it for free here: Ice Cream for Everyone. Update: So many people have been asking for my guided recipe for the No-Egg Ice Cream that makes 4 Ninja Cups, so here it is: Bec’s Table No Egg Ice Cream (Makes 4 Ninja Cups). Please read the last step; it is important.

Ice Cream: The Creamiest of all

Ice cream is the classic go-to for a frosty fix. It’s rich, creamy, and loaded with all the good stuff – cream, milk, and sugar, with egg yolks added for extra richness. The key to its silky texture? A generous amount of butterfat and air whipped into it during the churning process. The result? It’s a soft, spoonable treat that’s hard to resist.

Gelato: Italy’s Finer Indulgence

Ah, gelato – ice cream’s Italian cousin with a twist. Think of it as the sophisticated sibling with less fat and usually more flavour. Gelato uses more milk than cream, skipping egg yolks most of the time. The churn rate is slower, leaving gelato denser and smoother with an intensity that’ll have your taste buds singing ‘That’s Amore’ with every scoop.

A black bowl filled with scoops of strawberry gelato.

Sorbet: The Dairy-Free Delight

Sorbet is for those who say no to dairy. Made with fruit and sugar, sorbets are churned like ice cream, but without the dairy, they’re refreshingly light and vibrant in flavour. It’s the perfect fruity fix for anyone vegan or lactose intolerant. Sorbets are often used as palate cleansers in degustation menus.

A black bowl filled with scoops of Lemon sorbet.

Sherbet: The Happy Middle

Sherbet strikes a balance, weaving together the creaminess of ice cream, with the addition of sorbet. It’s like the best of both worlds – with just a touch of dairy to add richness but the remainder of the recipe is more like a Sorbet. You’ll find most Sherberts commonly have a fruit profile. Sherbet is your go-to when you can’t decide between indulgence and refreshment. But I have a recipe for Chocolate Sherbet. Seriously delicious.

While sherbet is traditionally fruit-flavoured, there’s no rule against getting a bit creative and indulging in the cocoa side of things. Chocolate sherbet is a bit of a rarity, but it combines the richness of cocoa with a lower fat content than chocolate ice cream. It’s the perfect treat for those who want the chocolate experience with a lighter, more refreshing texture.

So, if you’re a chocolate lover looking for a dessert that’s a tad lighter than traditional ice cream but still want that deep, chocolatey taste, chocolate sherbet could be your new go-to. Plus, making it at home can be a fun experiment to add to your culinary repertoire. Enjoy your chocolate adventure!

Chocolate sherbert in a white bowl.

Why Choose One Over Another?

It’s all about personal preference and dietary needs. Lactose intolerant or vegan? Sorbet’s are your go-to icy treats. If you’re watching the waistline or adore intense flavours? Gelato will be your fix. If you crave the ultimate indulgence, ice cream won’t let you down. And for those who like a little zing with their sweet, sherbet’s the ticket.

FAQs Unfrozen

  • What’s the difference in fat content? Ice cream typically contains at least 10% fat, while gelato has between 4-8%. Sherbet has a low fat conect at 1-2%, and sorbet has none.
  • Can I make these at home? Absolutely! You might need an ice cream maker, but there are no-churn recipes out there too.
  • Are these treats gluten-free? They can be if you’re making them at home; as for shop-bought, always check the label and beware of some add-ins that may contain gluten.
  • Which one is the healthiest? ‘Healthiest’ depends on your dietary goals, but sorbet generally has fewer calories and no dairy.

So, next time you’re pondering your options at the frozen aisle or your local parlour, remember these tips. And if you’re itching to whip up some homemade frozen magic, why not join one of my cooking classes or check out my blog for recipes and tips? Whatever you choose, keep it cool and delight in every lick and spoonful!

Remember, life’s short, so eat dessert first – and make it worth the calories. 🤣🤣🤣

Happy scooping, everyone!

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