Barbecues are lighting up, the AC is buzzing again, and the Fourth of July is fast approaching — summer is officially here. It’s looking like a sunny one this year, but once those temperatures start rising, how warm is too warm? Summer 2021 in the US was the hottest ever recorded, so you may want to start thinking about some new ways to keep cool.
Fortunately, we know just the thing you need: ice cream. Homemade or store-bought, we’re all pretty familiar with the frozen favorite — but do you know about the different varieties that are enjoyed all over the world? There are lots of them, and they can all look pretty similar to the untrained eye — so with National Ice Cream Day on the horizon, it’s time we all got learning. Stick with us and we’ll tell you about five of the coolest types of ice cream you can try this summer.
Let’s start with the obvious: here in America, we know how to do ice cream. This frozen treat is made by mixing milk, cream and flavourings like sugar and vanilla (or extra ingredients like Cheetos if you’re that way inclined). This blend is then chilled and churned to fold air into the mix, creating that smooth, whipped consistency that we all know and love.
Standard ice cream has to meet specific technical requirements to be marketed as such — we take it pretty seriously. For example, to fulfil the criteria and be sold as ‘ice cream’, the US FDA stipulates that it must contain a minimum of 20% milk solids, of which there must be no less than 10% milkfat. This is due to its status as the nation’s most popular frozen dessert — consumers need to know what they’re buying when other countries use many different words for their versions of the product.
Gelato is an Italian dessert with a thicker consistency than other types of ice cream. The density of the mix is determined by the ratio of milk and cream used, as well as the production technique. So what is done differently? The Italian food experts Pasta Evangelists explain: “Gelato contains more milk and less cream than ice cream. It’s also churned at a much slower speed, incorporating less air and giving it a denser consistency.”
Because gelato contains less cream, it’s often a lower fat option, too. The Italians enjoy bold fruity flavors, or nuttier notes of hazelnut and pistachio. Gelato also often has a softer texture — served at a slightly warmer temperature than traditional ice cream.
Mochi ice cream is a modern mix of its namesake traditional Japanese dessert and ice cream. Conventionally, mochi is a sweet dumpling of dough, made of pounded glutinous rice. In its modern iteration, mochi ice cream takes a layer of dough and wraps it around a delicate ice cream core. The fusion dessert was first introduced to the mass market back in the ‘90s, and has since gained global popularity, even enjoying a recent sales boost thanks to a viral TikTok trend.
Developing the mochi production process took time, as it can be challenging to wrap the ice cream in the delicate mochi skin. However, once perfected, mochi ice cream took off — and the dessert now features all the obvious flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, as well as internationally-inspired tastes like plum wine and matcha.
Sorbet is the one ice cream variation on our list that doesn’t typically contain any dairy products. Also known as ‘water ice’, its key ingredients are little more than sweetened water and a flavoring such as fruit juice, purée, or alcohol. This makes sorbet light and flavorful, and the perfect palate cleanser after a big meal. Sorbet can also be a great ice cream alternative for those following lactose-free and vegan diets, although egg-whites are occasionally added in to bind the mix together, so it’s best to check the ingredients if you’re unsure.
To develop its thick, creamy consistency, sorbet is traditionally churned as ice cream would be. However, it’s possible to make sorbet without an ice-cream maker, if you’re dedicated enough to freeze and hand-churn every few hours until you’re left with a firm and scoopable blend.
Now we’re back to familiar territory — froyo is one of the nation’s favorite treats, with 46.4 million gallons of it produced last year. Made using some of the same basic ingredients as ice cream, this softer serve combines milk fats and solids with bacterial yogurt culture, which adds a tangy flavor.
If the idea of bacteria culture in your dessert makes you queasy, you might be surprised to learn that lots of everyday foods undergo similar processes of fermentation: such as cheese, pickles, kombucha, and even beer. Fortunately, fermented goods contain some key probiotics, which are live bacteria associated with a number of health benefits, including improved digestion and immunity. As noted by No. 1 Living: “Scientists have recently established that this bacteria and friends, known colloquially as “the microbiome”, is a control centre of our health. It needs to be full of thriving, happy different types of bacteria to help make us healthy.” Factor in that froyo is usually made without added cream, it joins gelato as a lower-calorie option. So, while not strictly a healthy option, it might be the healthiest way to enjoy an ice-cold dessert.
Now that you’re up to speed on all the main types of ice cream, you can take your pick: which will you choose to get your frozen fix this summer?