When it comes to frozen desserts, it’s a jungle out there — a veritable potpourri of cold-to-the-tongue treats. And distinguishing between our frosty fancies can be quite confusing.
In a nutshell, ice cream and ice milk only differ by a few percentage points, while sherbet and sorbet are considered the same thing in some places. Meanwhile, ordering a sorbet in other places might net you a cup of Italian ice and a plastic spoon. Still confused? Read on.
Ice Cream, in the U.S. anyway, is widely considered to be the king of frozen desserts. It’s so popular that the en vogue frozen yogurt joints still find themselves listed under ‘ice cream’ in the Yellow Pages; and snow cone vendors are still commonly referred to as ‘the ice cream man’ by parents who quickly pass pocket change to eager sweet-toothed children.
But there’s more to ice cream. Much more.
To be labeled as ice cream in the U.S., the product must contain at least 10 percent milk fat. Everything else is pretty much up in the air, although most nationally available brands also contain about the same percentage of sweeteners and milk solids.
Did you know? Ice cream might well have been President George Washington’s favorite food. He spent about $200 on it during the summer of 1790, according to the records of a New York shop owner. That’s about $5,000 in 2013 money!
Of course, most of us don’t care why it’s called ice cream. We just crave it — about six gallons per year, on average. Our favorite flavor? According to most of the major ice cream manufacturers, Americans favor vanilla. It’s the number one seller.
Along with Shasta brand sodas, our treats during my childhood often consisted of chocolate-covered ice milk bars. But, now that I think about it … what the heck is ice milk?
It’s simply ice cream with less than 10 percent milk fat.
Just like chicken wings though, ice milk became quite popular (and more expensive) when a marketing expert decided to start calling it Low Fat Ice Cream. Go figure.
I always thought of sherbet as the orange-flavored stuff that came in quart-sized containers — eaten only when one has just had his tonsils ripped out. As it turns out, sherbet is pretty damn good when you’re healthy. And it even comes in the flavors of green and red!
Technically in the U.S., sherbet must have between 1 and 2 percent milk fat content. It’s typically fruit-flavored.
Have I mislabeled the most popular recipe in the history of my blog? Oh my!
I still remember my first sorbet experience. It was also my first upscale restaurant happening. I was 15 and was just happy to be eating (what I considered to be) ice cream between meal courses. Though, the smaller spoon was somewhat of a pain.
There’s really no official (government) designation for sorbet in the U.S. But it does not contain dairy. And, if you’re eating it from a baby spoon at one of those black tie-required joints, it’s served merely as a palate cleanser. (Water is more effective, by the way.)
Did you know? Alexander the Great was fond of snow flavored with honey and nectar.
So, what makes the sorbet served at a Michelin-rated restaurant different from the $3 Italian ice you buy from a street vendor?
Only the ambience and size of the spoon.
Indeed, a sorbet is intended to cleanse the palate. But this sorbet is just as delicious as a light dessert. If you don’t have access to Kaffir Lime leaves for the syrup, use the rind from a lime instead.
Coconut Sorbet w/ Kaffir Lime Syrup
2- 13½ oz cans – Coconut Milk (unsweetened)
1 cup – Coconut
1/2 cup – Sugar*
1 tsp – Rum extract
Combine 1 can coconut milk, coconut and sugar (*slightly less than 1/2 cup sugar if using sweetened coconut) in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a slight boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring regularly. Once sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes), remove from heat and cool. Add the other can of coconut milk and the rum extract.
Transfer cooled mixture to an 11x7x2 (or similarly sized) baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, stir occasionally — about every 30-45 minutes — until frozen, about three hours.
Serve with a drizzle of Kaffir Lime syrup.
Kaffir Lime Syrup
4-5 – Fresh Kaffir Lime leaves (or 8-10 dry leaves)
1 cup – sugar
1 cup – water
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from heat, cool and strain.
May be kept at room temperature for a day or two, or refrigerated for a couple of weeks.