The dog days of Summer are fast approaching. In many parts of our beautiful country sweltering temperatures can bring on the craving for a cool refreshing treat. A simple icy fruit cocktail such as a citrus spiked Granita can instantly placate a parched tongue. Ever wonder what exactly is a granita or how sorbet differs from ice cream? Keep reading for the 101 on these sweet frozen treats and more.
Ice Cream – consists of milk, cream, sugar, and sometimes egg yolks. Constant churning during the cooling process incorporates air into the ice cream giving it a smooth light creamy texture.
Spumoni – resembles Neapolitan ice cream. It consists of three layers of different flavored ice cream: Chocolate, pistachio and cherry or raspberry. Unlike the ice cream version of Neapolitan spumoni has actual bits of fruit and nuts.
Gelato – begins with a base of sugar, milk, very little cream, and sometimes eggs. The Italian gelato differs from ice cream in three ways. First, it uses a lower proportion of cream. The reduced butterfat does not coat the tongue as ice cream tends to do producing a more intense flavor. Second, the gelato mixture is churned at a slower rate. Less churning equals less air and a more dense gelato. Thirdly, gelato is frozen at a slightly warmer temperature. The higher freezing temperature results in a silkier and softer texture.
Sherbet– is often confused with sorbet. Sherbet differs from sorbet in that sherbet contains milk and sorbet is made with fruit.
Sorbet – is a frozen fruit puree made from fruit juice or frozen fruit, and simple syrup. A classic sorbet has alcohol in it and it may be used to cleanse the palate before the main course. To make sorbet all the ingredients are blended together in a blender or food processor; then poured into an ice cream maker. The churning process helps to create a very smooth fine texture. It is possible to make sorbet without an ice cream maker using a container and mixing periodically by hand.
Granita – is made with pureed fruit, a simple syrup, and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice to balance the flavors. The result is a refreshing ice. Unlike sorbet the liquid is poured into a shallow dish and frozen. At intervals, the mixture is scraped with a fork to break up the ice crystals as they form. Because the granita is not churned it is coarser than the sorbet in texture.
Snow Cones – (shaved ice) are coarse grainy cups of shaved ice flavored with sugary syrups. The Hawaiian shaved ice has a ball of ice cream in the center similar to a cream pop.
Italian Ice – is the American invention of the Italian Grattacheca. Grattacheca is similar to shaved ice except that the flavors are added before freezing. Italian Ice is sweetened with real fruit juices and bits of fruit. The ice is coarser than a sorbet and finer than a granita.
Water Ice – is also an American concoction often referred to as “Italian Ice”. Water ice is as smooth as a slushy yet firmer and is eaten with a spoon rather than sipped through a straw.
Slushy – (called slurpee/ICEE) is a frozen drink flavored with sugary syrup. The constant churning motion keeps the slushy smooth. You can make a slushy at home by putting a plastic bottle of soda in the freezer. Rotate the bottle every half hour to distribute the ice crystals evenly until chilled but not frozen.
Smoothie – is a fruit flavored drink. Fresh fruit is blended together with flavored water or fruit juice or milk.
Mochi – is a confectionary treat from Japan. Little ice cream balls are wrapped in soft fluffy dough called mochi, pounded rice cakes, and dusted with rice flour. They come in a variety of flavors but chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, mango and green tea are the most commercial.
Spritzer – is a drink made with alcohol and carbonated water. Spritzers can also be made non-alcoholic by replacing the alcohol with fruit juice. Sub flavored syrup for the juice and you have an “Italian Soda” that is not so Italian but rather another American invention. Add a scoop to either one for a refreshing frozen treat similar to the “ice cream float”.