A lick of difference: Ice-cream, Gelato&Sorbet – what is the difference between them?

Gelato - made from whole ingredients, bursting with flavour and lower in fat than icecream! (Photo by stu_spivack)

Be it gelato, sorbet or ice-cream, on a cone, in a cup or served on a plate, on a hot day (or, let’s face it, just a warm day and on occasion even on a cooler day), there is nothing nicer than enjoying a refreshing treat.

But what is the difference between the gelato and ice-cream? Is ‘gelato’ just the Italian word for ice-cream? And then, what’s with sorbet?

Here we’re going to give you the ‘scoop’ on the difference between the three. And if it gives you the occasion to go out and try all three just to taste for yourself, so be it.

Whilst many may think gelato and ice-cream are synonymous, there are some ingredients that do get lost in translation.

Traditionally, ice-creams are made with fresh cream, eggs and some milk (although nowadays there are some low-quality versions that are disturbingly totally dairy-free, so much is the use of low-quality and/or processed ingredients).

The ice-cream ingredients are whipped, with air being beaten into the mixture. In fact, the end product is almost 50% air! In the industry, this process is known as ‘overrun’, a name which also brings to mind another feature of ice-cream ? it melts quickly!

Gelato on the other hand (or other cone, as the case may be), has no air added in, aside from the amount which is naturally folded in during the gelato-making process, usually around a quarter. There is also less cream used, with gelato instead being made with higher milk and egg content.

Even though gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature, it still manages to hold its shape a lot better. Not that you’d notice ? the deliciousness means that you will happily lap it up quickly in any case.

Firmer and less prone to melting quickly, gelato is lower in fat and, in Italy at least, usually flavoured with real ingredients rather than flavourings. And not having all that air folded in means that the end result is even more lick-friendly, creamy and delicious.

There is another secret to making a delicious gelato too ? it is produced using a lower churning speed than ice-cream. Having less fat, the flavours really pop and you can truly taste the natural ingredients that make it so fabulous.

So what’s with sorbet then? Sorbet ? or, ‘sorbetto’ in Italian ? has none of the base ingredients that gelato has. Rather, it is made with sugar, lemon juice and real fruit. With little or no water added, the strong flavour is like a burst of summer in your mouth!

Traditionally used as a palate-cleanser in between servings, sorbetto is now also served as a dessert or mid-afternoon snack.

As to the history of gelato, it is generally credited to the Florentine Bernado Buontalenti, chef for Caterina dei Medici.

Our Original Florence Walk city walking tour includes tips on finding the best gelato in town! Explore the highlights of the historic city centre with an expert tour guide, discover the fascinating history of Florence. Find out the sights to see, the tastes to taste, and ask us about discounts and other benefits offered to by gelaterias, restaurants, stores and much more for members of our Artviva Club!

To become a member of the Artviva Club, all you have to do is book a tour with us. For more information, email us on staff@artviva.com or visit our website, www.italy.artviva.com.

To learn more in-depth Italian recipes in a hands-on cooking class, making traditional Tuscany recipes. We also have a market tour followed by an Italian cooking class available where you can learn more about the delicious, traditional ingredients.

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