What's the Difference? Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet & Granita

We're entering high season for frozen treats! We'll eat most of these no matter what name they go by, truthfully. But it's still nice to know what makes a sorbet a sorbet or what distinguishes a gelato from an ice cream, if only so we can choose our next scoop with authority.Ice Cream - Ice cream has a custard base of milk, cream, sugar, and (typically) egg yolks. Churning this base as it cools gives it a smooth texture and incorporates air into the ice cream. The finished product is smooth, light-textured, and creamy. • Try It! Strawberry Ice Cream with Cocoa Nibs

Gelato - Gelato starts out with a similar ice cream custard base, but it's churned slower and frozen at a slightly warmer temperature. The slow churning incorporates less air, so the gelato is more dense. The higher freezing temperature means that the gelato stays silkier and softer. It's also more likely for gelato to use a lower proportion of cream and eggs (or none at all) so that the main flavor ingredient shines through.
Try It! Chocolate Gelato with Salted Caramel Pecans

Sorbet - Dairy-free and egg-free, sorbets are made from fruit juice or flavored water and simple syrup. They're churned like ice cream to give them a soft and snowy texture. (Sherbet usually contains some amount of milk or cream in addition to the fruit juice.)
Try It! Spiked Lemon Ginger Sorbet

Granita - Granitas are exactly like sorbets except they're made by hand. The liquid base is poured into a shallow dish and frozen. At intervals, the base is stirred or racked with a fork to break up the ice crystals as they form. The result is a frozen dessert with a coarse and flaky texture.
Try It! Cantaloupe Granita

What's your favorite kind of frozen dessert?

Related: Cool Treats: How Do You Like Your Ice Cream Floats?

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