Slowly but surely, the days are beginning to get warmer, and along with warmer days comes colder desserts. For the die-hard frozen dessert lovers out there (you know who you are), it doesn’t matter what the weather’s doing because you’ve already been enjoying all frozen desserts all winter long – we salute you!
Generally, preferences surrounding dessert flavors change with the seasons. For example, a study using over 1,000 participants revealed that chocolate is most enjoyed during the winter months, whereas berry-inspired flavors peak during warmer months.
Just like flavors have peak seasons, so do frozen desserts. You can probably figure out for yourself that sales of frozen dessert skyrocket during the summer months, but did you know that last year America also experienced a “pre-season” surge?
Yep, across the country, ice cream sales, in particular, reached peak sales volumes by the end of May. The surge in demand was mostly attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic; ice cream is familiar comfort food – it makes sense people turned to this sweet treat in times of high stress and uncertainty. We’ve known all along ice cream is more than just delicious – apparently, it also helps us stay calm, cool, and collected. Thank you, ice cream.
Anyway, we’re here to talk about all frozen treats, not just ice cream. It’s that time of year to start making the switch from warm desserts like gingerbread, pies, and loaves to cooler desserts like all of these:
Of course, we’re going to start with ice cream… everyone screams for ice cream.
One of the things we love about ice cream is its light fluffiness – to be technical about it (for fun), this is called overrun. Overrun refers to the amount of air incorporated into the ice cream machine as it mixes and churns. The more air is added, the higher the overrun and the lighter and more volumized the ice cream is.
Did you know that non-dairy is now the fastest-growing segment of the frozen dessert category, and leading the way is non-dairy ice cream? Hear us out; the world of dairy-free ice cream isn’t the bland, boring, and chalky-texture situation it used to be. Along with the growing popularity of non-dairy ice cream, several brands have been upping their game in hopes of capturing this new demand. The scene is definitely improving, with the selection in supermarkets starting to look pretty good if we do say so ourselves.
Leading the way for dairy-free ice cream is Eclipse, a California start-up founded by two food scientists who crafted the first entirely plant-based ice cream that is indistinguishable from dairy ice cream. It’s brands like Eclipse that help capture and lock-in the interest in dairy-free alternatives and keep consumers on the dairy-free side of the fence when it comes to frozen desserts.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) reports the top three positions of America’s top 10 favorite ice cream flavors are vanilla, chocolate, and cookies N’s cream. Good thing Eclipse has its very own versions of these three superstars, too: chocolate, vanilla, and cookie butter.
Eclipse makes dairy-free ice cream with a special secret recipe, but other common dairy-free alternatives include soy ice cream, almond milk ice cream, coconut milk ice cream, and many more. Whatever you think you know about dairy-free ice cream, forget it and give Eclipse a try – we promise it will blow your expectations out of the water (and help save the planet too).
Frozen yogurt, or froyo, is made from a combination of yogurt, milk, and cream. Frozen yogurt isn’t regulated the way ice cream is, so there’s no way of knowing how much actual yogurt goes into frozen yogurt (but maybe this is one of the perfect times for “ignorance is bliss?”).
Frozen yogurt is an interesting one because, on the one hand, it’s developed a reputation for being the “healthier” dessert option thanks to its mother, regular yogurt. But on the other hand, frozen yogurt is almost always enjoyed in a froyo-bar setting: yogurt dispensers with every flavor imaginable surrounded by buffet-style tables filled with candies, chocolates, sauces, and toppings galore.
The secret we’re going to share with you is that the probiotics (live cultures or “good bacteria”) that offer us health benefits in regular yogurt don’t survive the freezing process during froyo production. AKA, froyo does not have probiotics.
The other caveat is that although frozen yogurt on its own may be “healthier,” sporting lower fat content and calorie count, this benefit is often overridden when it comes to the entire picture of how we actually consume it. Froyo is usually piled high with toppings and extras intended to compensate for the natural tart flavor and lack of sweetness – this is totally understandable (and even encouraged) but also results in a not-so-healthy or low-calorie cup of froyo.
Let’s talk about frozen custard because not enough people actually know what it is.
Remember how ice cream is required to be less than 1.4% egg yolk? Well, frozen custard is pretty darn similar to ice cream, but the main difference when it comes to the ingredient list is this component of egg yolk. Frozen custard is defined by the FDA similarly to ice cream, except it must contain a minimum of 1.4% egg yolk. This seemingly small calculation of egg yolk is what makes all the difference and makes frozen custard the rich, dense, and intense cousin of ice cream that it is.
The rich thickness of frozen custard is also attributable to its amount of overrun. Custards are usually made with an overrun of around 20-30%, compared to ice cream’s 50-70%. Density also plays a role in why frozen custard is served slightly warmer: the higher concentration of the richer base mixture keeps it more solid; thus, it needs extra defrosting to soften it up before it is enjoyed.
“Gelato” is the Italian word for what we call ice cream, but authentic Italian gelato is definitely not the same as what we know ice cream to be.
Both gelato and ice cream are made from milk and cream, but gelato uses a higher proportion of milk and less cream. This is why gelato is commonly deemed the “lighter” and healthier option and is generally lower in fat and calories.
Just like frozen custard, gelato is served 10-15 degrees warmer than ice cream. Have you ever heard people saying gelato is more flavorful than ice cream? This is because the warmer temperature it’s enjoyed at allows the tastebuds to pick up more of the flavor profile (because they aren’t as numbed by the cold).
Sorbet and Sherbert
These two frozen desserts are often confused with each other, but they aren’t the same thing!
Sorbet is a frozen dessert made from either fruit juice or fruit-flavored water, typically with additional sugar or other sweeteners. Fruit juice is the traditional ingredient (and most natural), but fruit purees, wines, liquors, and honey are sometimes used too. Sorbets do not contain any dairy. Or at least, they’re not supposed to.
Sherbert is another fruit-based frozen dessert, except sherbert also usually contains milk. Sherbert is the middle ground between sorbet and ice cream; it’s basically sorbet with a splash of milk added. (The milk component is actually very small, typically only about 1-2%). This little addition of milk reduces the acidity and creates the difference compared to sorbet, which is usually fruit and tart flavors.
Now You’re an Ice Cream Pro
Did this get you even more excited for warmer weather?
With spring and summer fast approaching, you’ve brushed up on your frozen dessert knowledge just in time. We’re not saying there’s a superior frozen dessert, but if we had to choose one, it would have to be ice cream. Ice cream has just earned too much respect, love, and trust, you know?
Whichever sweet treat you choose to enjoy, try finding a dairy-free alternative to help save the planet too.