Talking Ice Cream

Christopher Hirsheimer

All frozen desserts, whether made with water or with milk or cream, are technically called ices. Here and on the facing page are some more specific terms used in the United States.

BOMBE: A frozen dessert consisting of layers of ice cream or sherbet, often with a custard or fruit-laced center, and molded into a decorative shape.

FRAPPÉ: Fruit juice or pureed fruit, frozen and then pulverized into slush and served as either a drink or dessert.

FROZEN CUSTARD: Ice cream made with an egg-custard base, which gives the dessert body and silkiness.

FROZEN YOGURT: A mostly commercial product, containing basically the same ingredients as ice cream but with yogurt added and a lower percentage of butterfat.

GELATO (Italian ice cream): Most Italian gelato is custard based but not as creamy as glace (see below). With less air whipped in than standard French or American ice cream has, it's also denser. Sicilian gelato, made with milk and cornstarch, is lighter than other gelato but still has a dense texture.

GLACE (French ice cream): Ice cream traditionally made with a cooked egg-custard base and more cream than milk.

GRANITA: An Italian water-based ice that derives its granular texture from being stirred only occasionally as it's frozen.

ICE CREAM: American ice cream has more milk and less cream than most French and Italian ice creams and (except for frozen custard) is usually made without eggs. Besides milk (fresh, condensed, or dry) and cream, commercial American ice cream contains sugar, plus flavorings, stabilizers, and plenty of air. (Most ice cream types should be at least 5 percent air or they'll be rock hard: the U.S. government allows air to constitute of to 50 percent of ice cream's total volume.)

PARFAIT: Originally a French frozen dessert of eggs, sugar, and whipped cream, the parfait has been transformed, in the United States, into a concoction of ice cream layered in a fancy glass with syrup and fruit, typically topped with whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a maraschino cherry.

SEMIFREDDO: A light Italian custard-based dessert, served soft and semifrozen (its name means half cold).

SHERBET: The name probably comes from the Arabic word sharab, meaning a cold drink sweetened with fruit syrup. Though basically a water ice, it contains some milk or cream along with fruit or other flavorings and sugar.

SORBET: Also known in the United States as water ice, sorbet is made without any dairy products whatsoever, though egg whites are sometimes incorporated to give it body.

TOFUTTI: The first brand of tofu ice cream was created in 1981 by David Mintz, then a deli owner in Manhattan. All tofu ice cream is nondairy.