Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Whats the Difference?

I was off on a rant, as I often tend to do, yesterday about sorbet. Vie been excited to break out and try the Ice Cream Machine that arrived yesterday and I was talking with some people about what to make first.

Again, like so many times before, it came to raise the question:

"So what’s the difference between Sorbet, Ice Cream, and Sherbet"

I’ve actually run into this question allot, and for the longest time I never really knew or understood the science behind it. A few years ago I did allot of digging around about the subject and found, of course, numerous different takes on the answer.

The one answer I found most common, and makes the most sense to me is as follows:

Sorbet- Frozen desert made with sweetened fruit juices or puree and water. Contains no dairy. Usually a cleaner, crisper taste then Ice Cream or Sherbet.

Sherbet- Like a sorbet, usually sweetened fruit juices or purees. Contains more sugar but less dairy then Ice cream.

Ice Cream- Sweetened Milk and cream, sugar, and flavorings.

Now both Sorbets and Ice Cream can sometimes contain Eggs that work as an emulsifier to help keep the desert smooth and creamy. If Ice Cream contains Egg you’ll probably see it called a French Ice Cream.

Now that we have the air cleared about what makes each their own, the next common question asked is:

So why sorbet over Ice Cream?

Well for me, I love the light taste of sorbet. It doesn’t melt down heavily on your tongue, it coats your mouth with flavor but it’s cool and crisp unlike Ice Cream that tends to coat and stick around.

It’s kind of like having a burst of intense flavor for a good minute, and then it passes leading your taste buds screaming for more, or in the best cases something else.

I really like to include sorbets in dinners I plan because if done well they can really allow the diner to experience the full flavor of the dish served after.
Serve someone a very light lemon sorbet, or better yet a simple vanilla bean sorbet followed by a dish of Tuna Tartar or Salmon and watch the look on their face when they take that first bite of fish.

The scientific explanation for this is that when you introduce something sweet to your tongue the "Sweet" taste buds come to attention. When these buds become active they also trigger the other buds to kind of wake up. Sweet is one of the first tastes we perceive when young. Mostly for survival really, we need sugars when young in order to survive, hence why baby formula is so sweet and breast milk contains high levels of glucose. As such we identify with sweets more commonly then any other flavor, you can find someone on the street that doesn’t like salty or loves it, same with bitter.. but good luck finding someone who will actually turn down sweet because they "Don’t like it".

So that should give you an idea of why I’m so gung-ho about Sorbets.

And to finish up I answer the one last question most asked when we talk about these frozen deserts:

"Vanilla or Chocolate"

Vanilla... but that’s an explanation for another day...


The O said...

Personally, I prefer ice cream over sorbets for a couple reasons. One, that intense taste you mention can sometimes be excessive or overwhelming. Two, you can't put certain things that hardcore sweet-tooths go crazy about, such as cookie dough, peanut butter, etc. Lastly, sorbets have more restrictions on the varieties of flavors (at least from what I've seen).

The Foodist said...

Well you my friend are wrong wrong wrong! but ill let it pass, this time....

But seriously the gambit of flavors that you can produce with ice cream can just as well be produced in sherbets or sorbets. If you notice on the list the only real distinction between the three is cream or dairy.

You can make coffee, peanut butter and jelly, marascapone, etc etc etc sorbets or sherbers as well as ice creams.

What works and doesnt work really has to do with flavor adjustment and strength. The only reason we see more Peanut Butter, Chunky Monkey, and Coffee Ice Creams over sorbets is because America loves Ice Cream. Sorbet is just the "fancy" cousin.

When next I see you Ill have to be sure to make some tastings of sorbets for you! remind me.

sandy said...

umm... actually ... Chocolate.


The O said...

I accept the challenge :)! Next time I see you, if you can make me a good peanut butter chocolate sorbet, I will be deliciously corrected.