Flavorings apart, there are two major styles of ice cream, and several minor ones.
- Standard or Philadelphia-style ice cream is made from cream and milk, sugar, and a few other minor ingredients. Its appeal is the richness and delicate flavor of cream itself, complemented by vanilla or by fruits or nuts.
French or custard ice cream contains an additional ingredient: egg yolks, as many as 12 per quart/liter. The proteins and emulsifiers in egg yolk can help keep ice crystals small and the texture smooth even at relatively low milk-fat and high water levels; some traditional French ice cream mixes are a crème anglaise made with milk, not cream. A mix that contains yolks must be cooked to disperse the proteins and emulsifiers (and kill any bacteria in the raw yolks), and the resulting thickened, custard-like mix makes an ice cream with a characteristic cooked, eggy flavor.
A distinct style of custard ice cream is the Italian gelato, which is typically high in butterfat as well as egg yolks, and frozen with little overrun into a very rich, dense cream. (The name simply means “frozen,” and in Italy is applied to a range of frozen preparations.)
Reduced-fat, low-fat, and nonfat ice creams contain progressively less fat than the 10% minimum specified in the commercial American definition of ice cream. They keep their ice crystals small with a variety of additives, including corn syrup, powdered milk, and vegetable gums. “Soft-serve” ice cream is a reduced-fat preparation whose softness comes from being dispensed at a relatively high temperature (20–22°F/–6°C).
- Kulfi, the Indian version of ice cream that may go back to the 16th century, is made without stirring from milk boiled down to a fraction of its original volume, and therefore concentrated in texture-smoothing milk proteins and sugar. It has a strong cooked-milk, butterscotch flavor.