We all know that food is taken very seriously in France. But did you know there are even strict guidelines for French ice cream and sorbet?
There’s not just one French ice cream, but several, depending on how they’re made and the ingredients in them.
What is French ice cream called?
The most common word for French ice cream is “glace.”
But you’ll also see “crème glacée,” “glace fermière,” “glace artisanale ” (artisanal ice cream), “glace végétale” (vegan ice cream), and sorbet or “sorbet végétal”. Here’s an introduction to what all that means.
Classic ice cream in France is called “glace.”
According to French guidelines, a product is ice cream when it’s a pasteurized mixture of different ingredients frozen beforehand: milk and/or eggs and/or other ingredients like sugar, gelatin, fruit flavoring, and even vegetables.
When an ice cream contains at least 7% egg yolk, it can be called “egg ice cream”; when it includes at least 6% fat-free powdered milk, the legal designation is “milk ice cream.”
Creme Glacée – Iced cream
The designation “crème glacée” or “iced cream” requires that fresh cream be included in the composition of the ice cream, which gives it a very smooth, rich texture. It contains at least 5% milkfat, so it’s higher in calories than conventional ice cream.
The photo below of my favorite ice cream from Berthillon in Paris has “Crème Glacée” written on the package, not “glace” because it contains fresh cream.
Farmhouse ice cream or “glace fermière” is not exempt from the rules, au contraire.
In fact, legislation regulates the terms “farmer” or “farm”: they can only be used for transformations carried out by farmers.
In addition, the farmer must be the one producing the agricultural materials used in ice cream (milk and fruit, in particular). They must also carry out the processing of the product themselves, in a non-industrial manner, on their farm, or in an approved workshop.
“Glace Artisanale” – Artisanal Ice Cream
If ice cream makes a claim to be artisanal, or “glace artisanale” then the use of powders (like powdered milk) or any other ready-to-use device manufactured by industrial companies is forbidden.
“Glace Végétale” – Vegan Ice Cream
The French call vegan ice cream “vegetable ice cream” or “glace végétale.”
They use the name “ice cream” for a product containing vegetable fats with no minimum % and non-dairy proteins.
In France, vegetable ice cream means the animal proteins (milk, eggs) that make up the ice cream have been replaced by vegetable proteins (soya juice, oat juice, pea proteins, “vegetable milk,” etc).
What is the difference between French ice cream and regular ice cream?
Unlike regular or Italian ice cream, for example, French ice cream is creamier and heavier. It contains more butterfat, meaning it has more cream.
What is the difference between French ice cream and American ice cream?
French ice cream is made with eggs so it’s thick and custardy whereas American ice cream (also called Philadelphia-style) is made with sugar, milk, and cream.
French ice cream doesn’t develop as many ice crystals as American ice cream does.
A strange fact:
In France, ice cream (“glace”) and iced cream (“crème glacée)are not considered dairy products, despite their milk or cream content.
What is the definition of a French sorbet, exactly?
Sorbet is a mixture of water, sugar, and fruit (or even fruit puree or fruit juice).
French sorbet doesn’t contain fat, only the water, sugar, and aromas that go into its preparation.
And to be called a sorbet in France, it must contain a minimum of 25% fruit (20% for pineapple or banana and acidic fruits like lemon).
There’s even a “sorbet plein fruit” or “full fruit sorbet” where the fruit content is 45%!
“Sorbet Végétal” – Vegetable Sorbet
Fruit can be replaced by vegetables, plants, spices, or even alcohol, but there can’t be any fat among the product’s ingredients, otherwise it doesn’t qualify as a sorbet.
If it is a vegetable sorbet, the vegetable content should be at least 25% (unless it is a strong-flavored vegetable, then only 10%, such as celery or bell pepper ).
In the case of alcohol, spice, or plant sorbet-based sorbets, the aromatic reference must be used in a high enough dose so that the finished product has the characteristic flavor of that main ingredient.
Is there a difference between sherbet and sorbet?
Sherbet and sorbet are made with different ingredients.
Sorbet is made from two main ingredients, fruit, and sugar.
Sherbet is also made from fruit and sugar, but it also includes cream.
What are the most popular ice cream flavors and sorbet flavors in France?
The most popular ice cream flavors in France are:
3 & 4. pistachio and lemon sorbet (a tie!)
5. caramel (see my favorite brand in the photo above)
The most populat sorbet flavors in France are lemon sorbet and framboise (raspberry) sorbet.
The French have been using flowers in desserts since the 18th century, and rose flavoring goes very well with raspberry sorbet.
My favorite sorbet from Berthillon in Paris is their Raspberry-Rose sorbet.
The best ice cream always has whole ingredients: no powdered milk, but only whole milk, for example.
There won’t be any preservatives, colorings, or “gums” to add to the richness of the product: that’s done through the whole, natural main ingredients.
What I like most about the best ice cream and sorbet makers in Paris is that the ingredients used are whole (not low-fat), pure, and very few: the base of their “crèmes glacées” are always whole milk, full-fat cream, egg yolks, sugar, etc.
There’s not a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce – and there’s also no corn syrup added.
The Berthillon container is actually very small compared to supermarket ice cream. When taken out of the freezer it’s as hard as a rock (all that frozen milk fat!). Bertillon ice cream products are very dense (in flavor too) because a lot of air has not been added.
That’s why Berthillon recommends taking their ice cream (but not their sorbet) out of the freezer a few minutes before serving so that they’ll soften up a bit.
Though it takes some planning to serve since it’s not easy to cut into, the intense flavor is something you’re not likely to forget!
Here are my 2 favorite ice cream shops in Paris:
- Berthillon – Try any of the seasonal flavors of sorbet like melon or peach in summer. My favorite winter ice creams are “Marron Glacé” (candied chestnut) and “Mendiant” (like a Rocky Road)
- Une Glace à Paris – Ice cream and sorbet by a “Meilleur Ouvrier de France.” The vanilla ice cream, salted caramel ice cream and pistachio neroli ice cream are some of the best I’ve tasted.
And now you: Did you know about these varieties of French ice cream and sorbet? Have you ever been to the Bertillon shop in Paris?
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