I scream for ice cream

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I don't know about you, but it is hot where I am. And I'm not talking I-feel-warm-when-I-step-outside hot—no, I'm talking the kind of heat that makes you gasp when you leave the comfort of your air conditioned home; the kind of heat that immediately causes sweat to start pooling at your hairline; the kind of heat that makes you feel like your skin is melting.

The only cure for this kind of heat, I find, is frozen treats—I'm talking popsicles, ice cream, gelato, sorbet, you get the picture. I'm partial to all of them; you'll often find me strolling the farmer's market with a popsicle in hand or pretending I'm back in Italy with a dish of gelato from the local gelateria. But until recently, I didn't pay much attention to the difference between the cool, creamy treats I was shoveling into my mouth—I lumped them all under the category of, well, ice cream.

Turns out, there are quite a few differences between ice cream, gelato and sorbet, and if you're not sure of them, I'm here to pass on my newfound knowledge (and share of a couple of recipes in case you're seeking relief for the heat or just in the mood for a cool, indulgent, homemade treat). Happy summer!

Ice cream: Always has a custard base of cream, egg yolks (usually), milk and sugar that is churned as it cools—a method that incorporates air and gives the final product a smooth, light, creamy consistency. I'm a huge fan of the classic vanilla flavor, but the possibilities for customization are endless—think mint, coffee, lavender-honey or salted caramel, just to name a few.

Lavender-Honey Ice Cream

Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 cups whole milk

¼ cup dried lavender

1/3 cup honey

5 large egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

Combine milk, lavender and honey in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 5 minutes, then strain mixture, reserving milk and dsicarding lavender.

Combine egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until very thick and pale yellow, 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile return milk to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Add half the milk to the egg-yolk mixture and whisk until blended. Str mixture into remaining milk and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from heat and immediately stir in cream. Strain mixture into a medium mixing bowl set in an ice-water bath and let stand until chilled, stirring from time to time. Freeze in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Store in an airtight plastic container up to two weeks.

Gelato: Gelato is like ice cream's cousin; it starts with the same base, but is churned at a slower speed and then frozen at a warmer temperature. Why the slower churn? Well, it incorporates more air, making the end product denser than ice cream. And as for the higher freezing point—well, that means the gelato stays softer. Yum.

Key Lime with Graham Cracker Gelato

Adapted from The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto, via Epicurious.com

1 recipe plain gelato base (link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Plain-Base-359929)

3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime

2 tsp. grated lime zest

¾ cup crushed graham crackers, frozen

Make plain base and chill as directed.

Gently whisk the lime juice and zest into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer's directions. Just after churning, quickly stir in the graham cracker crumbs. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

Sorbet: Vegans, rejoice: Sorbets are dairy- and egg-free. They're made from fruit juice (or flavored water) and simple syrup, but they're churned the same way ice cream is, ensuring a texture that's soft and snow-like. Talk about refreshing.

Spiked Lemon-Ginger Sorbet

Adapted from thekitchn.com

2 cups fresh lemon juice

4 cups water

1 cup sugar

½ cup honey

¼ cup fresh, thinly sliced ginger (unpeeled is fine)

Pinch of salt

6 Tbsp. whiskey, divided

Juice the lemons and strain the juice into a large bowl. In a saucepan bring the water, sugar, honey, ginger and 4 Tbsp. whiskey to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, then let the syrup steep for an additional 15 minutes.

Strain syrup into the same bowl as the lemon juice. Stir in pinch of salt and the remaining 2 Tbsp. whiskey. Refrigerate until chilled, preferably overnight.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze 15-20 minutes. Pack into a container and cover with plastic wrap (making sure it touches the surface of the sorbet) and freeze for at least three hours before serving.

Culinary Director

As the Culinary Director for ABC 7, I whip up cooking segments on ABC 7 News at Noon, along with recipes, cooking tips, reviews and great food finds on MySuncoast Dining at www.mysuncoast.com