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Gelato is Italy's regional variant of ice cream. As such, gelato is made with some of the same ingredients as most other frozen dairy desserts. Milk, cream, various sugars, flavoring including fruit and nut purees are the main ingredients. Gelato is different from some other ice creams because it has a lower butterfat content.

Typically, gelato and Italian sorbet contain a stabilizing base. Egg yolks are used in yellow custard-based gelato flavors, including zabaione and creme caramel. Non-fat milk solids are also added to gelato.

Gelato is typically flavored with fresh fruit purees, cocoa and/or nut pastes. If other ingredients such as chocolate flakes, nuts, small confections, cookies, or biscuits are added, they are added after the gelato is frozen. Gelato made with fresh fruit, sugar, and water and without dairy ingredients is sorbet. Use of the word sorbetto is a common affectation in the United States. In Italy, the word sorbetto refers to a cocktail.

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