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Sorbet Tips And Tricks


Skysplitter
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Hi all,

I thought some of you on this board might be closet sorbet making freaks. (Not that there's anything wrong with loving sorbet!) Since I recently absconded with my dad's ice cream maker, I'm having fun taking a stab at sorbet. I've made some good lemon sorbet, and blueberry sorbet before, but it's been a long while and I can't rightly recall how did it :wub:

A trip to Palena's a few weeks ago and their lovely grapefruit sorbet inspired me to take a stab at it tonight, and the measurements of sugar/water/fruit juice were horribly off. I made something like grapefruit candy sorbet, blech.

So does anyone have any helpful tips they'd care to pass along? Do sugars make a difference? Opinions on using egg whites?

Recipes on the net seem to be a dime a dozen, but everyone has different ideas with little explanation :P

Help! (Or pointing me in the direction of another good resource would be greatly appreciated.)

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Cook's Illustrated had a good article on fruit sorbets in their July 95 issue. It is also available on their website if you are a member.

For grapefruit sorbet, their recipe uses 1.5 cups juice, .5 cups water, 1 cup + 1 T sugar and 1 T vodka.

The sugar/water ratio will affect the creaminess/iciness of the finished sorbet. The addition of alcohol lowers the freezing point of the water and allows the use of less sugar. You can try tweaking that variable a bit, but adding too much alcohol will make your sorbet taste like a drink and not a dessert (not always a bad thing :P ).

As to copying Palena's sorbets, most high-end restaurants now use pacojets for their sorbets and ice creams. This device freezes the ingredients at a very low temperature and then uses a whirling blade to shave off a thin layer to produce a creamy product. It allows restaurants to make sorbets in a way the home cook cannot (such as using far less sugar).

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I've discovered that cooking the fruit makes all the difference in the world. It brings out the pectin and just makes the texture more to my liking. Obviously, you wouldn't cook grapefruit juice but, then, I don't like grapefruit. :P

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I sometimes use preserves as part of my recipes. You can remove an equal amount (or even 1.5x the amount, if you want less sweet and a little icier) of sugar as the amount of preserves you put it. The pectin really helps.

I also find that you need the mix to be really really cold before you put it in the freezer if you want good texture.

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You should be beaten with the crank of an old-hand-turned ice cream maker for even contemplating a citrus sorbet when there so much extraordinary seasonal fruit in the markets! Eat that stuff in January, when the peaches all come from Brazil and taste like chew toys!

More calmly...

We made a nectarine sorbet last Saturday that had the whole table gasping in wonder and it was frightfully simple.

Peel and puree the nectarines. Add sugar (not sugar syrup) until it tastes just slightly too sweet (it will taste less sweet when it's frozen). Squeeze in lime until there's just a hint of back-end tart. Most people won't know it's in unless you tell them; that's how it should be. Add a pinch of salt. (or add a half-pint of rum and some ice) Strain. Cool. Freeze. Eat. Win the respect of your peers.

More generally:

I can see how a density meter would be great, especially for a pro, but I usually get pretty good results without one. Plus, I'd rather determine sugar level by what tastes good than by what the meter reads.

Mkyte's wisdom on sugar and alcohol is, indeed, wise (as always), though I'm against the implication that low-sugar sorbet is in any way a good thing. :P

If you are using a maker with a pre-frozen bucket, take the time to cool down your pre-frozen sorbet thoroughly -- particularly if you've had to add a lot of sugar or decided to add a lot of booze -- or the cold may wear off before the sorbet is froze.

Adding a hint of tart, herb, or bitter to the mix tends to bring out the flavors of the main fruit. Once grapefruits are in season (not now!) you can stir a bit of Campari into your grapefruit juice, or boil a little thyme in the sugar water before you add the syrup. A little balsamic with the strawberries. A little lime in the mango (spactacular Haitian mangoes are in season now; mango, lime and syrup-- chilled but unfrozen -- make the perfect lake for scoop of almost any flavor of fruit sorbet to swim in).

Trust your taste more than the recipe. Whoever wrote it doesn't know how sweet this batch of fruit was, you do.

Others argue this point, but sorbets are best eaten the day they are made, and are shadows of themselves by the end of the second day.

Don't forget that pinch of salt.

And, finally, if you want to be really hip, forget fruit sorbet. It's very 90's. Tomato, califlower and, for all I know, bacon sorbet is all the rage now. :wub:

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Another trick I've been trying is from the Zuni Cafe-- she says to cook a portion of the fruit-sugar mix, the point of which is to create invert sugars, which help with smoothness (she doesn't cook the whole mix, as she doesn't like the cooked fruit flavor vs. fresh). This doesn't seem to be making much of a difference, though. My goal is to achieve the sorbet nirvana of Capogiro or Icy-Icey without an expensive machine (probably impossible).

Edited by cjsadler
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The sugar/water ratio will affect the creaminess/iciness of the finished sorbet. The addition of alcohol lowers the freezing point of the water and allows the use of less sugar. You can try tweaking that variable a bit, but adding too much alcohol will make your sorbet taste like a drink and not a dessert (not always a bad thing :wub: ).

As to copying Palena's sorbets, most high-end restaurants now use pacojets for their sorbets and ice creams. This device freezes the ingredients at a very low temperature and then uses a whirling blade to shave off a thin layer to produce a creamy product. It allows restaurants to make sorbets in a way the home cook cannot (such as using far less sugar).

Thanks for the info! I do predict a lemon-vodka sorbet in my future...

I think the thing that impressed me most about Palen's grapefruit sorbet wasn't the texture (which was great) but the flavor- very bright grapefruit flavor that was fairly tart, which is now sounding like a tough task to follow. Oh well, I'll just have to go to Palena again :P

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I've discovered that cooking the fruit makes all the difference in the world.  It brings out the pectin and just makes the texture more to my liking.  Obviously, you wouldn't cook grapefruit juice but, then, I don't like grapefruit. :P

Any flavors this works particularly well with then? If peaches are at Takoma on Sunday, I'm going to try and figure out a good peach sorbet recipe.

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You should be beaten with the crank of an old-hand-turned ice cream maker for even contemplating a citrus sorbet when there so much extraordinary seasonal fruit in the markets! Eat that stuff in January, when the peaches all come from Brazil and taste like chew toys!

LOL, *ducks and hides*, I'm off to Takoma on Sunday to get what's in season for both pie and sorbet, so many thanks for all the tips and ideas :P

And I wholeheartedly agree with you- Sorbet is best on the first day. Always a good excuse to have people over!

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Any flavors this works particularly well with then? If peaches are at Takoma on Sunday, I'm going to try and figure out a good peach sorbet recipe.

I think the nectarine recipe above would adapt well to peaches. It, in turn, is adapted from a Zuni Cafe recipe, so the pedigree is good. I think that the key is that stone fruits are juicy enough already that adding sugar in a syrup would be redundant and dilutive (though, what do I know?).

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