I’ve been dabbling in ice cream for a couple of years now. My mind reels considering all the flavor variables, though the perfect texture is elusive. It’s all to do with incorporating enough air, so say the experts. I remember marveling at the industrial mixers doing all the work in what passed for a break room at the restaurant; it looked like the wall of a miniature launder-o-mat, the little machines whipping the freezing contents into submission. Our home machines are no match for that power, so we have to work the angles. Here are some tips.
Air – Since we don’t have the automated heft on our side, we have to remember to work in as much air as possible during our preparation…before the mix makes it to the machine. It’s important to have your ingredients all set out ahead of time so that your liquid doesn’t settle going from mixer/blender to machine.
Thickeners – Some ice creams call for a custard base, meaning the recipe includes eggs and is cooked and cooled before going onto the machine. This also ensures a thicker base. Yogurt is already thicker than milk or cream, which sometimes makes it more reliable as far as texture is concerned. Sorbets can suffer dangerously here as they are ineligible for these fallback thickening agents. If you’re not careful you’ll end up with a pink, fruity hockey puck. I include a banana and a very powerful blender in my sorbet recipes for this very reason.
Softeners – One of my favorite flavor enhancers, in all recipes, is alcohol. Once I started using Bourbon in my vanilla ice cream I learned the hard way that there is, in fact, potential for too much of a good thing. Over do it with alcohol in your recipes and they won’t freeze! But use just enough and you avoid the hockey puck scenario. For fruit ice creams and sorbets, I recommend Kirsch. It’s a cherry brandy and, rather than bringing cherry-flavor, it enhances the already dominant fruits (and neutralizes the banana).
STRAWBERRY CITRUS SORBET is adapted from the recipe for Citrus Sorbet in Francois Payard’s Simply Sensational Desserts. I make it every summer, all summer long. And it was my go-to dessert while I lost weight on Weight Watchers (partly because I stored it in half-cup portions and partly because I dramatically reduced the sugar called for…it’s fruit after all).
WHAT WILL I NEED?
A small saucepan, glass jar, chef’s knife, citrus press, glass measuring cup, small strainer, medium size mixing bowl, blender, ice cream machine, spatula, and containers for storing in the freezer.
GROCERY LIST:Sugar Bananas Oranges Grapefruit Lemons Strawberries Kirsch (on the fly, substitute Vodka
1. SIMPLE SYRUP1/3 C Sugar 1/4 C Water
In a small saucepan dissolve the sugar into the water over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then transfer to a glass jar. Cover and chill in refrigerator for two hours.
2. JUICING2 Grapefruit, halved (large, should equal 2 cups juice) 2 Oranges, halved (large, equal to 1 cup juice together with lemon) 1 Lemon, halved (large or 2 small)
Press the juice from the fruit. Strain the pulp and seeds from the juice, pouring it from the juicer reservoir into the glass measuring cup. If necessary, strain again when moving the measured liquid to the mixing bowl.
3. BLENDING2 Bananas, ripe and peeled 12 oz Strawberries, trimmed and parsed
Place the bananas in the blender with about a half-cup of juice from your mixing bowl. Blend until smooth and then blend in the rest of the juice. (Feel free to blend on the highest setting to your heart’s content…this is where your air comes in.) Add the strawberries and liquefy!
4. MIXING2 T Kirsch (on the fly, substitute Vodka)
Pour the contents of the blender into the mixing bowl and whisk in the Kirsch and your chilled simple syrup. Let the mixture sit for just a few moments while you prepare the ice cream maker; this will allow the seeds from the strawberries to settle at the bottom of the bowl. Don’t take too long—you want to keep your air in there!
Wait, that’s something else… Set up the frozen bowl and other components and power on your machine before pouring in any liquid. Then pour in slowly, pausing near the end to keep the strawberry seeds out of the sorbet. Let the machine do its work for at least 20 minutes. You will see the air bubbles disappear and the consistency change over time.
This is what it should look like when it’s done.
When you stop the ice cream machine the bowl is just as cold as it was before, but nothing is moving the contents. This means it is more important to remove all of the sorbet immediately than to get it into the end container. Pull the bowl out of the machine and transfer the sorbet back into your washed mixing bowl. The sorbet closest to the sides may freeze solid and adhere so use the spatula to scrape everything out. Once it’s all in the bowl, quickly fold the frozen solids into the mass. Now scoop the sorbet into your container(s) and store in the freezer right away. You should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor in about an hour. Citrus contains natural preservatives and since sorbet is dairy free, these treats should keep in airtight containers for a month or more.
If you love making ice creams and sorbets as much as I do, pick up a copy of The Perfect Scoop. This is where I learned about Kirsch; I’m sure you’ll find your own secrets in one or more of the great recipes in this book.