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Cool Sorbets, Intensely Flavored

The right proportion of sugar is the secret to silky-smooth sorbets

by Darrin Deville

fromFine Cooking
Issue 16

At the small restaurant where Darren Deville is the pastry chef, there is a long list of rich desserts, but the ones that draw “oohs” and “ahs” from entire tables are his fruit sorbets. They’re intensely flavored, they combine fruits in unusual ways, and they have a creamy texture that makes it hard to believe that they don’t contain milk or cream. And, Deville assures us, making a great sorbet is fast and easy.

Here he gives us a complete introduction to sorbets, beginning with the fruits that are their foundation. He tells us how ripe the fresh fruit for sorbets can be; when to use frozen fruit; when some fruits should be poached to improve flavor; and which fruits should always be poached. Speaking of flavor, Deville likes intense, straightforward flavors, but he also likes to combine flavors--one sweet, one tart--to produce a complex flavor, as in mango-lime sorbet. He also combines fruit and herbs, which subtly enhances the fruit’s flavor.

The other essential ingredient of a great sorbet is plain white sugar (artificial sweeteners are not an option). Sugar boosts fruit’s flavor without overwhelming it, and it is also the main ingredient in simple syrup (which is made by simmering equal amounts of sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves). Sugar syrup gives sorbets a creaminess that you can’t get with undissolved sugar, and it combines easily with fruit juices and purées.

Sugar’s other important function is to act as “heat” by lowering the freezing point of the sorbet. The more sugar a sorbet contains, the smaller its ice crystals will be, and smaller crystals mean a smoother sorbet. Getting the right texture is a balancing act: too much sugar yields a slushy sorbet; too little produces an icy one.  Alcohol, in small quantities, also makes it hard for ice crystals to form in sorbet. If you want your sorbet to be less sweet but still creamy, add a touch of alcohol. Alcohol can add flavor to sorbets if you pair fruit with a similarly flavored alcohol (as in raspberry-Chambord sorbet); if no flavor is desired, use vodka.

Now that we know the background, here are the steps to making any flavor of sorbet: purée or juice the fruit; make the simple syrup; combine and flavor the mix; adjust sweetness and tartness; pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker; eat and make more. Deville helpfully elaborates all steps, but they are still simple and easy to follow. Please note that an ice-cream maker is required. Can a run on ice-cream makers be far behind? Recipes include: Raspberry-Chambord Sorbet; Lemon-Rosemary Sorbet; Orange-Basil Sorbet; Mango-Lime Sorbet; Plum-Raspberry Sorbet; and Strawberry-Grapefruit Sorbet.

Photos: Ellen Silverman

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