I used to hate sorbets. To me, a sorbet was nothing more than frozen water flavored with some neon-colored sugar water; an affront to ice cream. If the king and queen of desserts had a bastard child….it would be the sorbet. I mean, who could possibly love some icy, crunchy, cloyingly sweet sham of a dish? The inventor of the sorbet should be shot. There was absolutely nothing that was going to convince me that this shaved ice look-alike was worthy of as an after-dinner sweet. Nothing until I read this article from Serious Eats about the science behind the sorbet.
To an extent, I was right. The sorbet is nothing more than a pureed fruit sweetened with sugar and frozen. What I didn’t know was that the abominations I’ve had as a child were such because of two factors: 1) using fruits of a poor quality (or worse…some fruit “substitute”) and 2) incorrect proportions in terms of sugar. Intrigued by the author’s description of a “creamy” and “jammy” sorbet, I decided to give it a go, buying a few quarts of strawberries at Whole Foods. The process of making it was actually quite simple and so let’s keep this short and sweet (no pun intended).
For the sorbet:
4 lbs. of the best strawberries you can find, roughly chopped (one of those Driscoll packs is a lb. if that helps)
2 c. sugar (I used organic light brown but feel free to use regular white)
Pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice
………….and that’s it! Unlike its cousin the ice cream that relies on cream and eggs, a sorbet should taste exactly like the fruit it’s made of and nothing more.
For the almond “soup” (adapted from Ferran Adria’s “The Family Meal”):
1 2/3 c. almonds, roughly chopped (I wrapped mine in a dish towel and beat the hell out of it with a heavy pan)
2 1/2 c. water
2 tbsp. sugar
Handful of blueberries or similar fruit (opt.)
Originally used by Adria to drizzle over a nougat ice cream, I thought it’d be a good way to add a little creaminess to the dish and as a spin to the nuts some people add to their sorbets.
1) The night before, soak the almonds in the water so that on the day you’re making the sorbet, you can blend it into a smooth liquid. As I used a weak hand blender, mine still had large chunks in it. That’s OK. Pass the entire mixture through a sieve so all you’re left with is a smooth liquid that looks like a thicker almond milk. Whisk in the sugar. Do NOT throw away the remaining almond pulp.
2) Blend the strawberries into a smooth puree. Pour the sugar in and blend again.
3) That’s it. Freeze it. Now ideally, you’d follow the one step in over 99% of the recipes that infuriates me as I’m too broke to follow it: “Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions”. But absent the funds for one, you can just chuck it in the freezer, hand-churning it every hour or so.
4) To plate, let sorbet sit for a few minutes on your counter to soften. Scoop out, drizzle a bit of the almond soup around it and top with a bit of almond pulp and berries.
With the right ingredients and proportions, the sorbet is actually one of the highest praises fresh fruit can receive. So yes…that day, I made a sorbet so creamy and jammy that for once, I had to resist knocking on the neighbor’s door and shoving it in their unsuspecting mouth. Halfway through my second bowl on a hot weekend afternoon, I revised my earlier statement: the inventor of the sorbet isn’t deserving of punishment….it’s the person who convinced me that the garbage of my yesteryears was the real deal who is!