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Easy Frozen Desserts for Hot Summer Days
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Sorbet for Summer
Sorbet is an easy, light and low fat dessert or appetizer, or even snack that's perfect for hot summer days and long summer nights. In the broadest defnition, Sorbet is a frozen dessert that does not contain cream, milk, or eggs. Sorbet is usually made with with sugar and a flavoring ingredient that is either liquid, or that can be mixed with sugar and water, then frozen.
Most of the time, when we think of sorbet, we think of fruit flavors, but quite a few sorbets are made using herbs or flowers. Sorbets that are made with lavender, roses, rosemary or green tea are lovely light refreshing treats, and marvelous palate cleansers between courses, or appetite teasers before dining. While fresh fruit, fruit juice and frozen fruit purees are the most common sortbet flavorings, wine and champagne are quite lovely sorbet flavors.
Most sorbets start by making a "simple syrup," by adding sugar to water and bringing it to a boil until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened to a syrup. Some sorbet recipes start with a fruit juice (or wine or champagne) base. Don't be shy about combining fruits and flavors; think about a citrus sorbet, with lemon, lime and orange, or mango and pineapple, or strawberry and peach. One of my personal favorites is lemon-ginger or peach-ginger sorbet. Coffee makes fabulous sorbet as well, just begin with good strong brewed coffee. Red wine, sangria and even margarita mix are popular too; I have a friend who makes a chile-lime sorbet as an appetizer, and another who uses a lemon and fresh mint sorbet as a palate cleanser between courses.
Do think about the presentation possibilities of serving several different flavors or colors of sorbet; there's no reason not to mix colors and flavors by serving two or three types of sorbet in small balls using a melon baller, with a decorative mint leaf or lime wedge. Sorbet is perhaps the ideal dessert for hot summers, and it's so very quick and easy that you can even prepare several varieties over a day or two and store them in air tight containers in your fridge. They'll keep for a week or two, quite easily before tending to form ice crystals that force the ingredients to separate.
Basic Lemon Sorbet
As a basic model for making sorbet, here's a recipe for lemon sorbet. You should adjust the lemon juice and the sugar to suit your taste as well as the tartness of the lemons. You can't eliminate the sugar completely because the texture of the sorbet will be affected, but in general terms ;raising or lowering the sugar by as much as a third of a cup is fine. Some people like to substitute honey for part of the sugar, but do remember that honey will also affect the flavor, often in very nice ways. As a general guide, if you have two cups of liquid, you need at least two thirds of a cup of sugar. I'd suggest that you try the zest too, and adjust that based on flavor. Do try to avoid the white under skin of the lemon; it's often bitter.
This recipe assumes you have an electric ice cream maker with a removable liner you can freeze before using. It makes about a pint of sorbet. You can keep the sorbet in the freezer in an air-tight container for about two weeks.
- 1 Cup water
- 1 Cup sugar
- 1 Cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- Bring the water and the sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Once the sugar and water mixture reaches a boil, the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is a slightly thickened syrup, remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Add the lemon juice and freshly grated zest to the syrup.
- Allow the syrup to cool; you might put it in the freezer briefly, but it's best if you have time, to cover the syrup and put in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight to cool off.
- Pour the cooled syrup into the chilled bowl of your ice cream machine, per the manufacturer's instructions.
- Freeze the sorbet according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Once the sorbet is made, put it into an airtight container in your freezer.
- The sorbet is ready to eat in a half hour or so, but it will be much much better the next day.
Use this as a very basic recipe. You can vary this recipe in all sorts of ways. Try making it with orange or lime, or other juices, remembering to adjust the sugar to taste. You really need at least half a cup of sugar for most sorts of fruit, and two thirds of a cup of sugar for most juices. You can use fresh or frozen berries as well as other fruit, but you might want to use a recipe that's designed specifically for fruit.
There are lots of lovely kinds of sorbet. Here are a few sorbet recipes flavored with fresh flowers and herbs. My very favorite recipes are all from Elise Bauer's site. She has a fabulous recipe for Meyer Lemon sorbet that is absolutely amazing. I also like her recipe for Mango, Lime, Tequila Sorbet. And she has the best recipe I've tried for a champagne sorbet.
Five Minute Ice Cream
I started making this when I was a graduate student living in a dorm with one of those tiny dorm fridges that didn't reliably make ice creams. The original recipe was from a ditto that another dorm resident had used for a home Ec class she taught. Later, I refined the recipe and the procedure when I lived in a converted linen closet in a house where I had "kitchen privileges" but no money. You do need a blender or a food processor, though I confess that at the dorm I used, with reasonable success, I ten-dollar electric mixer from Woolworths. I usually used a plastic container with a lid for mixing and freezing the ice cream base. This is actually pretty decent for ersatz ice cream, but it's better if you can stick in the freezer for even an hour.
Five Minute Ice Cream Recipe
- 1 blender or food processor
- 1 package frozen fruit (8 to 10 ounces)
- 1/2 Cup sugar
- 2/3 Cup heavy cream
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix the sugar and the vanilla extract with the cream; mix the sugar in thoroughly. It will still be a little grainy, bu you want to dissolve as much sugar as possible as quickly as possible.
- Add the frozen fruit and the cream mixture to a food processor or blender. Blend until the fruit is pretty much minced and the mixture resembles ice cream in terms of thickness and texture.
- It's not going to look like store-bought ice cream; you want it to look mostly frozen, and thick, and mostly the same color.
- Eat, if you really can't wait. Even a half-hour in a freezer will improve the texture; two hours is better.
I generally manage to just sample the ice cream (and make any adjustments I need to for flavor) and then put the rest in a sealed container in the freezer. An hour or so, or overnight for the left-overs, will help encourage the ice cream "set." Overnight also improves the flavor. You can keep the ice cream frozen for as much as a week, before the cream will start separating from the other ingredients, and ice crystals start forming. This really is sort of fake ice cream but it's very easy, and it's makes enough for a couple of servings.
You can vary this recipe quite a lot, though some changes will require more freezing time. You can reduce the sugar some, but don't eliminate it completely. The sugar affects the ice cream's texture, as well as the freezing time. You can use honey instead of some of the sugar, and the honey can help create a smoother texture as well as add flavor. If you decide to use honey, mix the honey with the fruit before adding fruit to the cream.
You can use almost any sort of fruit, though berries work really well. You can also freeze your own fruit too. I like to freeze fresh perfectly ripe peaches, strawberries or other fresh berries and freeze them overnight, instead of using commercially frozen fruit. To freeze fresh peaches or apricots, wait until they are perfectly ripe, peel them (dip them into boiling water for 15 seconds or so to make peeling easy), pit them, slice them, add a little sugar and some ascorbic acid or a little lemon juice to keep them from changing color, and put them in a freezer bag over night.
If you use commercially frozen fruit, don't forget that you can use fruit like mango chunks, frozen banannas, or a mix of berries (stores usually have bags of mixed raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries or strawberries). I've used soft-frozen lemon, lime and orange juice (concentrate in a can works well); freeze a half cup or so of the juice (sweeten it first) until it's a thick and slushy but not a lump of ice, and add some zest from the peel. If you use frozen juice concentrate from a can, do cut the sugar to about a 1/4 cup. Try adding a little freshly grated ginger, better still, try finely chopped candied ginger. Ginger works especially well with peaches. Don't remove the frozen fruit from the freezer until just before you blend it in. If you can, place the heavy cream in the freezer for a half hour or so before you use it; the colder the ingredients are, the faster you'll have ice cream.