Tidewater Kitchen April 2007

Sorbets and Granitas

by

Pamela Meredith-Doyle

   Sorbets and granitas are a perfect way to welcome spring with entertaining and serving light desserts. I definitely love my ice cream, but I also welcome other chilled desserts. You can certainly use your ice cream maker with these recipes, but you don’t have to have one to make sorbets or granitas. I don’t know how people live without one. I love the Cuisinart model with the motor on the bottom, sold at Williams Sonoma and other specialty kitchen stores.
    Early ancestors of today’s ice creams were flavored water ices, which have been popular in China since prehistoric times. They have also been popular in the Mediterranean and Middle East since the Golden Age of Greece. Luxury-loving Romans of Julius Caesar’s day knew a kind of ice cream… snow from the high mountain passes carried to Rome by fleet runners. It was flavored with fruit crushed with snow and honey and enjoyed as a rare delicacy. The Saracens brought their knowledge of making flavored ices with them when they migrated to Sicily in the 9th century. And 12th-century Crusaders returned to western Europe with memories of Middle Eastern sherbets.
    Marco Polo introduced sorbet, or flavored ice, to the Italian court in the late 13th Century. He brought recipes for this wondrous dessert from the palace of the Kublai Khan, the Emperor of China. This new discovery dazzled the Italians and then the French, but for many centuries to follow only the nobility were to enjoy sorbets. Ships were sent north at great expense in those days to bring back blocks of ice, which were then stored in specially built underground cellars.
    Ice cream was first served to the public in Paris during the late 17th century and also was available at fashionable cafés. French chefs quickly developed many elaborate desserts using ice creams, including bombes, coupes and parfaits.
    Virginia cavaliers brought the “Cream Ice” idea to the new world. Many of this country’s founders - Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James and Dolly Madison - were confirmed ice cream addicts. George Washington spent over $200.00, a very princely sum, for ice cream during the summer of 1790. It was Dolly Madison who reversed the name “cream ice” to “Ice Cream.”
    The mechanized ice cream freezer was invented in 1846, setting the stage for mass production and wide availability. By the late 19th century ice cream parlors were popular gathering places. With plentiful ice and electric churning, few people remember that the shared experience of making ice cream was a rarely scheduled event. Back then the iceman brought a 2-foot square cube of ice and everyone took their turn at the crank. After the ice cream was churned there was always the question, “who will lick the dasher?”
    Today, over 80% of all ice cream is sold in supermarkets or convenience stores. On the average, each of us spoons down nearly 23 quarts per year, making Americans the world’s highest per capita consumers and qualifying the United States as the undisputed Ice Cream Capital of the World.
    SHERBET & SORBET: It’s sherbet in English and sorbet in France, but most sherbets have a little milk or egg white added to the fruit puree to smooth them out. Sorbets are usually made without milk or egg, which makes them positively fat free.
    GRANITAS: The same fruit or wine mixture as in a sorbet but with a coarser, more granular texture. Granitas are not whirled in an ice cream maker but frozen in a steel pan or bowl and only occasionally stirred, which makes the ice crystals larger.
    FROZEN YOGURT: A frozen dessert with yogurt as its base, it has a smooth texture very similar to ice cream, although less creamy, and a rich, slightly acidic taste.
    GELATO: Italian gelato contains less air than most French or American ice creams, making it denser and firmer.
    ICE MILK: This is the generic name for frozen desserts that cannot be labeled ice cream because they contain too much air and/or too little butterfat.

SORBETS
    The forgotten custom of serving a fruit sorbet between dinner courses is a wonderful tradition that should be revived. I think it always adds elegance to a dinner party. The idea, of course, is to create a pause between the first course and the main course and to refresh the palate.
    Tips On Sorbets
    1. If you add too much sugar or too much fruit brandy or liqueur, the sorbet will not freeze hard enough; if you add too little sugar, it will freeze too hard.
    2. Serve immediately in chilled glasses. Sorbet can be kept in serving glasses in the freezer for up to 30 minutes before serving; beyond that it gets too hard.
    3. Follow the method and recipe for Strawberry Sorbet when using delicate fresh fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and kiwi fruit.
    4. Follow the method and recipe for Pear Sorbet when using fruits such as peaches, papaya, mango and pineapple.
    5. Whenever you use fruit juice instead of whole fruit, follow the method and recipe for Lemon Sorbet, and simply reduce the amount of sugar for less acidic and sweeter fruit juices.

PEAR SORBET
1 cup water 1 1-inch section of vanilla bean
¾ cup sugar 4 pears, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
1 T. pear brandy, optional

   Combine the water, sugar and vanilla bean in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved.
Then add the pears, bring to a boil again, cover and simmer over low heat until the pears are soft. Test with the point of a knife since the cooking time is dependent upon ripeness of the pears.
    Cool the mixture and remove the vanilla bean. Pour mixture into a blender and, if you wish, add the brandy. Blend until smooth; then put into a glass pie plate or bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in your freezer.
    After sorbet is frozen, and just before serving time, return it to the blender and mix until smooth or put it in your ice cream maker.
Yield: 3 cups

STRAWBERRY SORBET
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 pints fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and cut in half

   Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved.
    Cool the syrup for about 5 minutes and pour over the strawberries in a bowl.
    You don’t want to cook the strawberries, because they will lose their color and get too mushy. Marinate them in the syrup for about 30 minutes and then proceed as in the pear sorbet.

CHOCOLATE SORBET
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup good quality cocoa

   Combine the water, sugar and cocoa in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.
    Let cool to room temperature. Follow same freezing directions.

LEMON SORBET
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon

   Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and grated rind.
    Put the mixture into a shallow bowl to cool, cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
    After sorbet is frozen, and just before serving time, return it to the food processor and mix until smooth, or put the ingredients in an ice cream maker.

MERLOT SORBET
3 cups water
1½ cups sugar
1¼ cups Merlot wine

   Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat to a simmer.
    Cover, and simmer 5 minutes.
    Stir in wine, and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
    Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
    Freeze in an ice cream maker according to directions or place in a shallow pan for 3-4 hours. Place in blender and serve.

GRANITAS
    A granita is an icy frozen dessert similar to a snow cone in texture but with the intense flavor of a well-made sorbet. The ingredients are exactly the same as in a sorbet, but in different proportions. The sorbet is a smooth texture and a granita is very grainy and icy
Tips on Granitas
    Pick your favorite flavor. You can make a granita out of just about any liquid or puree.
    Fresh summer berries and other soft fruits, like mango and pineapple, only need to be pureed and strained and they’re ready to use. Firm fruits like pears and apples should be cooked first to soften them and release their flavor. You may poach them in either a sugar syrup or wine.
    Puree raw or cooked fruit in a blender. Strain any fibers or small seeds through a sieve, pushing on the fruit with a wooden spoon.
    Make a simple syrup by combining an equal volume of sugar and water, bring it to a boil, and let it cool.
    Add the syrup to your flavoring. Keep tasting for sweetness as you go, but remember the granita will taste less sweet when frozen.
    Thin the puree with water until it lightly coats the back of a spoon. To bring out the flavor add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice or a pinch of salt.
    Pour the mixture in a container and freeze, stirring periodically. Use a fork to pull the ice crystals away from the sides of the container and vigorously stir the mixture to prevent separating.
    Scrape out the granita with an ice cream scoop and serve in chilled glasses. If the granita is too hard, let it sit out for 10 minutes or so before scraping.

COCOA GRANITA
    Bring 3 cups water to a boil. In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa with ¾ cup sugar. Whisk in just enough of the boiling water to work the mixture to a smooth paste. Whisk in the rest of the water. Let the mixture cool and then freeze.

WINE GRANITA
    Add 1½ cups simple syrup to 3 cups red or white wine, tasting as you go. Freeze.

COFFEE GRANITA
    Add 2 T. espresso instant coffee to 4 cups boiling water and 6 T. sugar or more depending on your taste. Let it cool. You can also add a few tablespoons of whiskey, cognac or infuse the sugar syrup with cinnamon and freeze.

FRUIT PUREE GRANITA
    Add ½-1 cup simple syrup to about 3 cups fruit puree. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a pinch of salt to liven it up. Freeze.

VERY BERRY SAUCE
1 package (10 oz) frozen and thawed mixed berries
½ t. cornstarch
2 T. light corn syrup
2 T. superfine sugar

   Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
    Remove pan from heat and cool. Press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.
    Pour into covered container and refrigerate. The sauce will get thicker as it cools. Pour over your favorite ice cream.

EASY BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE
3 T. margarine
½ cup brown sugar (light or dark)
¼ cup heavy cream

   Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. As it cools it will get thicker.
    Serve this delicious sauce hot or cold. This butterscotch sauce is wonderful over coffee ice cream.

HARD CHOCOLATE
CRACKLE SAUCE

¾ cup Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 T. butter

   In a saucepan over low heat, combine ingredients. Stir occasionally until melted, about 15 minutes.
    Makes about 1 cup.
    This sauce becomes hard when poured over ice cream.

MIXED NUT CRUNCH
1 cup mixed nuts
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ t. baking soda

   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the mixed nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Let cool and chop coarsely. Set aside.
    Cover a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil. Spread butter all over it.
    In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, water and butter over medium-low heat, about 2 minutes or until sugar has dissolved.
    Using a wooden spoon, push down any sugar that is on the side of the pan.
    Increase the heat to medium-high and boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning, until the mixture turns a caramel color, about 8 minutes.
    Stir in the baking soda and then the nuts.
    Immediately pour the nut mixture out onto buttered foil. Cool and break into pieces. This freezes well up to 1 month or store in an airtight container.

CONES, COOKIES
& TRUFFLES
COOKIE CONES

¼ cup butter
2 egg whites
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 t. sea salt
¼ t. Madagascar vanilla
½ cup all-purpose flour

   Melt butter in microwave and cool. Beat egg whites until very stiff.
    Fold in confectioners’ sugar, salt, vanilla and flour. Add the cooled butter in gently.
    Either use a Pizzelle Iron by Vitantonio or bake them on a cookie sheet.
    Using a Pizzelle Iron - Coat iron with Pam. Heat iron until light goes off. Pour 1 teaspoon of batter in center of each iron. Carefully close lid, but you do not need to lock handle. Bake for 30 seconds. With a fork, lift cookie out and roll into a cone and close seal with the back of spoon.
    Grease cookie sheets and place 2 tablespoons full of batter. Spread with the back of a spoon to even it out. Bake 8-10 minutes or until brown. Lift off one at a time, working fast so cookies don’t have time to cool. Using a paper towel or garden glove shape the cookie into a cone. Close the seam with the back of a spoon. Press until it cools.

LACY COOKIES
(A little tricky to do, but delicious)
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 T. light corn syrup
3 T. unsalted butter
¼ t. sea salt
¼ cup flour

   In a small saucepan combine, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter & salt.
    Remove from heat and stir in sifted flour.
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheet. Drop 1 T. mounds of dough on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Only make 2 or 3 at a time, it is difficult to work with more. Keep them 6” apart - they will spread as they bake. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
    Let cool for 1-2 minutes then remove with metal pancake turner and shape on a greased glass cup or coffee mug.

CHOCOLATE DESSERT WAFFLES
1¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ t. ground cinnamon
6 T. good quality cocoa
¾ cup sugar
6 T. butter, melted & cooled butter
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract

   In a bowl, combine sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla.
    Combine dry ingredients. Add to sugar mixture; mix well.
    Bake in a preheated waffle iron sprayed with Pam. Bake waffle for 2 minutes.
    Remove from waffle iron and serve with ice cream and fudge sauce.

TRUFFLES
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 cups good quality semisweet chocolate

   Combine all truffle ingredients in heavy saucepan or double boiler.
    Place saucepan over medium-high heat; melt chocolate, stirring ingredients occasionally.
    When chocolate is melted, remove from heat and cool until mixture begins to thicken. Place saucepan in ice bath and stir constantly.
    When cool, place mixture in mixer and whip until chocolate is light and fluffy - a creamy milk chocolate color.
    Place 1 T. of chocolate on wax paper lined cookie sheet. Place sheet in refrigerator.

COATING FOR TRUFFLES
½ cup good quality coca powder
¼ cup powdered sugar

   Combine cocoa powder and sugar in strainer and sift into a bowl.
    Dip each truffle into the cocoa mixture, roll in hands to coat and return to cookie sheet. Refrigerate.
    Makes approximately 30 truffles.
    Any nut, coffee bean or coconut is also wonderful to coat the truffle.