Taking a foray into sorbet

Time was – and maybe for some still is, making homemade ice cream was a near daylong feat of strength. This ordeal involved a huge contraption with a hand crank; a 50-pound bag of something called rock salt, a clear to grayish gravel that had the diametrical abilities to both melt snow on the highway and make iced desserts freeze; and a lot of sweat. Hours later, there was – to my experience – little payoff. The churner was left with a sore shoulder and the partygoers were served a dessert that – like most things made at home – should have tasted better than what was bought at the store. It did not.

My recollections of homemade ice cream bring to mind and taste bud a concoction that was only slightly thicker and not much different in flavor than the milk left behind from a bowl of sugary cereal. I hate to sound so harsh, but as a child a bowl of homemade ice cream should have been a marvel. Perhaps it was the makers or some other deviance, but my experiences were utterly disappointing.

Perhaps my childhood scars have kept me from venturing into my own homemade ice cream. I’ve long resisted such modern culinary machinery like ice cream makers. To me, it has seemed, that giving in to temptation for such a rarely used piece of equipment would only result in less space in the cabinet graveyard where the HotDogger and the Mickey Mouse waffle iron rest in peace. Yet as summer rolls around, the mind wanders over frozen dessert possibilities, making the ice cream maker a lurid fixation. These new models are compact, easy-to-use (no breaking of sweat), and seemingly infallible. I’ve watched on cooking shows again and again the creation of varying sorbets of watermelon, mango, chocolate; the espresso gelato; the salted caramel ice cream. OK, dammit! The price is right and I have two-day shipping on Amazon. The Cuisinart machine I ordered was not only economical in price, but in space. It would make no more than a quart and a half of frozen dessert, so there was not huge commitment or loss if things did not turn out as I hoped.

I had also been eyeing a book called “The Perfect Scoop” by renowned pastry chef David Leibovitz. It’s a beautiful book, with photographs one could get lost in and recipes for ice creams, sorbets, sherbets, granitas, yogurt and gelato. One could get as exotic as Green Tea Ice Cream or Black Pepper Ice Cream; Green Apple and Sparkling Cider Sorbet; Rice Gelato. The book includes plenty of recipes for more mainstream flavors – your basic vanilla, chocolate and strawberry with variations (Aztec “Hot Chocolate Ice Cream) to lend interest. Chapters on accompanying sauces and toppings, mix-ins and “vessels” (like cookies and brownies) make this a delightful book for the frozen dessert fanatic.

I decided to try a sorbet recipe first from Leibovitz’s book. I’ve only recently become a fan of sorbet. For the last couple of years, I’ve purchased sorbet as an after-meal treat for its simplicity and full fruit flavor. I sometimes want my ice without the cream, and sorbet takes dairy out of the equation. Sorbet, to me, seemed like something ideal to concoct in the home, as one would have reign over what fruit and flavor elements to use and also the amount of sugar or sweetener (I sometimes find that in purchased sorbet, as with other fruit desserts, too much sugar is used, overwhelming the natural sweetness and flavor of the fruit).

A recipe for Pineapple Sorbet in “The Perfect Scoop” appealed to me on a couple of levels. First, it was very, very simple – perfect for the sorbet-making novice. Only three ingredients – pineapple, sugar and water – were used. Second, it was pineapple, and I find few fruits rival pineapple for my affection. The first part of putting the sorbet together took less time than making a sandwich. The pineapple, sugar and water are first pulverized in a blender then turned over to the ice cream maker (don’t forget to freeze the bowl of your machine first!). In less than 20 minutes of spinning inn the machine, the sorbet began to froth and thicken nicely. It was packed in small freezer container to firm up. The result was beautiful sorbet of a soft buttery yellow. The flavor was excellent – juicy sweet – but not too sweet – ripe with the tropical taste of golden pineapple.

July is National Ice Cream Month (wow, what a surprise!). The ice cream maker remains out on the counter. I’m not done yet!

Pineapple Sorbet
From “The Perfect Scoop” by David Leibovitz (2007)
Makes about 3 cups

½ pineapple, peeled and cored (2 cups, 500 ml puree)
8 to 10 tablespoons (100 to 130 g) sugar
½ cup (125 ml) water

Cut the pineapple into chunks and puree in the blender with 8 tablespoons sugar and the water until smooth. Taste, then add up to 2 tablespoons additional sugar, if desired.

Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

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