Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ice Cream #12: Blood Orange Sherbet

When I was a kid, I remember going to Baskin-Robinns 31 Flavors and falling in love with their rainbow sherbet. I haven't had sherbet since my childhood, so I figured it was high time I made some. While eating a particularly juicy blood orange the other day, I thought that it would make for a delicious seasonal sherbet. Turns out I was right!

While on the hunt for a good sherbet recipe, I was surprised to find that few exist in cyber space or in cookbooks. I'm still not entirely sure why; perhaps sherbet has fallen out of favor. In any case, I eventually landed on a recipe in Joy of Cooking. You might be surprised to learn there's gelatin in this recipe. It seems odd, I know, but there's a method to the madness. Sherbet is unique in that it's basically a cross between ice cream and sorbet. Ice cream usually contains egg yolks and cream, while sorbet contains no eggs or dairy at all, simply fruit and sugar. Sherbet is essentially a sorbet with the addition of milk or sometimes half and half. With the lack of eggs and heavy cream, sherbets run the risk of becoming too icy. To alleviate this concern, emulsifiers such as egg whites, pectin, gums, and gelatin are often added to the sherbet base for a smoother mouth feel. The gelatin granules expand and prevent the formation of large ice crystals in the sherbet; it's the key to smooth and creamy sherbets. Trust me, it works like a charm.

I love this sherbet. The blood oranges give it a vibrant and beautiful pink color and elevate ordinary sherbet into something seasonal and special. A wonderful winter treat, indeed. Baskin-Robbins, eat your heart out! 

Adapted from Rombauer, Becker, Becker, Joy of Cooking

1 1/4 tsp. unflavored gelatin (see notes below)
1/4 cup cold water
1 3/4 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest from 1 blood orange, finely minced
3/4 cups sugar (see notes below)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup half and half or whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract 

Fill a large metal bowl with 1 to 2-inches of ice water. Place a slightly smaller bowl inside and set aside. 

In a small measuring cup, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let stand for 10 minutes to soften.

Meanwhile, in a medium size saucepan, combine the blood orange juice, lemon juice, zest, sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin, stirring until it has completely dissolved. 

Transfer the mixture to the prepared bowl and stir over the ice water until cool. Stir in the half and half or whole milk and vanilla extract. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the base, and place another sheet over the bowl. Refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight. 

Once the sherbet is properly chilled, give it a good stir (it will be gelatinous and a bit lumpy- never fear, it will become smooth and creamy once churned). Process the sherbet in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to plastic containers and freeze until ready to use. 

Yield: about 5 cups

  • To keep the sherbet vegetarian, omit the gelatin and water and increase the blood orange juice to 2 cups. Note that the sherbet will have a more icy texture without the added gelatin.  
  • Keep in mind the sugar content of oranges can vary, so taste the base to see that its sweetness is to your liking. 

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