Thanks to all for the ice cream recipes before. So far, I just tried the no-cook method and it was delicious. I'll next try the boiling/infusing ones.
Now I'm interested in making sorbets. My limitation is I can't use alcohol. I've read recipes suggesting to use simple syrups? Is this necessary? Or could I just add sugar to pureed/blended fruits?
I'm wondering if there is a general method to make nice smooth silky sorbets that can be applied with any fruits?
Also, any interesting fun sorbet non-alcoholic sorbet recipes to share?
I've been making a lot of ice cream this summer but so far only one sorbet. As near as I can tell, there are two basic sorbet methods: one which is basically just sweetened fruit syrup, which you put into the ice cream maker, the other which involves making a meringue (egg whites with sugar) which you then combine with the fruit syrup and put in the machine. I haven't tried the second method and a friend who's a professional dessert chef says it's an unnecessary chore, but I can't speak from experience. However I have used sugar syrup, rather than sugar, to sweeten fruit puree in making ice cream, in an effort to avoid gritty sugar crystals.
it shouldn't be too icy nor too hard. There are a few reasons why this could be. First, if you didn't churn it long enough, then it could have not set well enough (churning it too long has its own problems, but I'd err, frankly, on the side of too long at first).
Second, if your mixture didn't have enough sugar, then it could have contributed to the iciness of it. Sugar helps to prevent that crystalization.
Third, based on your original posting, it sounds like you didn't use any alcohol. That's fine - I don't either - but the benefit of a little alcohol, from what I hear, in a sorbet is it helps lower the freezing temp, which means it stays softer and smoother before it sets.
But I'd attack the churning question first. Not sure exactly how to describe it, but I usually churn a good 20 minutes or so, but it completely depends on what it looks like, feels like, etc. It should have increased in volume probably 50%, have a smooth texture and be very slushy like. When it gets to that stage, do it a minute or two longer then put it in a pre-frozen bowl. The prefrozen bowl is important. Sorbet melts nearly instantly if put in a room temp bowl.
You know you've churned too long with a sorbet when it gets too airy and starts to get almost gummy.
Hope that helps!
The alcohol is used primarily to lower the freezing point of the sorbet, resulting in a slower formation of ice crystals and therefore a smoother product. You don't have to use it though - a recipe that makes 1 quart only uses about 2T., so it's easily omitted. Your product might then freeze more solidly, but leave it out for a bit before scopping and you ought to be fine.
I use a mixture of fruit puree and simple syrup (and alcohol). I did find recipes talking about the aforementioned meringue, but that's just too much work for me!
When I started making sorbets (and ice creams), I used the following books as reference:
Williams Sonoma - more for the pictures, though. So pretty!
Bruce Weinstein's "The Ultimate Ice Cream Book"
Ben & Jerry's ice cream book
It's fun experimenting. I've also infused simple syrups with herbs to add another dimension to the sorbets, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. My favourite, to date, is blood orange sorbet made with rosemary simple syrup.
I usually make sorbets without alcohol. And I don't bother with the egg white. It sounds like you have the basic recipe - fruit puree and simple syrup. You can tweak this to suit your tastes. I sometimes add yogurt or cream or creme fraiche which makes it a little smoother than a sorbet but not as rich as ice cream. If you'd like to try this, just substitute a cup of yogurt/cream/creme fraiche for a cup of simple syrup - this is for a recipe that makes about a quart of sorbet.
I almost always decrease the amount of sugar because I don't like very sweet desserts. And I often add some lemon or lime juice or zest to brighten the flavors. The rosemary syrup sounds very interesting, I'd like to try that with good summer fruit.
I'd be careful reducing the amount of sugar in most sorbet recipes though. While I don't like things cloyingly sweet either, the sugar content actually helps the sorbets texture immensely. Some add to much, no doubt, but others not enough and you get a more crystalized sorbet.
Agree with the lemon add too. brightening a sorbet is good...
Professional pastry chefs often use a device called a refractometer to measure the percentage of sugar in a sorbet base. According to Stephen Durfee, formerly the pastry chef at The French Laundry and now a culinary instructor, the proper percentage of sugar in a sorbet base is 28% for fruit puree bases, or 24% for very thin bases of juice, infused simple syrup, or when using lots of alcohol.
re: Non Cognomina
That's a useful number - thank you for the information. So roughly a quarter of the weight of a sorbet should be sugar. That translates to 1 cup of sugar in a quart of sorbet, easy to remember. My guess is I'm using a little more than this but still much less than many recipes which have almost half the weight in sugar.
Does the refractometer take into account the natural sugar in fruit? I think it must, it can't distinguish between the different kinds of sugars present. That's the main uncertainty in making sorbets, how sweet the fruit is.
re: Non Cognomina
In France they use the Baume scale of sugar concentration which measures the sugar level of the syrup used. Since every fruit has a different sweetness level, the above formula is risky. Better to use a recipe . Lemon Sorbet and Melon Sorbet are made quite differently.
Gaston Lenotres book on Sorbets and Ice Cream has excellent recipes.
Recipes involving fruit are unreliable because, for example, individual strawberries from the same plant picked at the same time can have different sugar contents. Therefore, the level of sugar in your fruit puree base is uncertain unless you measure it with a Baume meter, refractometer, etc. The exception to this may be if you use a commercially produced fruit puree which lists the sugar content on the package. The FDA allows a very little leeway so it is more reliable than one you make yourself if you have no way to measure sugar content.
BTW, a simple syrup of 1:1 concentration is 50% sugar unless you let the solution cook and water-loss due to evaporation results in a higher concentration of sugar.
The percentages I listed above are based on weight. Please note that fruit puree can be more dense than water and sugar.
Mangoes are really cheap here right now, and Mrs. O started dropping heavy hints about mango sorbet (such as plopping down a Saveur magazine, opened to a mango sorbet recipe, in the middle of the newspaper I was reading), so I made some. And it is awfully, awfully good. Flesh of four mangoes (about a quart), 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 Tbs. vodka, lemon juice to taste (you can add this late in the game). Put everything in the Cuisinart or big blender, purée thoroughly, then strain it through a fine sieve if you want it super-smooth. Taste for flavor balance (I think I'll add a little salt next time) and freeze however you do it - I've got one of those Donvier things and it worked OK for this.
The Zuni Cafe cookbook recipe for sorbets doesn't include alcohol or egg whites--mainly fruit purees and sugar, some salt and lemon/vinegar to balance out the sweetness. I've made the plum sorbet, and it was awesome.