Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Adventures With Myself and an Ice Cream Maker


Last week good friends and fellow food lovers Katie and Norm invited us down to Katie’s house in Akron for a little dinner party. They told us they’d be making some sort of lasagna and would be providing wine. So, when we asked what we might bring, “dessert might be nice” was the response. Being one of the world’s biggest fans of dessert, both eating and making, I started wracking my brain for the perfect ending to this friendly meal.

My first thought was the usual baked good. Cookies, cakes, etc. are a fun, favorite of mine to make, but with the mercury edging ever northwards these days the thought of spending a couple hours in a hot kitchen with oven on sounded like about as much fun as dental surgery. Something cold was certainly called for in this matter, and then it struck me: my ice cream maker.

For my birthday a few years ago I received a 1 quart capacity Cuisinart ice cream maker. Any chance I get to make something in it I do, that is, as long as there’s freezer space for the drum. Once I’d decided on a frozen dessert I began to consider what flavor. A big, rich chocolaty mocha or a smooth, creamy vanilla might be nice. But then again on a warm summer’s night after a filling meal and a glass or two of wine a full flavored, full fat ice cream assault might be too much. I began to reconsider my options and decided that a sherbet or sorbet might be the right answer.

(Note: in America the terms “sherbet” and “sorbet” are used interchangeably to refer to a frozen dessert made of sweetened water flavored with fruit, juice or puree, for the rest of this post when I refer to “sorbet” I will be referring to the aforementioned concoction. When I refer to “sherbet” I will be speaking of a dessert with the aforementioned ingredients as well as a small amount of dairy fat.)

While looking over the instruction book for the ice cream maker, I haven’t used it in a few months and needed a refresher; I also looked over some the recipes they included. I’d had good luck with their ice cream recipes in the past so I figured I couldn’t go too far wrong with much simpler sorbet recipe. Lime sounded cool and refreshing for a summer’s eve, but it needed a little kick. Having recently perused the cocktail section of a Latin American cook book I own I had mojitos on my mind, and it came to me: Mojito Sorbet! The cool, refreshing combination of mint and lime would surely be a welcome finish to a hearty meal. Using Cuisinart’s recipe as a jumping off point here’s what I did:

1½ cups fresh squeezed lime juice (I needed 11 [eleven!!!])
2¼ cups water
2 cups sugar
Freshly grated lime zest
Chopped, fresh mint (my addition)
2-3 tablespoons cold white rum (my addition)

In a medium sauce pan combine the sugar and water. Heat on high until syrup reaches a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and stir until syrup is clear and sugar is fully dissolved. Once dissolved, remove syrup from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to refrigerator, this can be done in the cooking vessel or syrup can be transferred to another vessel for refrigeration. Meanwhile juice enough limes to yield 1½ cups of juice, again this will take a number of limes, and zest two, this is easiest pre-juicing. After juicing strain the lime squeezings to remove any pulp or seeds and mix in zest. Transfer lime juice to refrigerator. Ideally the syrup and juice should be prepared the day before and allowed to chill in the fridge overnight, but this can all be done the morning of, just remember that all the ingredients should be as cold as possible before they go into the machine. After a few hours chill time add the ingredients to ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

This was the standard recipe, now here are the changes I made, and what I learned from my mistakes:
I put off making assembling this until just a few hours before the dinner party, and while I was able to get everything together I didn’t allow myself enough time for the syrup and lime juice to properly chill in the fridge. This meant that even after a spin in the ice cream maker’s my sorbet was more slushy than icy. This wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I’d had more freezer time, but the two hours it got to chillax just wasn’t enough so unfortunately this frozen treat had to stay at home.

Now, as for my additions to the recipe, the rum and mint, there are good results and bad results. The Good: the rum, with a much lower freezing point, ensures that even after a few hours in the chill chest the sorbet is still scoopable, a half-hour warm-up in the fridge prior to service is still a good idea, but not 100% necessary; I add alcohol to all ice cream maker recipes during the last two minutes of processing for this reason. Also, the rum adds a nice little bite to the dessert and helps clear the palate of any residual aftertastes. The Bad: While adding mint to the recipe was an excellent and inspired move on my part, it wasn’t chopped nearly enough and when I added it to the machine it all floated to the top and stayed there. I think if the concoction had frozen better initially it would’ve incorporated better, but there are still large ribbons of mint in the sorbet which aren’t the best thing to try and eat. If I was to try this again, and I probably will, I would process the rum and mint in a food processor or blender for a few seconds to make a slurry with mint flecks. It would be even better to do this at least a week or so a head of time so the alcohol could have time to extract soluble oils from the mint and allowing the flavor to permeate the desert more thoroughly.

The end result of this experiment was a wonderfully limey dessert that’s sour then sweet then sour again. It’s cool, refreshing, and delicious on a hot summery night, plus it tastes great mixed into other things. Nicole scrapped a few spoonfuls direct from the freezer into a glass and topped it with chilled vodka and lemonade to make a delicious and refreshing summer cocktail. It would also fair well in a blender with a shot or two of tequila and a splash of triple sec to make a frozen margarita that’s all growsed up.

Part II:
Following this reasonably, though not wholly, successful attempt at making a sorbet I was tempted to try something again. With the Fourth of July holiday in just a few days and a family cook-out in tow I was asked by the fam to bring some dessert along for the festivities. With this in mind and the idea of turning refreshing summer time beverages into icy desserts in mind I started to think about what would be a delicious follow-up to the traditional holiday fare of burgers and dawgs on the grill. Lemonade is an always popular cook-out libation, but lemon something would be too similar to the lime sorbet that I’d just attempted. Then it dawned on me: iced tea! I love iced tea in the summer, especially sweet tea and that seemed like the perfect thing to pour into the ice cream machine. But this time I felt the end result should be at least a little creamy so I decided I’d add a little milk and make a sweet tea sherbet. Here’s what I did:

3¼ cups water
¾ cup sugar
4 tea bags
1 cup whole milk
½ pinch baking soda (optional)
2-3 tablespoons chilled vodka (optional)

But What Do I Do With It??!?:
Into a medium sized pot add the water and tea bags. Heat on high until water boils then reduce heat and stir in sugar and baking soda (the saltiness of the baking soda helps curb some of the bitterness of the tea and will help set the deep brown tone of the tea, it’s not necessary but many sweet tea recipes call for it) and allow to simmer until sugar has dissolved and tea has reduced slightly. Once tea syrup is thoroughly combined remove the tea bags and allow to rest until mixture reaches room temperature. Once cooled, cover tea syrup and place in refrigerator until completely chilled—again, all ingredients should be as cold as possible, but still liquid, before put in the ice cream maker. Once completely chilled add ingredients to ice cream maker per manufacturer’s instructions, reserving the addition of the vodka until the last two minutes.

How It Turned Out:
In a word: awesome. In two words: totallyfracking awesome. The resulting product was richer and creamier than the lime sorbet, but not as big and full as ice cream. It had a nice, smooth mouth feel with just a hint of crystalline, icy crunch. And after analyzing the taste over and over, I feel like all the elements were perfectly balanced. The tea flavor was full and apparent without being overwhelming or terribly bitter; I had originally thought about adding a fifth tea bag to the mixture but my decision against was correct. Also, instead of using plain black tea I opted for Earl Grey, the light, citrusy tang of the Bergamot oil was the perfect sour component to a dish that was already slightly sweet and bitter. While deciding on what dairy to add I considered using half-n-half and heavy cream, but ultimately I feel that whole milk was the right choice, adding some rich-and-creaminess to the dish without making it overly fatty or terribly unhealthy (about 1oz./18 calories of whole milk per serving). With only ¾ cup of sugar in the whole quart the dessert isn’t overly sweet, either. It could be upped to a whole cup for a really sweet dessert or pared down to half a cup for between-course palate cleanser.

I’m pretty modest when it comes to the food that I make, but all things considered, this sherbet recipe was a pretty solid homerun, especially since I invented the recipe myself. Having looked over a number of other recipes and knowing the total capacity of the cream-machine, I realized that anything I wanted to make in it was simply a matter of creating one quart of a flavorful, freezable liquid.
Post Script:
After reading this you might be thinking, "Jon, I don't have an ice cream maker and I can't afford to go out and buy one, but I really want to make these and other recipes just like them. Please help!"
Well, fean not, my gadgetless friends for the Italian's have just the thing for you: Granitas! A granitas is essentailly a courser frozen treat that is slightly more akin to a sno-cone than a sorbet, it's name refers to the grainy texture of the ice crystals that are formed when it is made. To make a granita pour all your ingredients, throughly pre-mixed of course, into a 9x13 inch metal pan and place in the freezer. Every half-hour remove pan from freezer, stir liquid and scrape any ice crystals that have formed off the sides. Repeat this process until the liquid is frozen and the pan is full of flakey ice. Fluff your granita with a fork before serving and enjoy.
For more granita recipes and information visit these links:


High Mill Park said...

this post made me want to dig that ice cream maker out of my basement from 10 years and actually read the directions and use it. sounds amazingly delicious!

Jon said...

you totally should! plus you have so many ingredients right there in your yard!

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