When dining out at fancy restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip, I almost always used to intentionally skip dessert. After the nice dinner, going for a stroll, doing some sight seeing and window shopping was the regular routine. Eventually when the craving for dessert finally set in, sorbet was always the top choice. A unique sorbet at a gourmet ice cream shop or pastry shop after dinner and a walk, always provides refreshing satisfaction. Sorbet is light, not excessively sweet and the flavor is intense. This is why sorbet is my favorite frozen dessert.
A little more than a decade ago, I was cooking at a 3 Star Michelin French restaurant in a 5 Diamond beachfront resort. Every food item was made from scratch in that resort and absolutely no pre-prepared food was purchased. A great pastry chef and his crew prepared bread, pastries, desserts and sundries for the five restaurants and banquets everyday.
In keeping with the refined French table service tradition, a melon ball size portion of sorbet was offered as a complimentary palate refreshing muse between certain courses. The flavor of the muse sorbet du jour changed each day and the flavor determined when the sorbet would be offered to patrons during the dining event.
Sometimes umami flavors were incorporated into the sorbet, like patis calamansi. Sometimes the sorbet flavor featured one specific spice, like cardamom. Other times a seasonal exotic fruit was featured, like lychee or cashew fruit. As one can see, the applications of a palate freshening muse sorbet during a multi course fine dining event are limitless. Each sorbet flavor requires a bit of thought, for determining which break between courses is best suited for offering the sorbet as a palate refreshing muse.
Since the sorbet muse portion was the size of about 1/2 tablespoon, only about 1 1/2 quarts of sorbet was needed on a night when the French restaurant had 150 guests in the reservation book. A little extra was always made just in case a guest preferred sorbet for dessert. A 2 quart capacity, table top mounted ice cream machine was perfect for making small batches of sorbet at the restaurant. That little ice cream machine was used only for sorbet and for experimenting with small batches of new gourmet ice cream flavor ideas.
Small Batch Ice Cream Machines
A little more than ten years ago, fully automated small batch ice cream machines were not standard issue. A pastry chef basically had to keep an eye on the sorbet or ice cream as it was churned to determine when the process was completed. The monitoring process involved a bit of timing that comes with experience. Basically, when the frozen dessert became thick and ready, the motor on the small ice cream machine started to sound like it was starting to strain and that sound served as the alarm bell.
In recent years, fully automated small batch ice cream machines with a digital display have become standard issue. All that a chef has to do is select the digital frozen dessert hardness option, press the button and the ice cream machine stops churning automatically when the frozen dessert is ready.
I actually have a professional restaurant quality, stainless steel, fully automated, small batch ice cream machine in my home kitchen. This item was a gift, but it sure is quite a nice investment, because as a chef, I can cart this little ice cream maker into a fine dining restaurant and whip up some nice gourmet sorbet that can be offered as a petite muse.
A good heavy duty stainless steel automated small batch ice cream machine costs $300 to $400 these days. Not everybody can afford something like this, especially during a sluggish economy. Even so, over a period of time the investment will pay off, especially if smoothies, sorbet, sherbet, gelato or ice cream is consumed on a regular basis.
The cost of making gourmet frozen desserts at home is about half the cost of high quality manufactured ice cream at a food market. The flavor selection is limitless. The look on the face of guests at the dinner table is priceless when a hand crafted gourmet frozen dessert is served. As one can see, having a good ice cream machine in a home kitchen can really present many creative options and it saves a lot of money in the long run.
The Key To Making Sorbet
When making sorbet, there is only one principle that needs to be kept in mind. Sugar is a liquifying agent. Sugar works like antifreeze. A sorbet requires a certain percentage of sugar, so the sorbet will have a soft texture. Too little sugar will result in a grainy sorbet or a sorbet that freezes like ice. Too much sugar will result in a sorbet that quickly melts or a sorbet that will never freeze at all.
Generally, the sugar percentage for sorbet has to be between 20% to 30%. A spice sorbet is made with only water, sugar and spice, so the sugar content must be close to 30%, because there is no other stabilizing agent in the mixture.
Some fruits, like banana, apples or dates contain plenty of pectin, sugar or starch, which all act to stabilize the sorbet, so the sugar percentage range can be somewhere between 20% to 25%.
Fruits like finger citron, pomegranate or tamarillo have less stabilizing power, so the sugar percentage may have to be between 25% to 30%.
There are very few standardized sorbet recipes for exotic fruits or out of the ordinary sorbet flavors. Basically, a chef or a home cook has to do a little thinking when experimenting with new sorbet flavors, but as long as the sugar percentage is between 20% to 30%, then more than likely whatever sorbet is made will turn out good. This is really all that one has to keep in mind when making sorbet.
The best way to accurately measure all ingredients for a sorbet is to use a scale. Weigh the liquid or puree ingredients first, then calculate 20% to 30% of that weight, to determine how much sugar needs to be added.
Some fruit purees cannot be cooked, so the sugar should be combined with water and heated to create a simple syrup. The weight of the water for making a simple syrup has to be added to the weight of the fruit puree, before calculating the sugar percentage.
Star Fruit is really called Carambola. Carambola is a tropical fruit that has a light refreshing flavor. Slightly underripe light green carambola tastes kind of like limeade. Ripe yellow orange carambola tastes slightly sweeter. The refreshing tropical fruit flavor of ripe carambola is unique. Either state of carambola ripeness is good for today's sorbet recipe.
Carambola varies in size. About 10 ounces of whole carambola is needed for todays recipe. 10 ounces of whole carambola will yield about 8.5 ounces of trimmed, seeded and peeled carambola.
Trim the ends off of the carambola.
Trim off any brown spots.
Peeling carambola is not exactly the easiest thing to do. Start by peeling the pointed edge of each long ridge on the carambola. Then use a sharp paring knife to remove the skin, while wasting as little fruit flesh as possible. There are a variety of ways to get this done and after a few minutes it becomes easy to figure out.
After the skin is removed, cut the carambola into thin slices, so the seeds are exposed. There are only a few seeds in each carambola and they can be popped out with the tip of a knife.
Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet:
This recipe yields 1 1/4 pints of sorbet.
This recipe is written for an automated small batch ice cream machine, but a conventional ice cream maker will work too.
Some fruits benefit from being simmered with a little bit of liquid, so they soften, before being turned into sorbet. Carambola that is simmered in water and wine for a few minutes will become soft enough to turn into a smooth puree. The combined weight of the carambola, water and wine is tallied, then the correct percentage of sugar is added, so the simple syrup is made at the same time that the fruit is briefly simmered. The sugar percentage is about 25% in this sorbet recipe.
Place 8.5 ounces of trimmed, peeled, seeded, sliced carambola in a stainless steel sauce pot.
Add 5 ounces of water.
Add 3 ounces of chablis wine.
Add 4.1 ounces of granulated sugar.
Place the pot over medium heat.
As soon as the liquid starts to simmer, turn the heat off.
Use a blending wand, blender or food processor to thoroughly puree the carambola mixture to a very smooth consistency.
Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a container.
Chill the star fruit chablis puree in a refrigerator, till it cools to less than 41ºF.
Set the ice cream to the sorbet mode.
Pre-cool the ice cream machine.
Place the sorbet mixture into the ice cream drum and set it in place.
Set the churn in place and secure the lid.
Press the start button and patiently wait for the bell to go off!
Transfer the sorbet from the drum to a sealed container.
Keep the sorbet in the freezer.
*Stir the sorbet after it freezes for a while, if the sorbet melts around the edges.
A 3 to 4 ounce scoop of Star Fruit Chablis Sorbet is a fair size portion. Sorbet looks best when it is served in a glass or a petite silver cup.
Sorbet is usually served plain. Sorbet can be garnished with a mint sprig or with a tempered chocolate appliqué like the presentation in the photos. That modern art looking milk chocolate appliqué was made by randomly streaming tempered chocolate on a non-stick silicon baking mat.
Milk Chocolate Appliqué:
Each type of chocolate has a different set of tempering temperatures.
To temper milk chocolate, melt a few ounces of milk chocolate in a double boiler over low heat.
The temperature of the melted milk chocolate has to be between 115ºF and 120ºF.
After the milk chocolate reaches this temperature, remove the bowl from the double boiler.
Constantly stir the milk chocolate till it cools to 81ºF.
Load the milk chocolate into a parchment paper piping cone.
Now the appliqué can be made by squeezing the parchment cone and streaming the milk chocolate in a criss-cross random pattern onto a polished marble candy maker slab or a silicon baking mat.
If the milk chocolate needs to be reheated, it cannot be heated more than 86ºF or the milk chocolate will have to be tempered again.
Once tempered milk chocolate cools to room temperature it hardens and it will have a crisp snap. A thin cake spatula work best for freeing the chocolate appliqué.
Viola! Elegant tasting tropical star fruit chablis sorbet with a fancy chocolate appliqué.