Monday, July 3, 2006

Strawberry Sorbet

Oh man. The continuing adventures of some dude that shouldn't be allowed near a kitchen. You see, once a month, we get together for dinner with my wife's family. For some reason, they usually ask me to bring dessert. This time, I had a great idea: strawberry shortcake! I went to the store and found some whipped cream, strawberries and shortcake. Yeah, I know, store-bought shortcake. Stay with me here.

Unfortunately, the strawberries weren't looking all that great. I looked through what they had there, picked out the best ones and bought 2 pounds. I'm sure they would have been okay fresh, but I had other plans for them. I was going to make a compote. I destemmed and quartered them, and put them in a sauce pan. This is where I screwed up. I added about half a cup each of orange juice and ginger ale, plus a teaspoon each of tapioca starch and finely minced candied ginger. Now, had I been working with cranberries, this would have been just fine, because cranberries are pretty firm, and they won't fall apart as the liquid reduces. Strawberries aren't so stable. I should have at least halved the liquids, or started reducing them before I added the strawberries. Before long, the strawberries were pretty limp (like I wanted them), but there was way too much liquid. I needed a different plan.

Granita! This was a perfect plan! Granita is easy to make. Just pour the liquid into a sheet pan, put it in the freezer for a couple of hours, and them pull it out and scrape it with a fork. Put it back the freezer and repeat every 30 minutes for a couple more hours. Boo-yah! Italian ice! I cooled down the strawberry mixture by putting the pan in an ice water bath and stirring until it came down to temp a little. Then I poured it into a sheet pan and put it in the freezer. And then I looked at the clock and realized that we had to leave for dinner in just over an hour. That was a problem. No time for granita.

Panic! What to do? Then I remembered the bag of ice I had in the freezer for the holiday weekend. Another plan began to form. I pulled out my trusty ice cream maker. Not the frozen core kind, where you have to keep it in the freezer for 24 hours before you use it, and it never gets cold enough anyway. I don't use that one anymore. This is the good old fashioned kind where you add alternating layers of ice and rock salt while a not-so-old fashioned motor cranks it for me. Even better, this one has twice the capacity. Not that I would need that much for this sorbet, but it's still handy. That's right, I said sorbet.

I set everything up, poured the now chilled mixture in from the sheet pan, and after about 15 minutes I checked it out. It was coming together nicely. I took a taste, and it wasn't so nice. The flavor wasn't too far off for compote, but it was pretty sour for sorbet. Knowing full-well that you're supposed to add sugar while it's hot, I added about 1/3 of a cup anyway. This is the point where one realizes that it's failed, so it's not like it can get screwed up any further. Having folded in the sugar, I took a taste, and it tasted pretty good. I got the machine going again and gave it another 10 minutes. Then I pulled it, moved it to a resealable container and put it in the freezer. When it was time to go, I moved it to a cooler with some ice and hoped for the best.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law was so kind as to pick up a half gallon of sorbet from the store for us, just in case. They didn't have strawberry, so we had raspberry. As soon as we got to the in-laws' house, I gave our sorbet a quick stir and put it in the freezer, until were were done with dinner. When it was time, I ended up putting about equal parts raspberry sorbet and strawberry sorbet on the shortcakes, with the strawberry on top. It was still pretty slushy, so it kind of worked out well. The strawberry flavor was a lot more intense than you usually get in sorbets, so I was pretty happy with that. We topped with whipped cream and served. Later, my other sister-in-law's husband would spray the remaining whipped cream into his mouth, much to his wife's disgust, I'm sure.

So if you're into sorbet, you really couldn't do much worse than the ingredients I've laid out here, frozen as per your ice cream maker's instructions. You might want to add the sugar along with the liquids, tho. You might also want to let the mixture chill overnight, just like I didn't.

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