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Science – it’s what’s for dessert July 25, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Food, random stuff.
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Did you ever start doing something, then sort of get lost in the process?

Well, that’s pretty much what happened here.  And in this case, that means that I took one photo, and that’s it.  After that, I just kind of forgot.  So enjoy it now.


This, my friends, is apple cider.  Real, locally pressed apple cider that we stashed in the freezer last fall.

Mostly we held on to it for cider-glazed pork chops (which, it turns out, I’ve evidently never shared with you – we’re going to have to fix THAT!) – when there’s little chance of finding fresh cider, we like to use a bit for the sauce, and then we drink the rest.  We do love our apple cider!

So why am I telling you this?

See, here’s the thing.

I can be a little, well, a little nerdy sometimes.

Not just nerdy like having a Starfleet Academy sticker on the back window of my car (which reminds me – I want to put the Klingon Warrior Academy sticker on my Tank).

But I digress.  I mean nerdy like wanting to understand what works and how it  works, you know?

Like, how do you get sorbet that (1) tastes like actual fruit, and (b) doesn’t turn into not-very-good sno-cones the next day?

It’s all about the size of the ice crystals.

So about the cider.

What about starting with Cook’s Illustrated‘s 1995 recipe for apple sorbet?  The one that starts with 2 cups of cider? (See? Cider.)


What if we looked at later recipes and found that, later on, Cook’s had revised their techniques not just for sorbet, but for ice cream, too?  And (and this is the best part) they explained why so we’d know how to apply it to a non-recipe!

Here’s what I think.

I think, in a great many cases, it’s not so much about the recipe as it is the process – how you do what you do, and why.

In other words, a great deal of the time anyway, we don’t need no stinkin’ recipe!

So here’s what we did:

We started with half a jar of cider – 2 cups.  (I would imagine that any tasty juice would work well – or even pureed fruit, as long as it’s strained as necessary.  Wouldn’t want skins or fibers in our sorbet, now would we?)

We’re going to want to sweeten it – for 2 cups of cider, I used 3/4 cups of sugar.

WHY?  First, we’re after dessert here, not just ice pops.  Second, sugar freezes differently than juice (or water) – plenty of sugar will help keep the texture more scoopable and less rock-like.

BUT. . . I swapped out 1/4 cup of the sugar with corn syrup.  And here is why – the corn syrup (NOT the dreaded high fructose evil stuff – basic light Karo syrup) helps keep the crystals of the sorbet smaller.  Smaller crystals means smoother sorbet.

So I took a half cup of cider, heated it in the microwave, and dissolved the remaining half cup of sugar in the hot liquid.  Anyone’s who’s ever tried to make “sweet tea”  by dissolving sugar in cold liquid knows why – it doesn’t work!  A 1 to 1 solution of sugar and hot liquid makes short work of any sugar crystals!

Pour in the remaining cold cider, the corn syrup, and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice will brighten that sweet apple flavor tremendously.

Then add just 1 tablespoon of vodka.   Or rum or brandy or whatever you fancy.

I know, it’s booze, and it’s going in your dessert.

Think of the children!  

But here’s the thing.  First, you’re making a pint of sorbet, and you’re including a mere tablespoon of liquor – that’s probably less alcohol than what’s in the vanilla you’re fine with putting in your ice cream!

And second – the alcohol will also help keep the texture scoopable – otherwise you’ll need a bunch more sugar, and then it starts to get less fruity and more, well, sugary.

Now there’s one more trick I’ve picked up – and this is huge.

See, you want your sorbet (or your ice cream or sherbet or whatever) to freeze as quickly as possible – that’s what keeps the ice crystals small, with a minimum of added air, which keeps the texture smooth and creamy.

And, of course, the best way to freeze it quickly is for it to spend as little time as possible churning.  We know that we want to start with a COLD mixture, so I’ll typically refrigerate the ice cream base or the fruit mixture overnight.

Ah, but wait just one minute!

Suppose, just suppose, we took some of that sorbet base and froze it solid?

Not all of it, obviously (it’d be a little hard to churn that way) – just, maybe, a cup or so.

Then you take your 0-degree frozen bit of liquid and you stir it into your 40-degree refrigerated base.

Think about it.

Yes, you’ll raise the temperature of the frozen base – you’ll actually thaw it and it will be above freezing.  But you’ll also lower the temperature of your refrigerated mixture – it’s never going to get below 40 degrees in your refrigerator – until you mingle it with something colder.  Even if you only lower the temperature of the whole by 5 degrees, it makes a difference in the time you’re churning – and thus in the amount of air your incorporated into the sorbet and to the size of the ice crystals.

And let me tell you – there is very little better, when you’ve officially crossed over into “drought” and you’re breaking heat records, than a smooth, frosty bowl of homemade apple sorbet.

And the coolest part (heh, get it, cool?) is that, now that we’ve put these pieces together, we can probably do any kind of sorbet we want, and it’ll be LOVELY!



1. The Innkeeper's Daughter - July 25, 2012

So talk to me about agave nectar to replace corn syrup. Have you played? Just bought my first jar and not quite sure what to think of it…

Toy Lady - July 25, 2012

I actually never have used agave syrup. My next trial is going to be maple syrup, though – probably this fall, when cider is back in season.

As an aside, I have swapped half brown sugar for white sugar in vanilla ice cream (and added a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg) – that was a win!

The Innkeeper's Daughter - July 26, 2012

Maple syrup is a win. If you don’t want to mess with the crystal thing keep in mind you could do part maple syrup and part maple sugar…shouldn’t be too hard to find in your neck of the woods.

Toy Lady - July 26, 2012

No, not too hard at all – I’ve got a bag of it in the cupboard even as we speak!

2. Judy Norton - July 26, 2012

Kept thinking how great this would taste and how it would cool me down on this another HOT day. Yum.

Toy Lady - July 26, 2012

Oh, Jude, I’m absolutely LOVING sorbet lately! It’s been so hot and icky this summer – so refreshing!

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