Aug 4, 2011

Homemade Sorbets/Herbal Ices

There are two basic methods to extract the herbal flavors. One uses a blender and the other a saucepan. Aside from an ice cream maker, which is  not required for granitas, a fine-meshed strainer is the only special piece of  equipment you’ll need (to guarantee a smoother texture).

Measure the sugar,  water and lemon juice into the blender container, add a generous quantity of  herb leaves, and blend for a minute or so until smooth. Pour the liquid through  the fine strainer and immediately freeze it in an ice cream maker. Although you  can use ordinary granulated sugar, fine sugar (also known as baker’s sugar) is a  better choice because it will dissolve faster in the syrup without heat. This  method works best with lemon verbena, lemon geranium, tarragon and mint. It also  works well with basil, but you’ll get the best color if you blanch the basil  leaves first (a quick dip in boiling water followed by a cold-water  bath).

As easy as brewingherbal tea. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a  saucepan, toss in a bundle of herb sprigs (stems and all), cover the pan and  take it off the heat. Let the herbs steep for 15 minutes or so and then strain.  The syrup will carry the flavor and fragrance of the herb while the green  vegetal flavor of the leaf, along with the stems, will stay behind. Next, add  citrus juice and freeze. This is the more versatile method because it works with  nearly any herb. The infused syrups also can be mixed with fruit purees like  berry, melon or peach, creating endless combinations of herb and fruit  sorbets.

If you make a sorbet with nothing but sugar, water and an herb, it will taste cloying and flat; but add the correct amount of lemon juice and the flavor will be bright and refreshing. Fruit purees each have their own level of sweet and tart, so the proportion of sugar syrup  may vary with each particular fruit.

Too much sugar will  make a sorbet that is too soft; too little sugar will make a sorbet that is too icy. You’ll need to rely on your taste buds or a recipe.

Standard Formula
1 cup  of sugar
3 ¼ cups water
¼ cup lemon/lime juice

Although there is no firmly defined difference between a sherbet and a sorbet,  sherbet often is made with dairy or egg whites. Here are two recipes to try....

Lemon-Verbena Yogurt Sherbet
• 2 cups lemon verbena leaves, lightly packed 2 cups whole-milk  yogurt
• 1½ cups fine sugar 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1½  cups water
1. Puree lemon verbena, sugar and water in blender on high speed.
2.  Whisk together yogurt and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.
3. Strain lemon  verbena syrup through a fine sieve into yogurt; whisk until smooth. Freeze  immediately in ice cream maker until slushy-firm. Scoop into storage container  and freeze until firm enough to scoop.

Basil-Lime Sorbet
• 3¼ cups water
• 2 cups basil leaves, gently packed
• 1 cup fine  sugar
• ¼ cup fresh lime juice
1. Bring water to a boil in small saucepan. Add basil leaves; cook 10  seconds. Drain and plunge basil into cold water. Drain again.
2. Puree  sugar, water, lime juice and blanched basil leaves in blender on high speed for  about 1 minute, or until you have a smooth, bright-green liquid. Pour through  fine-meshed strainer.
3. Freeze immediately in an ice cream maker until  slushy-firm. Scoop into a storage container and freeze until firm enough to  scoop.
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