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Peach Sorbet on a Summer’s Day

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Peach SorbetIn the last few weeks, I’ve had a desire to make a new sorbet recipe. Every visit to the store I would check out the produce section, looking for some fruit that I hadn’t made a sorbet with before. At some point I want to try out a kiwi or melon sorbet, but I have been in the mood for something a little less subtle lately. I’ve also been tempted to cruise the local fruit stand, where I can always find fruits and berries never seen at the supermarket. As fate would have it, a coworker at my new job would intervene with several bags of peaches from her yard. Peaches in hand, I went in looking for a recipe for peach sorbet.

In Search of the Perfect Recipe
I was surprised to discover that there weren’t any peach sorbet recipes in my library of cookbooks, so I went online for some ideas. It turns out that the internet wasn’t too great a resource either, though I did find a good recipe at Pinch My Salt. Most of the other recipes I found contained additional water and also called for brandy, amaretto or marsala liqueurs. Having made peach ice cream a decade ago with almond extract (should have used amaretto!), I can attest to the successful pairing of peaches with these kinds of flavors, but I wanted a recipe for peach sorbet that was light and fresh. With a few ideas, I set out to create my own recipe.

The Rational Recipe
Many peach sorbets called for either orange or lemon juice, so I opted for both. I hoped that the orange juice would broaden the delicate peach flavor a little while the lemon juice would add to the freshness factor. I originally planned to add a cup of water to the sorbet, as seen in the ingredients photo below, but later decided against it. I can understand adding water for lemon sorbet, but peaches have such a delicate flavor it seemed silly to dilute them. This just left me with a liqueur to choose. I’ve made sorbets with and without liqueur, and I swear by the extra complexity and, more importantly, the softer texture that alcohol lends to a sorbet. I was reluctant to just go with just limoncello since I was afraid it the lemon flavor would outshine the peach. In the end I decided to go with a mix of Grand Marnier and limoncello.

The Results are in…
To my astonishment, I actually accomplished what I set out to do! This sorbet is bright and refreshing—perfect for a hot summer’s day. Like a lot of sorbets, this peach sorbet recipe is no-cook, so you can whip it up in no time and be eating it for dessert. The peaches I used are pretty small, so if you use larger peaches you can reduce the number to about nine or ten. The goal is to get about 4 cups of loosely packed, sliced peaches—and I’m not talking about canned!

Ingredients for making Peach Sorbet.

Pour the juice from one orange and one lemon into blender.

Peel and pit around 16 small peaches and add to the juice the in blender.

Pour 1 1/3 cups of sugar into blender.

Add 2 tablespoons of limoncello.

Add 3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier.

Purée peach mixture until smooth, about 1 minute.

After chilling mixture to less than 45° F, freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Transfer frozen sorbet to dedicated container to ripen in freezer.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Peach Sorbet recipe page.

Making Memories with a Hand Cranked Ice Cream Maker

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Hand Cranked Ice Cream Maker.There is something about a hand cranked ice cream maker that conjures up fond memories. For me, recollections of family reunions during hot Midwest summers or cooking for 25 guests in 100 degree weather in the Grand Canyon while leading camping trips for Backroads come to mind. Even though I have a very nice ice cream maker with built in refrigeration, I bought a vintage White Mountain ice cream maker a couple years ago off eBay with the intent on using it during our annual camping trip to Yosemite. Sure, I could freeze the ice cream ahead of time and pack it with dry ice or even buy ice cream at the village store, but where is the fun in that?

Making ice cream with rock salt and ice isn’t complicated, but when I started to write out tips and advice for using one, I realized there are a lot of details worth knowing that will ensure better results. Some of the highlights of the hand cranked ice cream technique page are outlined below.

Save time and make better ice cream by pre-chilling ice cream and canister.
Vanilla ice cream base chills in an ice bath.Like any ice cream you are going to make, pre-chill the base until it is less than 45° F before attempting to churn. This will ensure faster freezing time, resulting in smaller ice crystals and a less grainy texture. While the ice cream base is chilling, either in an ice bath or in the refrigerator, you can prepare the ice cream maker with ice and rock salt. It takes several minutes for the salt to lower the freezing/melting point of the ice, and this also gives the canister a chance to pre-chill. Place the empty canister in the bucket and begin layering ice and rock salt together, adding a fine layer of salt every 2 inches of ice. Leave about 1 inch of space between the upper layer of ice and the top of the canister. Melting ice can draw dissolved salt into the canister top via capillary action, upsetting the flavor of your ice cream.

Churn ice cream, adding ice and salt as necessary.
With everything chilled, install the dasher in the canister and pour in your ice cream. Affix the canister lid, secure the crank and gearbox to the bucket and start cranking at 1 – 2 revolutions per second. Monitor the ice level and add more ice and salt as needed, being careful to keep the ice below the height of the lid. Properly pre-chilled, you should only need to churn for 15 – 30 minutes, depending on the ambient temperature and volume of ice cream being made.

Stop churning, pile on the ice and let sit 15 minutes to firm up.
Once you or your volunteers are exhausted, stop churning and pile more ice in the bucket to completely cover the canister and lid. Sprinkle a little more salt if desired. Let the ice cream maker sit like this for another 15 minutes to let the ice cream harden.

Ready to serve.
Ready to serve after ripening in bucket.Remove the ice and salt until the level of salt is 1 inch below the top of the canister. If you are going to serve the ice cream immediately, leave the canister in the bucket with the ice to help keep the ice cream frozen. Remove the dasher and scrape off any ice cream clinging to it into the canister. Hand the dasher to the volunteer cranker with the most endurance. If you are planning to serve the ice cream later and have access to a freezer, remove the canister and let stand for one minute. This rest should allow the dasher to extract most of the contents of the canister in a single pull (I can’t promise this for a fully loaded 6 quart model). Transfer the ice cream to a dedicated, odor-free container and place in freezer.

Time to clean up.
After washing the canister, lid and dasher in mild soap, be sure to rinse off the inside and outside of the bucket with a hose to remove any salt and prolong the life of your ice cream maker. If you made the ice cream while seated on a lawn give the spot you set the bucket a good soaking as the heavy concentration of salt will burn vegetation.

Regardless of the size of your ice cream maker, volume of ice cream batch, or how hot the weather is, following these steps will ensure you get the best results possible for the conditions you are in. Making ice cream with a hand cranked mixer is a lot of fun, especially when you involve family and friends on a nice day. Like a lot of things in life, it’s often the journey rather than the destination that is most memorable.

No electricity required, just salt and ice.

Pour chilled ice cream base into chilled canister.

Carefully alternate layers of salt and ice until ice is just below the canister top.

Affix crank and start cranking at 1 – 2 revolutions per second.

Once ice cream has thickened, pile on additional ice and let stand 15 minutes to ripen.

If serving later, let canister stand one minute before removing dasher and transferring ice cream to dedicated container.

Detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Hand Cranked Ice Cream technique page.

Vanilla Ice Cream that does not Compromise Flavor

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

Vanilla Ice Cream.The first time I made ice cream with a real vanilla bean (pod) was in 1994. The recipe’s picture of the “Classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream”, with little specks of vanilla in the off-white ice cream looked delicious. I carefully followed the recipe and what I ended up with was a very yellow ice cream with a strong custard flavor. It still tasted great, and the pure vanilla flavor was delightful, but I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that the vanilla wasn’t the star of the show as I felt the recipe title implied. My wife and I had made vanilla ice cream (from extract) with eggs on many Backroads camping trips with no custard flavors, so what was different? The ice cream we made while camping on the North rim of the Grand Canyon with raw eggs was more Philadelphia style while the classic vanilla bean ice cream I just made was French style.

What’s all the fuss about style?
Philadelphia style ice cream typically refers to ice cream that contains no eggs. With no eggs, there is also less justification to cook the ingredients first, so some also consider the lack of cooking to be one of the primary traits of Philadelphia style ice creams. Nevertheless, some recipes with an unheated ice cream base and raw eggs are also sometimes referred to as Philadelphia style. Salmonella infection from raw eggs, although increasingly rare, should be taken into consideration when making ice cream with raw eggs.

French style ice cream typically refers to an ice cream that contains eggs and is heated with cream and/or milk to produce a custard base. This yields an extremely smooth, creamy textured ice cream with a custard flavor. The egg yolks also impart color, so the resulting cream is typically anything but white. It turns out that what I had actually made was a French Vanilla ice cream. Delicious, but not what I was looking for.

A compromise that yields the best from both styles.
What I really wanted was a recipe that had the creaminess associated with a custard base, but less eggy overtones. I experimented a little last year and came up with this recipe. With only 2 egg yolks, this recipe takes the compromise between Philadelphia style vanilla and French vanilla to the extraordinary.

Ingredients for Vanilla Ice Cream.

Split vanilla bean pod lengthwise with a knife and then scrape out the seeds.

Add milk, cream, vanilla seeds and pod to saucepan and bring to a low simmer over medium heat.

Add 1/4 cup of the sugar to egg yolks and beat until light and fluffy.

With mixer on low speed, slowly add hot milk and cream mixture to beaten sugar and egg yolks. Mix in remaining sugar.

Return mixture to heat, add vanilla bean and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture reaches 170° F.

Pour ice cream base through strainer or chinois to remove any egg bits and vanilla pod fibers.

Chill mixture in ice bath until colder than 45° F.

Pour chilled ice cream base into chilled canister.

Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

After letting sit for 1 minute, ice cream should lift out easily with dasher.

Transfer ice cream to dedicated container to ripen in freezer for several hours.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery—yes, this is a subset—can be found on the Vanilla Ice Cream recipe page.