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COOL FOOD : Clean and Sorbet

August 20, 1992|FAYE LEVY | Levy is a cookbook author. and

Fruit sorbets answer all our desires for summer desserts--they are cold, refreshing, light, and they capture the essence of the fruit they're made from. What's more, they are virtually fat-free, and they are easy to make at home.

Sorbets can be made from any fruit juice or any fruit soft enough to become a smooth puree. Easiest to use are melons, strawberries and kiwis--these fruits don't need poaching and the purees don't require straining.

Unlike sherbet, which may contain milk, cream, eggs or gelatin, sorbet consists simply of fruit puree or juice mixed with a basic syrup of sugar and water. Egg whites appear in some old sorbet recipes, but today they are rarely added because they dilute the fruit flavor.

The syrup plays two roles--it sweetens the sorbet and contributes to its satiny texture. For a light background flavor, citrus zest or mint leaves can be infused in the syrup. Lemon juice can also be stirred into the mixture if the fruit lacks acidity. The amounts of syrup and lemon juice are added according to the fruit's natural sweetness and to personal taste. If a sorbet will be served as part of a main-course salad or as a palate cleanser, it is made less sweet than for dessert.

Of course, the taste of a sorbet depends heavily on the quality of the fruit. It should be ripe, fragrant and unblemished. Fresh fruit in season is ideal, but high-quality frozen fruit can be substituted.

Although the current popularity of sorbet might make us think it is a recent development, it actually has a long history. Sorbets were the first frozen desserts, appearing centuries before ice cream.

The word sorbet is derived from an Arabic word that means "drink"--at first, sorbet was a beverage of sweetened fruit juice, perhaps cooled with snow.

Today, sorbet is made in an ice cream machine, which gives the mixture its seductive smoothness by stirring the ingredients as they freeze and preventing the formation of ice crystals.

Serve sorbet on its own, put it on a fruit salad or sprinkle it lightly with a matching liqueur--framboise (raspberry brandy), for instance, pairs well with raspberry sorbet. Like ice cream, you can use sorbet in sundaes, frozen pies, ice cream cakes, vacherins and charlottes. And a few spoonfuls of sorbet make a delightful midnight snack!

Ripe mangoes produce a particularly rich-textured sorbet. When tasting this or other sorbets to determine the proper amount of syrup to add, remember that the mixture should taste slightly too sweet, because the sweetness of the sorbet will be less apparent when it is frozen.

MANGO SORBET

3 1/2 pounds mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks

About 2/3 cup Basic Syrup

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon strained fresh lemon or lime juice

Puree mangoes in food processor until very smooth. Pour puree into large bowl. Add 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Basic Syrup and mix thoroughly.

Strain mixture into another bowl, pressing on pulp in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Using rubber spatula, scrape mixture from underside of strainer. Stir in lemon juice. Taste and add more syrup or lemon juice if needed. Mixture should taste slightly too sweet.

Chill medium metal bowl and airtight container in freezer. Transfer sorbet mixture to ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer's instructions until mixture has consistency of soft ice cream. It should not be runny but will not become very firm.

Transfer sorbet as quickly as possible to chilled metal bowl (it melts quickly). Cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve. If keeping sorbet longer than 3 hours, transfer when firm to airtight container, pack it down well and cover tightly before freezing. Sorbet is best served within 6 hours but can be kept 4 days. If sorbet is frozen solid, soften in food processor. Serve in thoroughly chilled dessert dishes or wine glasses. Makes about 6 servings or 3 cups.

Note : If sorbet is stored several days and becomes too hard, soften before serving. Chill food processor bowl and blade in refrigerator. Puree sorbet, about 2 cups at time, in food processor for just few seconds. Softened sorbet can be returned to freezer and will remain soft 1 or 2 hours.

Use mint, orange and lemon variations to give new zip to your favorite fruit sorbets.

Basic Syrup

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup water

Combine sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring gently, until sugar dissolves completely. Stop stirring. Bring to full boil over medium-high heat. Boil 30 seconds. Pour into medium bowl and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Makes 1 3/4 cups syrup.

Variations:

Mint Syrup

Chop 1 cup fresh mint leaves. After bringing syrup to boil, add mint and return to boil. Cover and let stand off heat 15 minutes. Uncover and cool completely. Strain into bowl, pressing. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Lemon or Orange Syrup

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