Making Ice Cream and Sorbets
Ice cream and sorbets are delightful treats that can be enjoyed year-round. They are also a wonderful way to showcase seasonal fruits and flavors. In this unit, we will explore the process of making these frozen desserts at home.
The Difference Between Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet, and Sherbet
Ice cream, gelato, sorbet, and sherbet are all frozen desserts, but they have distinct differences:
- Ice Cream: This is a rich, creamy dessert made with a custard base that includes milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks. It is churned at a high speed to incorporate air, resulting in a light and creamy texture.
- Gelato: Similar to ice cream, gelato is made with milk, sugar, and sometimes egg yolks. However, it contains less cream and is churned at a slower speed, resulting in a denser and more intensely flavored dessert.
- Sorbet: This is a dairy-free frozen dessert made with fruit puree, sugar, and water. It is churned like ice cream to create a smooth, light texture.
- Sherbet: This is a hybrid between ice cream and sorbet. It is made with fruit, sugar, water, and a small amount of dairy to give it a creamier texture than sorbet.
The Role of Each Ingredient in Ice Cream
Each ingredient in ice cream plays a crucial role:
- Milk and Cream: These provide the creamy base of the ice cream. The fat in the dairy contributes to the rich flavor and smooth texture.
- Sugar: This sweetens the ice cream and also helps to lower the freezing point, which prevents the ice cream from becoming too hard in the freezer.
- Egg Yolks: These are used to make the custard base. They help to emulsify the mixture and also contribute to the rich flavor and creamy texture.
How to Make a Custard Base for Ice Cream
Making a custard base for ice cream involves gently cooking a mixture of milk, cream, sugar, and egg yolks until it thickens:
- Heat the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a saucepan until it just begins to simmer.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper them.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
- Strain the custard into a clean bowl and chill it thoroughly before churning.
Churning and Freezing Ice Cream
Churning incorporates air into the ice cream mixture and breaks up ice crystals, resulting in a smooth and creamy texture. This can be done using an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. After churning, the ice cream will have a soft-serve consistency. It should be transferred to a lidded container and frozen for at least 4 hours, or until firm, before serving.
How to Make a Fruit Sorbet
Making sorbet involves churning a simple mixture of fruit puree, sugar, and water:
- Puree fresh or frozen fruit in a blender or food processor.
- Strain the puree to remove any seeds or pulp.
- Dissolve sugar in water to create a simple syrup.
- Mix the fruit puree and simple syrup together.
- Chill the mixture thoroughly before churning in an ice cream maker.
Tips for Storing and Serving Ice Cream and Sorbet
- Store ice cream and sorbet in airtight containers in the coldest part of your freezer.
- To prevent ice crystals from forming, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream or sorbet before putting the lid on the container.
- Allow ice cream to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before scooping for easier serving.
With these techniques, you can create a wide variety of ice creams and sorbets at home, experimenting with different flavors and mix-ins. Enjoy the process and the delicious results!