Have you every made your own ice cream or sorbet, put it in the freezer to set, and tried the next day to scoop it out, only to find out it is frozen solid and can’t be scooped or even drilled into? Sure you can let it sit out for 10-15 minutes but first of all, who has the patience, and second, usually the outside will have melted enough but the inside will be still frozen solid.
There are three ways to avoid that when making ice cream or sorbet. The first way (and this applies mainly to ice cream) is to displace as much of the water in your base with fat. So, the more cream (as opposed to milk, or god forbid, low fat or skim milk) you have in your base, the less your ice cream will become a block of ice.
The second way is with corn syrup. I know, I know. It’s the devil’s milk, that evil corn syrup. Actually, that’s high fructose corn syrup. That’s the really evil stuff. Plain corn syrup (Karo syrup) isn’t that bad for you. And in ice creams or especially sorbets, we’re talking a couple of tablespoons for a quart of ice cream. Since corn syrup doesn’t freeze, your frozen treat remains scoopable when you add some to the base.
The third way is alcohol. The higher proof, the better. Kirsch, for example, is a great addition to sorbets to keep them soft in the freezer. Again, we’re talking a couple of tablespoons, not a martini glass full of vodka.
David Lebovitz, who is my ice cream guru, posted a great recipe for a chocolate sherbet on his blog (which is one of my favorite food reads). A sherbet is like a sorbet, except it uses some milk instead of all water. In this case, it’s whole milk. Even though he says you can use low fat or skim milk I wouldn’t recommend it (see my point above about water vs. fat in your base).
The milk helps the sherbet stay a little softer in the freezer but it’s not enough. He also recommends two tablespoons of your favorite coffee-flavored liqueur. Though he says it’s optional, for me it’s essential in order for the sherbet to have great texture. The result is a luxurious frozen treat. The cocoa gives it an intense, dark chocolate flavor that’s not diluted by cream or eggs. We love to eat it with a little sea salt sprinkled on top right after we (easily) scoop it out of the container where it happily lives in the freezer.
Chocolate Sherbet – Slightly adapted from DavidLebovitz.com
2 cups (500ml) whole milk (I’ve also used coconut milk successfully, which turns this into a vegan dessert)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened cocoa powder (use good quality cocoa; my favorite is Valrhona)
4 ounces (115g) semisweet or milk chocolate, chopped (I usually prefer the Extra Rich Milk Chocolate by Scharffen Berger)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coffee-flavored or chocolate-flavored liqueur
Put chopped chocolate in a heat-proof medium-sized bowl and set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan, add 1 cup of milk, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Over medium-high heat, bring it to a full boil, whisking frequently to dissolve the cocoa and prevent scorching in the bottom. As soon as it comes to a full boil (careful because it can boil over), reduce the heat and simmer it gently for 30 seconds. This will “bloom” the cocoa powder, intensifying its flavor.
Pour cocoa mixture over the chopped chocolate and stir with the whisk until it has all melted. Add the vanilla, the liqueur, and finally the other 1 cup of milk. Stir to combine.
Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.