Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CSA week eight - dulce de sapote negro sherbet

If you looked on the web at all to see what to do with the black sapote then you came across the recipe for dulce de sapote negro. At the end there's a note offering the option of freezing it for a sorbet which sounded like a good idea but I decided I wanted to make sherbet instead.

What exactly sherbet is is hard to pin down. The current usage of the word is local to the U.S. and quite new so it hasn't really settled down in either spelling or meaning. Sherbet occupies a middle ground between sorbet (frozen sweetened fruit juice and pulp) and ice cream (frozen flavored milk and cream). Sherbet recipes take sorbet and add milk or cream or egg yolks or egg whites.

Actually, adding milk or cream is a bad idea as it thins out the flavors and the solid ingredients hampering the freezing process. What you really want to do is to replace some of the liquid in a sorbet recipe (either water or juice). Adjusting an ice cream recipe to a sherbet is harder; I suppose replacing the cream with more fruit and sugar water might work, but that's hardly the same recipe.

Adding egg yolks makes sense as they add a fatty richness and thicken the fruit mix. Adding egg whites, on the other hand, is puzzling. They don't add any flavor or any richness. They might lighten a recipe but 1) alcohol does a much better job of lightening by working with the mechanical properties of ice crystals and 2) the texture of frozen egg whites is really unpleasant. Even odder, most recipes call for them to whipped before being put into the churn which is a perfectly designed meringue-destroying machine.

I've got a theory about this. There is a substantial minority of ice cream recipes that, instead of using an ice cream churn, call for folding the flavoring ingredients into whipped cream and then freezing. If you wanted to make a low fat version of this, substituting whipped egg whites for the whipped cream is a natural thing to try. Remember that without a churn, you just can't make sorbet. You can make granita but that's not nearly the same thing. If you want a light ice-cream like dish without a churn, there aren't many other options. I suspect that a tradition of making sherbet this way, separate from the dairy version, evolved but people forgot why they were adding the egg whites so the recipes didn't change when churns became readily and cheaply available. Anyway, that's what I figure.

But on to the recipe. Before I started researching egg white sherbets that was my plan. My previous attempt at a sapote frozen dessert turned out pretty dense and gritty. As it turned out, black sapotes and mamey sapotes are very different fruit (or possibly my mamey sapote was under-ripe and I'm lucky people couldn't get it out of the container considering the upset tummies it would have given them) and making sherbet with them had different requirements. Using the dulce recipe as a base I substituted in a cup of milk for a cup of the orange juice. I really wanted to do this instead of just freezing it into a sorbet because I wanted to reduce the orange flavor and let the mild sapote come through.

And, by the way, while the fruit pulp certainly looks like chocolate pudding, I really don't think people would be saying it tastes like chocolate if they were tasting it blindfolded. But I thought that about carob too so what do I know?

I made a few other changes to highlight the sapote. I used the more neutral lemon rind instead of orange rind. And I cut out some of the honey and used sugar instead. That also cut down a little on the water to help with the freezing. The vanilla I added as a grace note; it works well in the background to bring depth to tropical flavors. The rum I added for the usual reason; it reduces the size of the ice crystals and gives a smoother final product. In this case, the flavor of the rum matched beautifully with the other ingredients so I may have added a bit too much. You can see that in the not-very-thick churned result (or maybe not. My lighting has been awful recently). It didn't melt very quickly though so I'm hopeful that it will remain soft and retain the churned in air as it ripens in the freezer. I cut the rum down for the recipe, but you might boost it back up again.

One final note, you may have noticed the combination of citrus juice and dairy products and are wondering about curdling. The milk did, in fact, curdle a little, but that helps the thickening and the churning process breaks up the lumps so it worked out fine.

Dulce de Sapote Negro sherbet

4 small or 2 large black sapotes (very soft to ensure their ripeness)
1/4 cup light honey
1/8 cup raw sugar (adjust sweetness depending on how sweet your fruit ingredients are)
1 Tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 cup orange juice
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon light rum
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Remove stems from sapotes.
2. Pull off green skin with your fingers or the edge of a knife. It should come off easily in large chunks taking a little of the pulp with it. You now have a dark brown, thick pulp. Inside are hidden almond-shaped seeds.
3. Remove the seeds with your fingers.
4. In food processor, combine everything.
5. Pulse until mixed well.
6. Chill. Mixture is bright, shiny black-brown and slightly thickened.
7. Freeze in ice cream maker according to directions
8. Ripen overnight in the freezer.

So how does it taste? At least straight from the churn, you can identify the sapote, the orange, the honey and the rum in each bite but they all work together too. It's a nice chord of flavors but nothing synergistic.

The picture up top is the ripened final result. The flavor didn't change much, perhaps the rum is a little more pronounced. The texture stayed soft but looks a little grittier. It still melts smooth and milkily (not creamily given the lack of cream, obviously) on the tongue though so it's just cosmetic.

[Edit: I've got another black sapote sherbet recipe that's at least as good. Click here.]

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