Tuesday, January 16, 2018

cranberry and mulled spice sorbet

I know we are past Thanksgiving and I promise this is not a recipe strictly for Thanksgiving, but please bear with me while I ramble down the trail:

In numerous posts, I express my love for the many facets of Thanksgiving. In my praise, one area I have neglected is the Thanksgiving dessert buffet. From my perspective, the end to the Thanksgiving meal, especially if you're with a large family, is often an array of desserts: there is ubiquitous pumpkin pie, some type of apple dessert, and often also something involving pear. At my sister-in-laws Thanksgiving, there are generally five to six types of desserts, one of which is a pistachio pudding folded with whipped cream and studded with mini marshmallows and maraschino cherries. I dearly love it.

Just like a savory buffet, a good dessert buffet includes a balance of flavors and textures. While I would never be one to decline three types of pie in a sitting, I think there is something about having different formats represented. Four years ago, I hosted Thanksgiving and a number of my guests, for health reasons, were strictly off gluten and dairy. I wanted to provide a dessert option that met their dietary requirements, felt rich and indulgent, and balanced out the Thanksgiving dessert buffet. Enter: cranberry sorbet.

First off, it is gorgeous. Look at that color! It is the sort of vibrancy I miss in the winter months, when the available produce appears in the same shade range of pale to squash. Which is why I am sharing this recipe with you now. I suspect you, like me, have an errant bag of fresh or frozen cranberries kicking around in your fridge. Wouldn't you love to have a little tub of this zingy sweet in your freezer, just waiting to dip into? To bump up the seasonal flavor, I also include some classic "mulling" spices. We enjoyed a few rounds of mulled wine this winter and I thought the flavors would be a good match here, warming up the tartness of the berries. Finally, to cut the mouth-drying sour of the cranberries, the sorbet base includes mixed berries. I use a bag of "assorted berries" in the grocery store freezer case and it often includes raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, but really I think you could try this with cranberries plus one berry, say raspberries, if that's your preference.

I like to think of this as a winter berry sorbet and it would be a shame to limit the enjoyment of it to a singular holiday. To further the point, it would be stunning to pair a scoop of this with a scoop of mandarin orange sorbet. As I believe with all ice creams and sorbets, they are a perfect make-ahead dessert to have on hand for houseguests or a weeknight dinner party or Winter Olympics viewing party(!). I have not done the research but am curious as to how a scoop of this would do if floated in a little sparkling wine. If anyone tries it out, please let me know.

cranberry and mulled spiced sorbet

for the simple syrup:
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar

for the berry and spice base:
1 pound frozen mixed berries- blackberries, blueberries, raspberries
6 oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1 mandarin orange or clementine, cut in half
1/2 fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, roughly broken
1 star anise
3 cloves
1 cup of water

1) Make the simple syrup: in a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan, mix together the water and granulated sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2) Make the berry and spice base: in a medium sized heavy bottomed saucepan, mix all the ingredients together. Heat to a simmer and then lower heat and cook for about 45 minutes. What you're looking for is for all the berries to have burst and broken down and the clementine too. Remove mixture from the heat and let cool slightly. Then pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to hold back all the pulp and whole spices, reserving the gorgeous spiced berry juice.

3) To the spiced berry juice, mix in about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the simple syrup. How much sugar to add really depends on the sweetness of the berries and your own palette. Although, I will say that flavors dull once they are frozen and so what may be perfect at room temperature will likely not be as balanced once it whirls in the ice cream maker. I tend to lean towards the sweet side but just a smidge over. Take this mixture and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Once it is throughly chilled, add to the ice cream maker and follow manufacturers instructions. Once the sorbet is mixed, I like to freeze overnight so that it is a fully firm texture.

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