Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Strawberry Basil Sorbet

Sorbets made from fresh fruit are refreshing and summery warm-weather fare (great for the official unofficial first day of summer- or whenever school is out).
Simple to make, they require just a handful of ingredients.

And as far as tools go, all you need is a freezer, large dish, and a whisk. No ice cream maker necessary.
Well, you'll want to pull out that food processor... but the thing is that it's not so much a one trick pony as the ice cream maker. And we can safely assume it's used more year-round than it's kitchen compatriot.

While the ripest strawberries are the best and most flavorful in any case, you don't have complete control of the ripeness of each and every strawberry in your box. The best way to choose a box of strawberries is by scent and color. An undeniable strawberry scent and a large portion of deep red, shiny berries would be the way to go. Large size isn't necessarily the way to go. In fact, the smaller, more intense berries are best if you can find them. And make sure to shy away from berries with white shoulders.

Sugar, the devil to many a diabetic, is integral in sorbet. Other than giving the strawberries an immediate faux ripening effect, it plays a large part in our dessert's final texture.
A thick syrup is produced soon after the sugar hits the berries and they begin to release their flavorful ruby juices. Water in the mix crystallizes when frozen. Those other parts of the sorbet such as the sugar and bits of fruit (softened by the sugar) are best spread thoroughly and evenly throughout the sorbet. Small ice crystals are formed and further broken by agitation as well even distribution among the fruit and sugar.  Smaller ice crystals yield a smoother, creamier result.

That said, it's true, constant agitation is better, and truly constant agitation with a good addition of air is gained with an ice cream maker.
However, the amount in this recipe is probably too much for many ice cream makers, especially since sorbets and ice creams expand as they freeze.

If it happens to freeze solid, just run the tines of a fork over the frozen sorbet to break it up a bit: you then have granita. Of course, it's an easy option with a lot less stirring if that's what you want instead of a creamy sorbet. Just leave it overnight.

The flavor combination is unexpected, but the two pair so well. Some may be able to guess just exactly what it is after a few tentative and curious bites.

The strawberries are a given, but the basil adds a sweet and anise-like freshness- with a little lemon to brighten things up, all the flavors pop.

Isn't it funny though how some flavors you wouldn't expect together work so beautifully as a team?

Maybe a tiny drizzle of good aged balsamic vinegar would add a nice touch...

Dessert enough for a small crowd.

Strawberry Basil Sorbet
adapted from My Darling Lemon Thyme
serves 8-10

3 lb. (1kg plus 350 g) strawberries
1 1/2 c (320 g) sugar
3 oz (84 g) fresh basil (both leaves and stems are fine here)
1/4 t salt 
5 T (75 ml) fresh lemon juice

Wash, hull, and halve or quarter the strawberries into a large bowl.  
Sprinkle strawberries with the sugar and let sit 1 1/2 hours, tossing and stirring occasionally to encourage syrup to form.
Once the time is up, strain the syrup from the strawberries and pour the syrup into a medium saucepan. Reserve the strawberries and set them aside in a bowl.

Add the basil leaves to the strawberry syrup and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture reaches a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let the basil infuse into the syrup 15 minutes.
Strain the basil from the syrup, squeezing the basil to extract as much flavor as possible.

In the bowl of a food processor, process the strawberries with the basil syrup until smooth. This may need to be done in several batches depending on processor size, but I recommend not attempting to process in less than two rounds.

Stir in the salt and lemon juice until fully incorporated.

Pour into a shallow 3 qt/3 L baking dish and freeze 1-2 hours, or until the sorbet begins to freeze around the edges. Once it's partially frozen, break up the frozen bits with a whisk and whisk them through to incorporate the throughout the sorbet. Place the dish back in the freezer, check every hour or so, re-whisking each time. It will take several hours, so this is a project best begun late in the morning or early in the afternoon it is to be served. The sorbet doneness depends on several factors, including the freezer temperature and depth of the dish used to hold the sorbet.

(If the sorbet is too stiff to scoop, leave it out for a bit at room temperature to soften.)


  1. You are making me drool again... :)

  2. Hi Natalie
    I always wondered how sorbet was made. I think I will try this. I love your post. It brings calm to my day. Haven't seen you in forever, but hope you are doing grand.