A Cut Above: Sorbets and Granitas

Every month, discover new ideas to enjoy the simple but elegant pleasures of a delicious, easy-to-prepare meal.
A Cut Above: Sorbets and GranitasA cut Above

Busy or not, here we come. Every month “A Cut Above” serves up new recipes, cooking tips and ideas for dishes that are elegant in taste and presentation, yet simple enough to prepare and enjoy in a snap.

Sorbet has a long history. It probably originated in the Middle East as a variant of what we now call "sherbet." French chefs in the 18th century dropped the traditional dairy from the mix and began to emphasize the luscious tastes of ripe fruit, thus creating the warm-weather refresher we love.

Since modern sorbets don't have cream or eggs, they need special care to achieve their creamy texture. Make sure your fruit mixture is well chilled — give it at least 8 hours in the refrigerator — before putting it into the ice cream machine.

For an even creamier taste, put the dasher (that's the ice cream maker's plastic plunger that mixes the sorbet), along with the fruit mixture into the freezer for 5 minutes just before starting. The colder the parts and ingredients are, the quicker the sorbet will freeze, meaning less air churned into the dessert — and the creamiest result.

Granitas, on the other hand, are supposed to be icy. These Italian favorites are usually made by scraping ice crystals up off baking trays. Our version is simpler: Ice cubes are whirred in a food processor until crushed but grainy. It's a refresher that's ready in minutes; it can be made ahead and be ready when you are. In Italy, sweetened espresso is a favorite flavor; served with a tiny dollop of whipped cream, it's a fusion of after-dinner coffee and dessert.

Both these treats pack a cold punch in the heat of summer. Perfect for cooling off on a sunny afternoon or for ending a delicious meal in style.

One caveat: a self-defrosting freezer is the bane of sorbet. Because these freezers continually vary their temperature, they can produce those pesky ice crystals often found in cartons of store-bought ice cream. So, for the very best results, plan on serving your sorbet the moment it's out of the machine. (If you do store your sorbet in the freezer, first place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sorbet before putting on the container's airtight lid — this will help prevent those ice crystals from forming.)

About the Peach and Ginger Sorbet
Remember the rule when buying peaches: if they don't smell like anything, they probably won't taste like anything. To ripen peaches, seal them in a paper bag at room temperature for 24 hours.

Peach and Ginger Sorbet

Makes 8 half-cup servings
PointsPlus™ value per serving: 3


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh peaches, pitted and quartered
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Combine the water, sugar, corn syrup, and ground ginger in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; boil 1 minute without stirring. Set aside 5 minutes to cool.
  2. Pour the sugar mixture into a large blender or food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the peaches, lemon juice, and salt. Blend or process until puréed. Pour into a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

About the Watermelon Granita
"Granita" is Italian for "small grains," a reference to the ice crystals that form crunchy, irresistible little jewels in this fresh summer cooler.

Watermelon Granita

Makes 8 half-cup servings
PointsPlus™ value per serving: 3


Ingredients

  • 6 cups small peeled seedless watermelon chunks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Working in batches if necessary, place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade; process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl.
  2. Pour into ice-cube trays; freeze until hard, at least 8 hours or overnight. (The recipe can be made up to this point and kept in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
  3. Release cubes into a food processor fitted with the chopping blade; pulse until somewhat slushy but still quite grainy.
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