Glossary

Lemon sorbet balls in two glasses with scoop

Sorbet

Pronounce it: saw-bay

Sorbet is a non-dairy, frozen dessert based on puréed fruit or on fruit juice mixed with water and sugar. It should be very finely grained and have no large crystals of ice. In other countries, including Canada, a small amount of milk or milk products might be included but this should not be the case in the UK.

Commonly chosen to end a meal as something lighter than ice cream, the high sugar content (a combination of natural fruit sugars and added white sugar) needed to guarantee a good frozen texture means that, although fat-free, sorbets are high in calories. In general, a sorbet will have about 50% the calories of a comparative ice cream, but it is still very high compared to natural fruits and juices; sorbets from very sharp juices, such as lemon or lime, are likely to have a greater proportion of added sugar.

Liqueurs and spirits can be included and will always give a softer texture as these do not freeze at domestic appliance temperatures. More calories, too.

Availability

Sorbet is easily made at home. Although available commercially, sorbet is less easily bought than ice cream products.

Choose the best

Read the label if buying. Cheaper versions might include ‘natural flavours’ which often means a low fruit content has been balanced by flavouring the sugar syrup. Some might also include a stabilising agent, which gives better texture to a basic mix that is less than generous with fruit and thus might otherwise be icy.

Store it

Keep it frozen. Sorbet melts faster than ice cream and so needs to be insulated on your way home.

Cook it

If you are making it at home, folding beaten egg white into the mixture lightens the texture and also slows down melting.

Sorbet is best eaten after allowing it to soften somewhat, which is usually done by putting the container into the refrigerator from the freezer for half-an-hour or so; being then less cold than absolutely frozen also means the sorbet will taste slightly sweeter.

Serving just sorbet can mean a rather boring single dimension experience and thus, two or three are often served together to keep the palate interested. A dish of both sorbet and ice cream also means more satisfying eating. Generally, sorbets are enjoyed more when served with fruit and with wafers or other sweet biscuits, both of which give a contrast of texture as well as of flavour.

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