This dessert from Sunday Suppers at Lucques intrigued me for a couple reasons.
First of all, I’ve traditionally been a sorbet purist — texturally. I’ve found it unappealing to match sorbet with accompaniments because of its essentially icy nature. Why would you want to eat, say, cake and ice? I’ve recently come around to appreciate that the creaminess of certain sorbets allow for some additional maneuvering, such as cookies on the side and even some cakes, so why not a sorbet sandwich? It would probably be even more refreshing than an ice cream sandwich because you wouldn’t feel so awfully full of cream and egg yolks at the end. I think sorbet bases made from pureed fruit would work best for sandwiches because they’re more likely to have that creamier, fuller body — such as apple, mango, plum, and many others; I’d probably pass on a lemon sorbet sandwich, though.
The cookbook also has a recipe for a plum tarte tatin, so the thought of pairing plums with a caramel-y flavor became deeply rooted in my mind as I read the cookbook while I was in France. Also, I regularly had passion fruit and fig caramels, and plum seemed like a great addition to the pantheon of fruity caramels. Since I especially wanted to eat the molasses cookies straightaway, I went for the sandwich recipe.
And it’s fantastic. The sweet and sour plum sorbet is enveloped by the sweet and spicy cookies in a startlingly delicious way, even bringing out that certain spiciness of the plums. They live to be inhaled on a hot summer day.
As for the recipe…
Sorbet recipes are extremely boring for people without ice cream machines… and pretty boring for those with an ice cream machine (I love mine) and a refractometer (Thank you, Mom!). That’s because the key to a successful sorbet isn’t following the recipe to the letter, it’s about heeding the refractometer. It may be useful to see that a certain sorbet is made of a certain combination of pureed fruit/juice, sugar/simple syrup/honey/corn syrup, lemon juice, flavorings, and/or water, but what you really want to pay attention to are the consistency and the sweetness. It should be a saucy consistency or a little thinner, and the sorbet base should read between 26-28 Brix on the refractometer. The refractometer measures how much the light that passes through the sample of solution placed on it is refracted — the more sugar in the water, the greater the refraction will be, and the higher degrees Brix it’ll be. Between 26-28, the sorbet base will have the correct percentage of sucrose so that the sorbet will freeze without being icy or gummy/slushy. If it’s too icy, it doesn’t have enough sugar; if it’s too gummy/slushy, it has too much sugar and just can’t freeze. Since each piece of fruit is different, it’s best to take your own readings when making sorbet because there’s little guarantee that your fruit is the same as that of the recipe writer. It’s also pretty rewarding to truly make your own sorbet based on your readings. If there’s an auxiliary flavoring or honey involved, I think a good rule of thumb is to add enough so that you can just taste it in the base, and fill in the rest with the form of sugar you’re using… tasting for flavor, but leaving the sweetness to the refractometer.
So, my plum sorbet contained 1 pound of Santa Rosa plums (from the St. Helena Farmer’s Market), 4 tsp honey, a rounded 1/3 cup of sugar, and juice from half a lemon. This was slightly different from the recipe from the book, but was 28 on my refractometer. The unpeeled plums were cut into eighths, macerated, pureed, chilled, spun, and frozen.
I still want to play around with the cookie recipe. Although they have an amazing spicy molasses flavor and a wafer-y yet sturdy lightnessy, they end up a bit more thin and crispy than I’d like, so I want to work on making them a just little chewier and cakier. As is, I had to bake them in half the time specified for a cookie that had a chewy center — just.
EDIT: I’ve changed my mind about the cookies — they’re just perfect. They freeze really well as sandwiches, and are just irresistible. They even moistened a little by the second day, which is good for sandwiches out of hand and snacking. Even though I know I can make more whenever I want, I feel the need to hoard them. They called for melted down shortening, but I used about 80% clarified butter and 20% vegetable oil instead… because I’ll make a sorbet sandwich, but I still can’t allow myself to buy shortening.
So, I should especially look into how the fat should be made up. And I sprinkled turbinado sugar on top of them, just because I could… and for texture.
Anyway, this sandwich is a wonderful summertime snack, and it has the added benefit of making brown food and fuchsia food look good.