Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Frozen Treats

Cantaloupe-Spearmint SherbetThis week is ice cream week. Well, ironically, I haven't made any ice cream, but I have made a sherbet and now frozen yogurt.

The last cantaloupe from my garden was ripening up, and one day I walked outside to find it lying there, its rind bright orange, starting to split on its own it was so ripe. I plucked it off the vine and debated uses for it. I was just about ready to look up recipes for candying fruit, candy it in chunks and dip it in chocolate, when I stumbled across Heidi's Tip-Top Melon Sherbet Recipe, and knew what I needed to do. I went out and picked up a $30 Hamilton Beach ice cream maker and made the sherbet as described on her site, only I warmed the milk and honey together first so I could add some spearmint leaves from the garden. I poured the result, with the leaves, into a jar and set it in the fridge overnight. As it froze in the machine, I sprinkled in flecks of minced mint leaves to give it a little extra color. It came out very well, and is delicious, although it hardened up very solid in the freezer, so I threw it in the blender with a little whipping cream to soften it back up and smooth it out a bit. Now the color is a nice pale peach-orange flecked with green, and the taste is divine.

Matcha Frozen YogurtEager to keep exploring, I then made the Frozen Yogurt Recipe off Heidi's site, from David Lebovitz's ice cream book. I used store-bought strained Greek yogurt to make things a bit quicker for me, but I still wanted a flavor in there. I was thinking of doing mint with chocolate chips, but figuring the mint was already in the cantaloupe sherbet, I changed my mind and decided to pursue a tea flavor.

As much as I love jasmine, it didn't seem like it would pair well with yogurt, the floral height of the jasmine with the funky tang of the yogurt culture, so I moved on to Kukicha, a green tea with small twigs, with a nutty, earthy taste but still the warm, distinct flavor of green tea. I thought it might give the concoction some barnyard flavors, the twigs with the funk of the yogurt and the grassy notes from the tea, but it seemed right in my head.

Now, how to get the tea in there? There's no liquid in that recipe beyond the yogurt, and I wasn't making the yogurt myself. If I were, Lulu observed, I could steep the tea in the milk first and then make the yogurt with that, a technique that apparently worked well for her making this recipe with lemongrass.

Instead, she suggested I look into Shuna's post on candying herbs, which I did, and it sounded straightforward enough: Heat simple syrup to 236F, dump in solid matter to shock it into recrystallizing, quickly pour onto a sheet to cool and crystallize, then dump the resulting chunks of candied herb sugar into a blender and plug your ears.

I did it the first time to the letter of the recipe and the sugar just... didn't recrystallize. Exactly 236F, added the tea, and watched as it turned into... crystal-clear (and sadly crystal-free) syrup with twigs and tea in it.

The irony is that confectioners work really hard to prevent recrystallization. It's hard, most of the time, and it shows: Most inexpensive fudge is gritty from the sugar recrystallizing, for example. Corn syrup is used in candies explicitly because it interferes with the granular sugar's attempts to recrystallize. Dairy does the same.

Usually keeping the solution fully liquid is a balancing act. And here I was, trying to throw myself off sideways as hard as I could, to no avail. I was confused.

The next batch I tried harder. I heated it up to 245, figuring if it still didn't recrystallize, maybe it would at least harden enough I could grind up the result (in my head, I knew this was untrue; 245 is barely firm-ball stage, the stage where the cooled result has the consistency of caramel.) I moistened the Kukicha I was going to dump in, just a little, and then put it in the freezer to get it as cold as possible, hoping the temperature difference would help catalyze the crystallization.

Still nothing. A pan of glassy, perfectly smooth syrup with some twigs and tea leaves in it. I was defeated. I'm not sure what the problem was. Maybe Texas is just too humid? Maybe I should have taken it off the heat when adding the herbs and let it sit to allow the crystals to grow? I don't really know what you do to cultivate crystals, because I've always been working hard to prevent them. Usually the cultivation isn't something you need to really work at.

I gave up on the Kukicha, but I had a crafty backup plan: matcha. I mixed a good few teaspoons of the green tea powder into the yogurt mix, tasting as I went (too little matcha and you can't taste it at all; too much and it's horribly bitter.) I got the mixture just right, froze it, scraped it into a tupperware container, and threw it in the freezer. OK, maybe I had a few spoonfuls in the process (it came out really well -- the flavors are a great combination!)



shuna fish lydon said...

{from eggbeater:}

Hello Brian,

I have just now re-read the instructions on my post and I realize that I do not say how much solids to how much syrup. By weight measurement. Also I do not say this but it is important: keep the heat on. It's not merely that dropping the solids in will make it crystallize.

You say that you tried this with tea. My only issue with this is are you sure you want to cook tea? Sometimes it will lose its volatiles/perfumes if you cook it...

I am going to leave this comment/answer on your blog too. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of your issues.

Mostly I'm just excited that you've found this long ago post and attempted the method at all!!

PS: I have placed you blog in a special place on eggbeater. Thanks for coming by so I could check it out.

August 2, 2007 1:27 AM  
Darius Kazemi said...

I absolutely love cantaloupe sherbet. Now you've got me salivating...

August 2, 2007 8:25 AM  

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