Friday, April 25, 2014

Roasted Strawberry Sherbet

As luck would have it, the early season strawberries I bought this week were not up to standard.  They weren't sweet and didn't have enough of that fresh bright flavor that makes strawberries so desirable.  But instead of tossing them in the garbage, I knew I could vastly improve their flavor by simply roasting them.

Roasting fruit always intensifies the flavor and produces a lot of delicious juices.  Add a vanilla bean to the mix and you get a really wonderful aroma and taste, clearly a grand embellishment upon what I started with.

The rest of the mixture for this experiment turned out to be a case of wanting to clear out remainders in my refrigerator.  Once I pureed the strawberries in my food processor, I added heavy cream, buttermilk and sour cream for an element of tanginess.  After a quick spin in my ice cream maker, I wound up with a fantastic and irresistible sherbet brimming with a very rich and pronounced strawberry flavor.

That is not to say you can't make this wonderful sherbet with really great strawberries.  But I was certainly surprised at how much I loved the results when using even mediocre fruit.

Here's to a great spring full of the amazing beauty of fresh berries!

Bench notes:
- Sherbet is a fruit puree to which dairy has been added.  That is what differentiates it from sorbet, which is basically fruit puree and simple syrup.
- You can also recycle a half-piece of dried vanilla bean from your vanilla sugar jar to use for the strawberries.  I do this when vanilla isn't the star ingredient.  So save your used vanilla pods: wash and dry them out and store them in a jar of sugar.   They still impart a lot of flavor.
- The roasted strawberries will taste very sweet.  Not to worry, you will be adding some sour ingredients to the mix.
- Balance the sweetness and brighten the acidity by adding lemon juice, to taste.
- Pack the finished sherbet in an airtight container, pressing down to eliminate any air pockets where ice crystals can form.  I also press a piece of plastic onto the surface to discourage ice from forming on the surface.
- Other sherbets to enjoy: Lemon Sherbet, Mocha Sherbet and Orange Spice Sherbet.

Roasted Strawberry Sherbet
makes about 1 quart

1 1/2 lbs fresh strawberries
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 cup (6 oz) heavy cream
3/4 cup (6 oz) sour cream
1/2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk
1 tablespoon lemon juice, to taste
pinch salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Hull the strawberries and slice them in half or into quarters if they're large.  Toss them with the sugar.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the strawberries.  Add the pod and toss to combine.  Pour into an 8" square baking dish.

Roast the strawberries for 30 - 35 minutes, giving them an occasional stir to coat them evenly with syrup.  Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.

Remove the vanilla pod and pour the strawberries along with their juices into the bowl of a food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Add the heavy cream, sour cream and buttermilk and process to combine.  Add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, to taste.  Pour into an airtight container and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Freeze according to your ice cream machine's directions.  Pour into an airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface, cover and place in your freezer to firm up.

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