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In the modern world of frozen treats, sherbet has sort of fallen off of our collective radar. That's a shame, because sherbet's pretty wonderful stuff. It's also the perfect spring dessert, halfway between the rich creaminess of winter, cake-topping ice creams and lush summer sorbets.
Sherbet is also an easy, forgiving compromise for ice cream makers who've had trouble with sorbet. Since sorbets are usually completely fat-free, the only way to keep their texture smooth is with lots of sugar and a shot or two of alcohol. If you don't use enough sugar your sorbet will be an icy mess; too much and you have a candy-sweet slush. With sherbet, on the other hand, you have some protection from the fat and protein in milk. You still need plenty of sugar to get the smooth, glossy texture found in professional scoop shops, but with all things being equal, a sherbet will definitely taste creamier than a sorbet.
Let's step back a sec: what is sherbet? Think of it as a sorbet with milk added from anything from 25% to 50% of the overall volume. Sherbets don't use eggs, don't need cream, and don't need to be cooked.
The most classic sherbet flavor is orange, and it's as good a place to start as any. This version amps up the orange flavor with a heavy amount of orange zest for a punchy, ever so slightly bitter kick that mellows out over time. I swapped buttermilk in for plain milk, which added a nice lactic tang without an overkill of tartness.
The recipe may look like it calls for a lot of sugar, but it's worth it. This sherbet is lush, velvety and, if I say so myself, better than any I've had from a scoop shop. I use some corn syrup to add a glossy sheen to it all, a lesson carried over from my lemon sorbet investigations.
Are there any sherbet fans out there? What flavors are you looking to make?