Food & Drink

Cool off with sorbet or granita

With summer heat upon us, a cool treat can provide relief. But if ice cream seems a little rich, lighter frozen desserts such as sorbet and granita are refreshing alternatives.

Unlike ice cream, sorbet contains no milk. The frozen dessert is a simple mixture of fruit or fruit juice, sugar and water and can come in almost any flavor.

“Sorbet can be made from virtually anything,” says Patrick Davidson, president and co-founder of PJ Madison's Ice Cream Co. in San Antonio. “It can come in flavors as simple as raspberry, strawberry and lemon and as complex as coconut jalapeno, which I made for a catering company once. It can be made from almost any type of fruit or anything you can steep into a tea.”

To make homemade sorbet, an ice cream maker is a must.

“An ice cream maker gives a constant introduction of air to the mix,” says Davidson. “If you're not adding air, you will end up with an ice cube.”

For a simple fruit sorbet, combine sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Puree the fruit of choice in a blender or food processor. Stir the puree into the cooled sugar syrup and refrigerate until chilled. Then place the mix into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

A touch of alcohol transforms the creamy desserts into frozen cocktails, everything from a wine sorbet to beer.

Davidson advises using only a small amount of alcohol while making sorbet to make sure the right freezing affect is achieved.

“Alcohol affects the melting temperature,” he says. “If you use too much it will not completely freeze, and you will be cranking the ice cream machine handle forever.”

If your craving is for a cool crunch, granita is an option. Like sorbet, granita comes in many flavors, including almond, cherry, coffee and lemon.

To prepare a simple lemon granita, combine water, sugar and lemon juice. Then pour into a baking dish and freeze until the mixture becomes slushy. Stir to break up ice crystals and continue freezing and stirring every 15-20 minutes until you have a slush-like consistency.