Culinary Arts

A Guide to Making Homemade Sorbet

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 25, 2019 • 3 min read

Frozen desserts are popular treats around the world and come in many different forms: ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, soft serve, and more. One frozen dessert known for being much healthier than many other desserts is sorbet.

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What Is Sorbet?

Sorbet is a frozen dessert made up of fruit puree and a sweetener like simple syrup or corn syrup. Sorbet has a light taste and smooth, icy texture. Sorbet gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan (when not sweetened with honey), and it has a lower fat content than many other frozen desserts, because it doesn’t include cream.

Popular flavors include strawberry sorbet, watermelon sorbet, raspberry sorbet, lemon sorbet, peach sorbet, mango sorbet, pineapple sorbet, limoncello sorbet, orange sorbet, lime sorbet, cantaloupe sorbet, blackberry sorbet, and grapefruit sorbet.

The History of Sorbet

Fruit-and-ice desserts are one of the oldest frozen desserts, with evidence pointing to sorbet-like frozen treats in China as far back as the sixth century BC. Sorbet in the modern sense most likely stems from the Arabic drink sharbat, which was a mixture of fruit and water and sweetened with sugar. Sharbat spread to Italy, where a frozen version was called sorbetto, and to France, where it was finally called sorbet.

When sorbet entered Western culture during the Renaissance, it was originally used as a palate cleanser between courses of large meals. Sorbet became a dessert in seventeenth century Paris, most likely first served at the now-famous Café Procope.

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How to Make Homemade Sorbet

Sorbet is a simple dessert that you can make at home with or without an ice cream machine. To make sorbet:

  1. Blend fresh fruit and sugar syrup in a food processor.
  2. Use a fine-mesh strainer to sift out any fruit seeds or skins.
  3. Churn the mixture (by hand or in an ice cream maker) until its texture is smooth.
  4. Freeze the mixture for at least four hours.

Homemade sorbet can be kept for about a month in the freezer. To serve, let the sorbet soften at room temperature for a few minutes before scooping.

As sorbet recipes are so simple, many cooks experiment with flavors and mix-ins such as lemon juice, lime juice, mint, basil, or chocolate chips.

What Are the Different Types of Sorbet?

Sorbet has been around long enough that the recipes and methods have been tweaked over the years. As such, there are many variations on sorbet that take the basic recipe and change it, creating a new dessert in the process:

  • Givré. This is sorbet that is served in a fruit rind or husk, such as a lemon peel or coconut shell.
  • Granita. Granita uses the same base as sorbet, but instead of being churned, it is frozen and then periodically scraped so that the ice crystals are flaky and crystalline.
  • Sherbet. Sherbet has the same fruit and sugar base as sorbet, but also includes a small amount of dairy.

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What Is the Difference Between Sorbet and Sherbet?

Sorbet and sherbet are consistently confused, because both their names and ingredients are very similar. But while sorbet is just fruit and sweetener, sherbet includes dairy (as either milk, cream, or buttermilk), which significantly changes the dessert in several key ways:

  • Creaminess. While sorbet has a light, smooth texture, sherbet’s added dairy makes the texture much richer and creamier.
  • Fat content. Sorbet has little to no fat, while sherbet’s butterfat content is between 1 and 2 percent. (Sherbet still has a significantly lower butterfat content than ice cream, which is usually between 14 to 25 percent fat.)
  • Vegan. Sherbet’s added dairy means that it is not dairy-free like sorbet, and therefore is not vegan, like most sorbets.

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