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Ice Creams and Sorbets - Freezing as a Cooking Technique

Perhaps because it's a relatively modern procedure and because it's typically used for food preservation, but the technique of freezing is almost never considered to be a cookery technique. Cooking is almost always considered to the be the technique of the addition of heat to a dish.

But where would we be without ice creams, sorbets, granaches and other frozen foods? Doesn't the technique of the preparation of these foods also deserve the term of cookery? After all you combine ingredients to form these dishes it's just that they're not heated, rather they're cooled.

To show what I mean, below I include a recipe for an ice cream and a classic sorbet.

Cherry Ice Cream

140g dried cherries
120ml dark rum
600ml single cream
100g sugar
4 egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Add the cherries to a bowl, cover with the rum and set aside over night to plump up. The following day mix the sugar and single cream together in a pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves and bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. Meanwhile whisk together the egg yolks until pale and creamy. Add 150ml of the warmed cream to the eggs. Whisk to combine then pour the egg yolk mix back into the pan.

Continue cooking the custard gently, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (but do not allow to boil). Take off the heat, then stir-in the vanilla extract and set aside to chill. Place the mixture in the refrigerator and allow to cool for 2 hours.

Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Meanwhile, drain the cherries and when the ice cream begins to thicken add to the mixture and continue freezing until the ice cream is done.

Orange Sorbet

500ml fresh orange juice
juice of 1 lemon
250ml water
250ml sugar
finely-grated zest of 1/2 orange

Add the sugar and water to a saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves then bring to a boil and immediately take off the heat then set aside to cool. When the syrup solution is cold mix-in the orange and lemon juice and orange zest then pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Alternatively, if you don't have an ice cream making machine, pour the mixture into a non-metallic freezer-proof dish then cover with a lid and place in the freezer. Freeze until the sorbet is almost firm (but still a little liquid). Cut the sorbet into chunks and place in a blender. Process until smooth then transfer the sorbet back into the dish and freeze again until almost firm.

Once again chop the sorbet into pieces and process until smooth. This gets rid of all the ice crystals and makes the sorbet very smooth, which is what you want. Return to the freezer-proof dish and freeze completely. To serve, allow the sorbet to soften for 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature then spoon into dessert glasses and serve, garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.

I would challenge anyone to deny that the method of producing these dishes can't be classed as 'cookery'.

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