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Sugar High Friday: Red Plum Sorbet

April 21, 2006


It's hot out. Someone turned up the thermostat and turned on the steam. You walk outside at seven in the morning and there's a light sheen of moisture warm and sticky on the car, the walls, and pretty soon your face, too. Summer starts in April, and summer means red, dripping, icy things. Things you get off the ice cream truck, like ice cream sandwiches with chewy cookie covers, tall flag-striped popsicles, and little cups of red, red ice drenched in a syrup you suck away, leaving clear icy crystals that crunch between your teeth and give you a sweet, piercing headache.

Which brings me to Sugar High Friday, one of the most venerable food weblog events, each month circling a different theme of sugary splendor. This month's theme is liquor - wine, brandy, rum, whatever alcohol might strike your fancy.

But when I think of alcoholic desserts, which is rather frequently, I admit, I think of apples and cinnamon, brandy-drenched fruit cakes, dark chocolate mousse and potent rum balls. In other words, desserts that do not consider the present rising temperature. If I was going to cook in this heat I wanted something cool, light, and fresh.

So I turned to Kirschwasser, "cherry water," the clear cherry brandy traditionally made in the Black Forest region of Germany. It has a spiked, plummy taste, like the last, pulpy strands of a cherry after you bite through the flesh and right before you spit out the pit. Fragrant and not so sweet, with a kick.

The Kirsch went into a sorbet with overripe red plums, and a few cardamom pods for spice. These are not too strong - they add just a hint of muskiness. And then, for creaminess and spunk, layers of whipped cream with a syrup infusion of fresh lemon verbena. Lemon verbena is one of those summery smells and tastes; crushed between your fingers it smells like high June in the sun.

I initially tried Thai basil syrup, hoping the licorice and cinnamon notes would come through, but it had an unpleasantly grassy taste. I may have just boiled it too long in the syrup, though, and I would like to experiment with it some more.

But these two things, the cream and sorbet, work excellently together. They have a fresh, wild taste, with a mellow headiness from the Kirsch and high, pungent chirps from the lemon verbena. It's not overly sweet either. But it was still certainly a Sugar High Friday for me; I have little drips of red fruit syrup splattered on my stove and floor, and sticky spoons in the sink.

And while, ironically, this recipe does involve quite a bit of hot boiling things, in the end you are left with a very grown-up version of a familiar summer treat: sweet, red, dripping icy coolness.


Red Plum Sorbet
Adapted from Epicurious

About 6 small red or black plums, pitted and quartered
3 bruised cardamom pods
0.5 cup of sugar
4 tablespoons Kirschwasser

1. In a small saucepan combine the plums and enough water to just cover them and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft - about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine the 0.5 cup sugar and 3 cardamom pods with 0.75 cup water in a smaller saucepan and lightly simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the Kirsch. Take off the heat and let cool.
3. Puree the plums, skins on, in a food processor until smooth.
4. Add the syrup and puree again.
5. Strain mixture through a fine sieve and refrigerate until very cold - preferably overnight.
6. Freeze in an ice cream maker for a short period - just about fifteen minutes.
7. Put in the freezer, sealed and covered with foil or plastic wrap touching the surface of the sorbet. This is better after it has cured for a day or two.

Lemon Verbena Cream

0.5 cup sugar
0.25 cup fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 cup whipping cream

1. Chop and bruise the lemon verbena.
2. Put sugar in a small saucepan with 0.5 cup water and stir to dissolve as it comes to a simmer over low heat. Let it simmer for just a couple minutes.
3. Stir in the lemon verbena and take off the heat. Let steep for fifteen minutes, then put in the refrigerator to cool completely.
4. Whip the cream in a food processor, then add a few tablespoons of the lemon verbena syrup. Add as much syrup as you can without deflating the cream.
5. Serve sorbet and cream layered together in glasses or small bowls.


Posted by Faith at 21 April 2006

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What a beautiful dessert, Mekuno! Wonderful entry for SHF ...

Posted by: Ivonne at April 21, 2006 03:16 PM

Looks so refreshing! A real keeper for the coming summer months!!!

Posted by: Bea at La Tartine Gourmande at April 21, 2006 05:38 PM

Red plum sorbet is beautiful! Nice picture.

Posted by: Julie at April 22, 2006 08:41 PM

Thanks everyone - I appreciate it. This was a fun event!

Posted by: faith at April 22, 2006 09:44 PM

I love your descriptions of the summery desserts. Red drippy things, indeed!

Posted by: Christine at April 24, 2006 06:49 PM

Posted by: saeed20 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 29, 2020 01:24 AM

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