I know, I know. Three kinds of dairy, fancy blood oranges, lots of bowls, and a few head-scratching ingredients; all for some blood orange sherbet?
I understand, it’s a big ask. But if you are willing to commit, you’ll be rewarded with the best orange sherbet of your life — intensely fruity and tangy and refreshing. The perfect shade of peachy pink, too (though exact color will vary depending on your fruit!).
The neglected world of sherbet
But first, sherbet: if you’re like me, you may have grown up on those little cups of orange sherbet swirled with vanilla ice cream (the ones with the tiny wooden paddles), or perhaps the occasional scoop of rainbow sherbet. Neither tasted much like orange or rainbows, but they had their place as a refreshing poolside treat.
Sherbet is actually a category of frozen dessert that sits between sorbet and ice cream. Basically, sherbets are fruit sorbets with some added dairy. Sherbets have the bright flavor of sorbet with just a touch of milky richness for body. They’re the perfect palate cleanser and such a fun, overlooked way to preserve the fruits of the season.
If you’re interested in sherbet (or ice cream making in general), I highly, HIGHLY recommend Dana Cree’s book Hello, My Name is Ice Cream, the original source for this recipe. Of all the ice cream cookbooks I own, it’s my favorite in terms of technical knowledge and inspired flavor combos. Although Cree delves deep into the science of ice cream making, it’s all packaged in understandable language and is considerate of the average home churner. Although she has some favorite specialized ingredients, she offers accessible alternatives for those of us who can’t source them easily.
Specialty ingredients and alternatives
Here’s the rundown of a few specialty ingredients needed for this blood orange sherbet and some alternatives if you can’t source them.
- Blood oranges: Blood oranges are a variety of citrus known for their deep rosy color and extra-sweet flavor. They tend to taste a little less acidic than regular navel oranges, with undertones of raspberry. Read all about blood oranges at Ask the Food Geek. If blood oranges aren’t available or in season, you can replace the zest and juice with that of another orange-like variety (regular orange, tangerine, cara cara, clementine, etc.). For the amount of juice and zest in this recipe, I used about 5 smallish blood oranges.
- Citric/malic acid: These are neutral tasting acids that come in powdered form. They definitely give the sherbet an extra refreshing zing, but you can either omit this if you prefer a less tart sherbet or replace with a squeeze of lemon juice. Citric acid is often available at the grocery store (look near the spices or in the jam/jelly making section); I found both at a beer-making shop; they are also available online.
- Glucose or light corn syrup: Using an inverted sugar such as glucose or light corn syrup gives frozen desserts a more viscous, less icy texture. Check your local baking supply store for glucose; corn syrup is available in most grocery stores. In a pinch you can replace the inverted sugar with the same weight of granulated sugar, though the sherbet will be more sweet and icy. Read more about using inverted sugar in ice cream in this article on Serious Eats.
- Xanthan gum: Don’t let the name scare you — xanthan gum is jut a natural gum that in this case works as a stabilizer, inhibiting the growth of ice crystals. Just a tiny bit drastically improves the texture and shelf life of homemade ice cream. I found mine at the local bulk store and online. If you can’t find xanthan gum, you can replace with 2 tsp of tapioca starch whisked with 2 Tbsp cold water. Stir this slurry into the dairy base after straining out the orange zest and before chilling over the ice bath. (Consult the book for even more alternatives.)
Blood orange sherbet
Barely adapted from Hello, My Name is Ice Cream | Makes about 1 quart
- 250g blood orange juice, freshly squeezed (zest before juicing)
- 100g buttermilk
- 1/2 tsp malic or citric acid or 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
- 300g whole milk
- 100g cream
- 150g granulated sugar
- 100g glucose or light corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp packed blood orange zest
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
- Make the blood orange-buttermilk mixture: In a small bowl, whisk together the blood orange juice, buttermilk, and acid or lemon juice (if using). Refrigerate.
- Heat and infuse the dairy: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the whole milk, cream, sugar, and glucose. Cook, whisking frequently, over medium heat, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a bare simmer. Remove from heat, stir in the orange zest, and cover. Infuse for 30 minutes.
- Chill the dairy: Strain the infused base into a clean metal or glass bowl and discard the zest. Set over an ice bath and until the base is cool to the touch (50F), whisking occasionally.
- Blend and chill: Whisk in the xanthan gum and blood orange-buttermilk mixture. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a traditional blender) to blend until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 24.
- Churn and freeze: Churn the chilled base according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve (for my machine this is about 25 minutes). Transfer to a freezer-friendly container (a loaf pan works well). Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.