Photos and Words by Fred Chang
Sorbet is a very simple dessert component to make. Equal parts fruit puree to equal parts syrup, maybe an inverse sugar, such as corn syrup, to stabilize the sorbet itself, freeze the base, then blend in a food processor, and you have a creamy, frozen, typically non-dairy dessert.
One of my favorite sorbets to make is strawberry-lychee sorbet. It is unfortunately a seasonal recipe, due to fresh lychees being only available during the summer, and my current attempts at substituting with canned lychees to substitute will only result in a bland, unbreakable pink ice-block. This recipe came about during the summer of 2015, when I was in Boston, taking business classes. I was lucky enough to live close enough to Super 88 that making a trip for lychees was an easy one.
For those of you who do not know what a lychee is, it is an Asian fruit, covered in a shell that makes it look like a small scarlet ball, that contains sweet, milky flesh that cradles a large, nut-like seed. The flesh is the only edible part that is edible in a lychee fruit, and for many people, it can be frustrating to remove both the shell and seed from the fruit itself. The easiest way from my experience, is running a sharp knife through the whole fruit, as you can just pull out the seed then pinch the flesh out from the shell in a manner of seconds.
Going back to my summer experience, for anyone who has never lived in Boston during the summer, it is an inferno. It is hot, humid, just walking to Questrom from Brookline, wearing a T-shirt and shorts, I was already drowning in sweat by the time I passed Sargent. So naturally, ice cream and other frozen treats were much appreciated during this time. I did not originally make this sorbet with any expectations in mind. I just happened to have a lot of strawberries and I had an entire bundle of lychees sitting in my fridge and a need for something frozen. So I blended together the ingredients, only thinking that the color of the sorbet base was a pleasant, "Hello-Kitty" pink, and was thankful that I could finally get rid of my lychees.
I could not think of a dessert to incorporate them into; most of the time, trying to cook down lychees will bring out an unusual, garlic-like flavor in them, and since so many of the European desserts I know require moisture to be reduced by heat, lychees would be a poor choice in most Western desserts.
The sorbet, once it got churned through my food processor, was just as beautiful as the base. Like I said, the pink color reminded me of Hello Kitty merchandise. The actual combination of strawberry and lychee was very refreshing. You have tart berries contrasting a sweet, floral Asian fruit. What does “floral” taste like, might you ask? Just think of smelling lily flowers. If something tastes floral, it is typically a less-intense version of that sensation. The lychee’s flavor just perfumes the strawberry, while its pale color brightens the strawberry’s color, giving it a gorgeous pink color. The recipe is gluten-free, can be adapted to be vegan by using turbinado sugar or agave nectar.
Make 1 quart of sorbet
1 cup fresh lychees; pureed
¼ cup strawberries; pureed
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon of invert sugar (I use light corn syrup or mizuame, a Japanese rice syrup)
A pinch of salt
In a blend, puree and strain all of the fruit. Mix in the sugar, water, salt, and invert sugar. Pour onto a surface and freeze until solid (1-3 hours, depending on how thinly spread the mixture is; the thinner it is spread, the faster it will freeze). In either a blender or food processor, puree the frozen sorbet base to churn it. Re-freeze for another hour. Keep frozen until ready to serve.