Pastry Chefs Savor the Sweet Sorbets of Summer

Most upscale dessert menus end on the same note: sorbet. Often, it's a "trio of sorbets," in a J.Crew catalog of flavors: meyer lemon, black cherry, kiwi, mango, passionfuit, blood orange, tangerine. Sorbet is the ultimate palate cleanser, refreshing and clean. If you're heading to pastry chef school, expect to learn the delicate art of sorbet.

From Sharbab to Sorbet

First, a history lesson. Sorbet's heyday was in 17th century France, but it originated in ancient China. The Chinese original was sweetened fruit juice poured over snow. Through trade routes, the taste for sweet snow passed from the Chinese to the Persians to the Arab world. The frozen drink was called 'sharbab' in Arabic, which became 'sherbet' and 'sorbet' when it spread to Europe.

Pastry Chef Prep School

Sorbet is simple to make. You'll learn these three basic steps in a pastry chef school:
  • Sugar syrup: Dissolve 2/3 cup superfine sugar in 1 cup water, over low heat. Raise temperature and boil one minute.
  • Fruit Puree: Puree chopped fruit and fruit juice (often, lemon or lime juice work best) in a blender.
  • Freeze: Combine sugar syrup and puree in an ice cream maker. Your pastry chef school will provide the equipment you need.

Keepin' it Simple

Sorbet's simplicity allows the flavor of the fruit to shine through. In this post-Alice Waters age of fresh, seasonal produce, sorbet is the star of the dessert menu. Waters is widely regarded as the founder of 'California Cuisine,' which prizes simple, fresh ingredients over the heavy-handed cream sauces of French tradition.

Pastry chef school students will undoubtedly come across Waters' seminal dessert handbook, Chez Panisse Desserts, which features no fewer than sixty-one ice cream recipes and thirty-seven sorbets and sherbets. If you're off to pastry chef school, you'll be inventing your own sorbets before long. Cactus fruit sorbet, anyone?