It’s been pretty hot around here lately. In a pleasant, Northern California type way; the temperature hasn’t broken any records yet and the humidity stays pretty moderate. Still, it’s hot enough to justify a frozen dessert, like my Hazelnut Fudge Swirl Sorbet. You may be tempted to call this ice cream, but the lack of dairy in the recipe keeps this firmly in the sorbet camp. You’d never guess that, though—the sorbet base is creamy, packed with hazelnut flavor, and has generous ribbons of chocolate fudge running through it.
Creating a creamy texture without dairy, egg yolks, and an excess of sugar calls for a two-step process for the hazelnut base. First we have a light and refreshing hazelnut milk, made by blending together water and soaked hazelnuts, then straining out the solids. Secondly, a deep golden brown caramel is dissolved into the hazelnut milk with vanilla, and then thoroughly blended with more soaked hazelnuts, and strained again. Repeated blending and straining is important to keep all of the particles in the base as small as possible. Dairy is already composed of incredibly fine particles, and when the milk fat is combined with air and churned in traditional ice cream, the miniscule particles of ice wedged between the fat molecules keep the dessert creamy. To mimic the creaminess of dairy, you have to strain again and again. Sorbets, by nature, will never be as smooth and rich as ice cream, so don’t expect them to taste the same. Instead, enjoy sorbets for their unique flavors and textures.
Then there’s the fun part: swirling in fudge sauce to the churned sorbet. Of course, you could just pour fudge on the top when you serve it, but what’s exciting about that? All you have to do is melt up some chocolate along with a few other things, then swirl it into marble designs with a chopstick or skewer.
The more marbled fudge, the better.
After a final freezing period, it’s ready to eat. Dish it into bowls, top with a few hazelnuts, and enjoy your delicious, non-dairy sorbet!
Hazelnut Fudge Swirl Sorbet
Makes about 3 cups
1 ½ cups roasted hazelnuts, plus extra to garnish if desired
½ cup sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
50 g (1.75 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- In a large Tupperware, cover the hazelnuts with water and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.
- Remove the hazelnuts from the refrigerator in the morning and drain. Take 1/3 of the hazelnuts (about 3 oz. soaked) and place them in a blender with 2 cups of water. Blend for 2 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Take the liquid that drained off and put it back in the blender to blend for another two minutes, then strain again. You can save the hazelnut “pulp” for another use such as muffins, it won’t be needed for the sorbet. Set aside the hazelnut milk for later in the recipe.
- Rinse out the blender, then add the remaining soaked hazelnuts and pulse until chopped, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, combined the sugar, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of water. Do not stir, instead swirling the pan until the sugar melts, bubbles, and turns a golden brown color. Be careful, as the caramel can burn quickly. Turn the heat to low, and very carefully pour in the hazelnut milk, salt, and vanilla. The caramel will seize up, but just whisk for 2-3 minutes and the caramel will dissolve into the hazelnut milk.
- Carefully pour the hot sugar-hazelnut mixture into the blender with the rest of the hazelnuts and blend on high speed for 4 minutes. Be careful, hot liquids expand! Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Using a spoon, press all of the solids through the strainer. Return the mixture to the blender for another 2 minutes on high speed, and strain yet again, pressing all the solids through the strainer. Cover the bowl and freeze for 1 hour or refrigerate for 5-6 hours until about 50F.
- While the base chills, make the fudge swirl: In a small saucepan, combined the sugar, water, cocoa powder, and instant espresso powder. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low and add the chocolate, stirring until melted. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
- Once the base has chilled, pour it into an ice cream maker and churn until solid, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a shallow container that is freezer safe. Dollop the fudge on the surface of the sorbet and using a chopstick or a knife, swirl the fudge into the sorbet. Freeze the sorbet until solid, about 2 hours. Serve with roasted hazelnuts on top.
Note: The sorbet is best served on the day that it is made, after 2-4 hours of freezing.