Sorbet math, sorbet stabilizer: Chamomile-honey sorbet

Recently, I was drinking a cup of chamomile tea sweetened with honey, and I let part of it get cold, which made me wonder: What would it be like if I changed the temperature even more drastically, say, by making it into a sorbet?

I hauled out Migoya’s Frozen Desserts again for help formulating a recipe, and immediately ran into two problems. First, he offers little guidance on the use of honey, noting that it is rarely used because of its distinctive flavour. Of course, that was precisely the flavour I wanted! So I treated it more or less as though it were invert sugar syrup, including taking its significant moisture content into account. For my formulation, I assumed it was about 79% sugar (a mix of glucose, fructose and sucrose).

The second problem lay in balancing the amount of total solids against the amount of sugar. Unlike fruit purees, an infusion like chamomile tea contributes no solids. Migoya recommends total solids of between 31% and 36% of the weight of the sorbet base, and sugar between 25% and 32%. Fortunately, there’s just enough overlap for all the solids to come from sugar; I just had to hope that chamomile has enough acidity in it to prevent the result from tasting too sweet.

For interest’s sake, I also decided to incorporate some sorbet stabilizer using Migoya’s recipe. It’s a blend (not equal parts, however) of gelatin, carboxymethylcellulose, guar gum and locust bean gum (all ingredients I happen to have on hand), so I added that into the formulation as well. This was undoubtedly the easiest approach I’ve ever seen for dispersing a hydrocolloid, since I could blend it in with all the sugar I was using!

The recipe below is as I made it. I wanted only a small batch; obviously you can scale up as needed. I like the intensity of the flavour, but that can be adjusted, too, by changing the strength of the tea.

How to make chamomile-honey sorbet

4 chamomile teabags
480 g water

Bring the water to a boil, add the chamomile teabags, cover and let steep for 4 minutes. Remove and squeeze the teabags, then measure out the amount of tea required for the recipe.

409 g chamomile tea
150 g granulated sugar
1.5 grams sorbet stabilizer
51 g honey

If continuing directly from above, allow the tea to cool slightly (Migoya says to have the liquid at 40°C/104°F, but I had it at about 120°F). Otherwise, heat the tea to 40°C/104°F. Meanwhile, whisk the sorbet stabilizer and sugar to blend thoroughly. Make a well in the centre, and measure the honey into it. Once the tea is warmed, whisk in the sugar-honey mixture to dissolve. Bring to 85°C/185°F and hold at that temperature for 2 minutes to fully hydrate the stabilizer. Cool, then refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions, transfer to a container, and harden in the freezer for several hours.

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