All are made without special appliances

September 01, 1991|By Carleton Jones

Everybody knows that early fall can, in Maryland latitudes, produce some scorching memories of midsummer. Such sultry leftovers can make even the hardiest cook reluctant to turn on the oven. Under the circumstances, it doesn't hurt to have a cooling, and perhaps even healthy, dessert in storage for the family or for winding up entertaining luncheons and dinners.

Frosty homemade desserts, ices and ice creams are not an everyday thing in American kitchens anymore. But the fact is, you can produce fresh, healthy, icy or simply cool desserts without even owning one of the simple, new ice cream machines.

Jane Suthering, a British culinary master, has put together a bunch of formulas for producing such "cool" desserts -- and she has reasons for not using the adjective "cold."

"Deep chilling," she says, "tends to mask the flavor of many foods so that their full potential is not realized, and this is especially true of many recipes containing fruit." As a sample, rich icecream is slightly thawed in a refrigerator after being frozen.

These and other technical approaches to desserts are set forth in Ms. Suthering's latest book, "Cool Desserts" (Meredith Press, 1991, $19.95).

Ms. Suthering's advice on homemade ice cream if you don't have an ice cream machine: "The simplest way to do this is to half-freeze a prepared mixture in a rigid container and then either beat it with a hand-held mixer or work it in a food processor until smooth to break down the ice crystals that form. The mixture can then be frozen until required. Extra beating during the freezing process makes the ice cream even smoother."

Professional-tasting iced creams are made with egg yolks, sugar, heavy cream and flavorings, and "used in the right balance, these basic ingredients produce a firm ice cream that may be stored in the freezer for up to three months," the author relates.

The lighter and less caloric icy sorbets served as the break in formal meals or the finale to luncheons and lighter dinners have become stylish in the past few years, and Ms. Suthering styles several of them for orange, grapefruit, lemon, gooseberry and elder flower ingredients in this volume. Here's a selection of cool recipes.

Rosemary and lemon sorbet

Serves six to eight.

4 4-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 1/2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup cold water

pared peel of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

poached apple slices or a selection of summer berries, to decorate (optional)

Cover the rosemary sprigs with the boiling water and leave to infuse for 20 minutes, then strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Place the sugar and remaining water in a saucepan and dissolve over a gentle heat. Add the lemon peel and bring to a boil. Bubble over a medium heat for 5 minutes, then strain and add to the rosemary water. Stir in the lemon juice. Freeze in a rigid container until half frozen, then beat well and freeze again until required. Alternatively, freeze in an ice-cream machine following the manufacturers directions. Soften the sorbet slightly. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe the sorbet into glasses. Serve with poached apple slices or summer berries.

Gooseberry and elder flower sorbet

Serves six to eight.

"Pureed gooseberries and freshly picked elder flower heads give this sorbet a wonderfully subtle flavor," says the author. Elder flowers should not be washed, as this will reduce their fragrance. If they are unavailable, substitute 3 tablespoons of China tea but infuse for only 20 minutes. A few drops of green food coloring may be added to the mixture before freezing.

12 freshly picked elder flower heads

2 1/2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup boiling water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup cold water

6 ounces gooseberries

1 tablespoon lemon juice

elder flower blossoms to decorate (optional)

Cover the elder flower heads with the 2 1/2 cups boiling water and leave to infuse for 1 hour, then strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth. Place the sugar and remaining water in a saucepan and dissolve over a gentle heat. Add the gooseberries and bring to a boil. Bubble over a medium heat for 5 minutes, then cool and puree in a blender. If desired, pass the puree through a fine

strainer to remove the seeds. Add the elder flower water and lemon juice and freeze in an ice cream machine following the manufacturer's directions. Alternatively, freeze in a rigid container until half-frozen. Beat well and freeze until required. Soften the sorbet slightly. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe the sorbet into glasses. Sprinkle with elder flower blossoms, if desired.

Trio of melon with ginger syrup

Serves four.

MELON:

1 pound wedge of watermelon

1 pound charentais melon (see note)

1 pound honeydew melon

2/3 cup sugar syrup (recipe below)

2 tablespoons finely chopped preserved ginger

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Using a melon ball cutter, scoop out balls from the 3 wedges of melon and put them in a bowl. Place the sugar syrup, ginger and lemon juice in a small saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. Cool and pour over the melon balls. Chill for several hours or until required. Stir well and transfer to a serving dish.

Note: Charentais is a melon resembling a cantaloupe, more common in Europe than the United States. You may substitute cantaloupe.

Sugar syrup

Makes about 3 cups.

1 heaping cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat. Add the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Cool the syrup and then strain it.

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