Please excuse my groan-worthy title. I’ve got a pun/cliche theme going for this NaBloPoMo, so I’m hoping to make you roll your eyes every day for the next 26 days. Are you excited? I sure am.
If you’re not thrilled about puns, maybe you’ll be interested in a grape sorbet and almond cookie combination. I used the last of the huge pile of coronation grapes we bought at the market to make this sorbet. It’s delicious! The grapes are so flavourful, they don’t need any adulteration–just some sugar to sweeten them and keep the sorbet from getting icy. And this sorbet has a perfect, almost creamy texture that lasted for three days in the freezer without getting icy (maybe it would have lasted longer, but we ate it all up!). My theory is that it stayed smooth because these grapes had a lot of pectin in their skin. This is pure speculation, because I can’t figure out how to confirm it. Maybe there’s some other chemistry at work that I don’t understand.
Along with the grape sorbet, I served almond haystack cookies, a simple treat that complemented the sorbet very well. The almonds were rich, as opposed to the sorbet’s tartness, and just barely sweet. These little cookies are so tasty and low-fat, I’ve been thinking they’d be nice to have around as a little afternoon pick-me-up alternative to something like a granola bar, especially horrible, cloyingly sweet store-bought bars. Course, you’d really only be able to eat one at a time if you were thinking of your health. In any case, whether you rationalize them as health food or save them for the dessert platter, these simple, elegant, almond-vanilla flavoured cookies are so easy to make. Carlo actually found them too simple, so I was thinking that next time I might put a pinch of spice in when I mix up their egg coating. Or maybe just use brown sugar or panela instead of white sugar?
Don’t try making this sorbet with ordinary table grapes. It won’t have enough flavour. I used Ontario Coronation grapes, which are very similar to Concords. I think I read somewhere that you can substitute high-quality grape juice if you haven’t got grapes at hand. If you try that, let me know. I’d love to know how it works! My sugar guidelines are approximate here. I like my sorbet tart, so I held back a little. But don’t hold back too much on the sugar–desserts taste less sweet when they’re frozen, AND sorbet needs sugar to keep it from getting icy.
4 lbs. purple grapes, stemmed
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1. Put all ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring and crushing occasionally, until the grapes are breaking up, about 10 minutes.
2. While the grapes are simmering, prepare an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and placing a smaller stainless steel bowl over it.
3. Remove grape mixture from heat, and strain it into the stainless steel bowl with a fine-mesh or cheesecloth-line strainer. This might take a while. If it’s really thick, feel free to walk away and let the mixture strain itself, stirring and mashing it occasionally.
4. When mixture is strained, transfer it to the fridge to cool completely, at least a few hours or overnight.
5. Transfer grape sorbet base to your ice cream maker, and freeze until it’s the consistency of thickly whipped cream. Get that sorbet into the freezer quickly, and let it get solid for at least a couple hours before serving.
Almond Haystack Cookies
Adapted from Bonnie Stern’s Essentials of Home Cooking
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar (you could probably cut back on this a little, if you want)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups slivered almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Stir egg whites and sugar together in a large bowl. Don’t beat them. Stir in the vanilla and then the almonds, making sure the almonds are well-coated.
3. Drop teaspoonfuls of the almond mixture into small mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, and then begin checking the colour of your cookies–they should turn golden brown. When baking is done (18-20 minutes), turn off the oven and open the door, leaving cookies in the oven for another 10 minutes.