A few weeks ago at the Couleur Café festival in Brussels, as we were leaving at some silly hour of the morning, I spied an artisanal ice-cream stand by the exit. It was still very warm at that time (of the morning!), so we grabbed a cone for the walk home. My friend Heinrich got excited about the lait d’amandes flavour, so I took one too. It was a creamy ice-cream, but still, the almond flavour was superb. Aromatic, delicate and surprisingly refreshing.
Thinking about this, I reasoned that I should be able to make a successful almond-based sorbet. Indeed, making it into a sorbet rather than an ice-cream should enhance the almond taste. A little research via Google revealed that almond sorbet is a specialty of Sicily, where it is called granita di mandorle, and often served with a piece of fresh brioche bread.
Now, the proper way to make this would involve tracking down good-quality almonds, grinding them at home, then preparing some sort of sugar syrup to cook the chopped nuts in order to extract their delicate flavour and aroma. And one day, when I have the time, inclination and someone to clean up after me, I might try that, but I opted to take a shortcut. I happened to have a bottle of orgeat syrup in the house, so I decided that make a sorbet using that instead. The flavour is probably not as delicate or authentic, but it was much quicker and easier. Hey, we’re all busy people!
The brand of orgeat syrup I used, Monin, was quite sweet, so I just added a mixture of semi-skimmed milk and water until I was happy with the flavour, erring on the slightly-too-sweet side (given that sweetness is dulled by freezing). I also went through the process of heating and briefly boiling the mixture to sterilise the milk. I don’t know if this was necessary, but it didn’t seem to affect the end result. However, if you are making this to eat quite soon afterwards, you could just mix everything up, skip the cooking, and put straight into the machine (*).
The flavour? It was amazing! It was like snow married with sweet almonds. Feather-light, translucent, and amazing. It is a complete contrast to lemon sorbet, as the almond version is sweet, silky and aromatic. Lemon would wake you up, whereas this would send you off into a gentle slumber on a warm afternoon. I think I am even inspired to pick up some decent almonds when I’m on holiday in Italy and try making the real deal. In the meantime, this version is more than sufficient.
(*) I’ve made it again since, and I can confirm you can skip the cooking stage if you want, and still have great results.
For 1 litre of almond sorbet:
• 300ml orgeat syrup
• 400ml semi-skimmed milk
• 300ml water (use more or less according to taste)
• 1 tablespoon almond liqueur (Amaretto)
Place the orgeat syrup, milk and water in a pan. Bring to the boil, cook for 30 seconds, then allow to cool completely.
Add the almond liqueur, mix well, and freeze the mixture. Serve with crisp biscuits or a slice of fresh brioche.
Worth making? I am really happy with the recipe. The use of the syrup makes it super-easy to prepare, and the result is light and fresh with a pronounced almond flavour. I will happily make this again, as it results is quite a sophisticated-tasting sorbet. One for the adults rather than the kids – not that youngsters won’t enjoy it, but adults will just be able to appreciate it a little bit more.