The last time I was at Pizzeria Mozza I sat at the bar, stuffed full of tricolore salad and pizza, unable to stop eating the mango and passion fruit sorbets in front of me. I’ve had Dahlia’s gelatos and sorbets hundreds of times, I even watched them being made when the machine first arrived, but this time I was mesmerized. As I lifted the spoon to my mouth time after time I just kept wondering, how in the world did she get them so creamy?
When I had the good fortune of running into Dahlia at a party just a couple weeks later I asked. The answer, apparently, is simple: invert sugar.
Now I admit to geeking out on the science of cooking now and then—I’ve got a soft spot for Alton Brown‘s brand of nerdiness—but invert sugar sounds like molecular gastronomy to me. I just like making things from scratch. Nonetheless I was intrigued. Could this one thing really truly improve the texture of my sorbet that much? I had to find out.
Apparently invert sugar really isn’t that high up on the technical scale. It’s made by taking traditional sugar and using an acid—lemon juice, cream of tartar, citric acid—and heat to break the sucrose into equal parts fructose and glucose dissolved in water. The resulting syrup crystallizes more slowly than regular sugar, giving the product it is added to a softer, creamier texture.
While you can buy invert sugar (try Surfas or Gloria’s Cake & Candy Supply in Los Angeles), I decided I wanted to make it myself. (Did I mention I like to make things from scratch?) I had trouble finding a recipe, though, so I decided to experiment. I combined one cup of water, one cup of sugar and ¼ teaspoon of citric acid and simmered it for about 30 minutes and then let it cool.
With my experimental invert sugar on hand, I rinsed off the tart, sweet raspberries I picked with my family at Underwood Family Farms in Simi Valley and ran them through the food processor and then through a fine sieve to get out all the seeds. Some water, the invert sugar and chill time later I found myself scooping out the creamiest, most luscious-textured sorbet I’d made to date, like velvet across the tongue. Even after a few days in the freezer the sorbet, which usually hardens into a block of ice, stayed soft and scoopable. Next up, sugar plum sorbet…inverted of course.
4 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup water
1 batch invert sugar*
*invert sugar – 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon citric acid or cream of tartar, simmered for 30 minutes and then cooled.
Puree the raspberries in a blender or food processor. Push through a sieve with the back of a spoon to remove the seeds. Add one cup of water and the invert sugar to the raspberry puree. Stir and refrigerated until thoroughly chilled (about 8 hours). Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.