This is a sorbet of great subtlety. The color is a very pale blonde, and the flavor is evocatively pear-like, with a refreshing aftertaste of Jasmine tea. It is a delicate, quietly romantic dessert, inspired by a recipe uncovered by San Francisco cook and Francophile Donna Nordin on one of her nouvelle cuisine food trips through France.
Brew the tea. If you have time, use “the sunshine method,” described above in TECHNIQUE NOTES. Otherwise, bring 1¾ cup water to a rolling boil, turn off the heat, and let the water sit for 30 seconds (this will lessen the effect of the tannin released in brewing). Pour the water over the dry tea leaves, cover, and steep for 20 minutes, or until cool. Stir, strain the tea, and measure out 1½ cups. The brew should be very strong.
Put the lemon juice in a bowl, then peel, core, and dice the pears, adding them to the bowl and tossing them in the juice as you work to prevent discoloration. You should have 2 cups chopped pears.
Combine the pears, lemon juice, tea, and ⅓ cup sugar in a small, non-aluminum saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, then cook 12–15 minutes, until the pears turn translucent and soft and the liquids are reduced, concentrating the flavors. Turn off the heat, remove the mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel knife or to a blender, then purée until thoroughly smooth, working in batches if necessary. While still warm, taste and adjust with more sugar or lemon juice to achieve a full, lively flavor. The mixture should be on the too-sweet side when you taste it at room temperature, or it will not be sweet enough once frozen. Stir to dissolve any additional sugar, then seal and refrigerate it until cold before freezing. It may be left in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Just before freezing, stir the mixture and add pear liqueur to taste. Do not add more than 2 tablespoons, lest the alcohol inhibit the freezing process.
If you have an ice-cream maker or sorbetiére, freeze the mixture according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once frozen, transfer the sorbet to a clean plastic container, pack it down, then press a piece of plastic film directly over the surface to prevent air contact and the formation of ice crystals. Let the sorbet “ripen” in the freezer for about 2 hours to bring the flavors to fullness. About 20–30 minutes before serving, put the container in the refrigerator so the sorbet will be slightly soft and fully aromatic when eaten.
Or, if you have a food processor and not an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into a shallow pan or tray (an 8-inch cake pan or 2 ice cube trays with the dividers removed is ideal). Press plastic film directly on the surface of the purée to make it airtight, and freeze until the mixture is thick, slushy, and fully ¾ frozen, turning the freezer down to its lowest setting if you wish to hurry the process. Remove the part-frozen mixture in hunks to a food processor fitted with the steel knife, working in batches if necessary, and process until smooth and fluffy. Immediately return the mixture to the tray(s), seal airtight as before, and freeze at least 3–4 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Serve slightly soft for best flavor. If the mixture has frozen solid during the ripening time, then whip it in the food processor just before serving.
Serve on chilled plates or in chilled bowls or goblets.
The delicacy of this sorbet makes it short-lived. Eat it within 24 hours of freezing to enjoy it at its peak.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.