Piel de Sapo Melon sorbet
Tempted to try some Toad-skin melon? You should be – because this is probably the best melon sorbet that I have ever had!
Melons belong to the same plant family as cucumbers (Cucurbitaceae). And while this recipe will work with any melon, I chose a Piel de Sapo – which made for a phenomenally nice sorbet!
We have many names for the things we love, and the Piel de Sapo melon certainly seems to be much loved!
“Piel de Sapo” (‘toadskin’) refers to its characteristic (mainly) green-striped rind. Its other names – “the Santa Clause melon” or “the Christmas melon” – supposedly refer to its long-keeping qualities [it does keep much longer than other melons] and/or the fact that it has its peak season around Christmas.
While grown in many places, the Piel de Sapo is apparently the melon of choice in Spain. The inside looks quite similar to that of a Honeydew melon, but the mellow, mildly flavoured pale, greenish flesh is markedly sweeter (in a pleasant way!). As goes for melons in general, it is low in calories, fat-free, and packs a lot of vitamin C and dietary fibre.
Sorbet base with improved consistency? Try Agar agar!
I have taken the cues of proportions from Swedish Master confectioner Jan Hedh for the sorbet recipe. He, however, tends to be very keen on using gelatine to improve the consistency of his ice creams (and sometimes also his sorbets). Instead, I turned to a natural, vegetable alternative – Agar agar! But first of all, let me underline that this recipe works very well also without Agar agar. But – if you can get hold of this natural, vegetable gelling agent, do give it a try! You might be quite impressed by the positive effects it has on the texture and consistency of the final sorbet!
Agar agar is similar to gelatine in performance (can absorb liquid about twenty times its own weight), but is made from red algae or seaweed. Because Agar agar consists of about 80 % fibre and almost no calories, it has long been a popular bulking agent in Japan, where it is called Kanten. Kanten diets have also been quite popular there, so if you are interested in losing some weight to justify your ice cream-consumption, you might give it a thought:-) .
Preparing the sorbet
As with most sorbets, preparing a simple sugar syrup is a good first step. Because some sugar is added to the flesh of the melon, you will notice that the proportions sugar/water for the simple sugar syrup deviate from the standard 50/50-formula.
Cut the melon, remove the seeds and purée the fruit. Add about 50 gram of sugar – more should not be necessary, provided the melon is sufficiently ripe (you might even get away with less).
Then, mix the fruit purée with the simple sugar syrup. If you want to check that the base is sweet enough/not overly sweet, do the Egg test.
Take some of the resulting sorbet base and use for dissolving the agar agar. Agar agar is insoluble in cold water, so you need to heat it up in a small quantity of the liquid. When that liquid begins to cool down again, the agar agar will begin to solidify (at 37° Celsius (98.6° F), to be exact).
This will happen relatively quickly here, since the next step is to whisk together the now dissolved agar agar-liquid with the rest of the sorbet base: in other words, work quickly!
If you like, you may add some lemon juice to the sorbet base to counter-act a too sweet end-result (but since the cold tends to dull most flavours, you may well decide to live without any lemon juice added too).
The final result
Excellent sorbets, vibrating with rich and pure frozen flavours – is there anything better? This recipe definitely falls within this top category: both me and my daughter (who assisted me in preparing the recipe) immediately agreed that this was the best melon sorbet we had ever enjoyed. Later on, friends and the rest of the family also gave their thumbs up.
Clearly, the combination of a ripe Piel de Sapo melon and a little Agar agar turns out to be a splendid combination. Great texture and consistency, paired with an alluringly sweet and distinct melon flavour!
Still – do not feel sad if you have neither a Piel de Sapo, nor Agar agar: the recipe will also work very well with other melons and without agar agar.
No ice cream machine? Do not worry!
I have successfully tried the recipe (without agar agar, and with other melons) still-frozen, without using any ice cream machine. Typically, your greatest challenge then will probably be to reduce the size of the ice crystals as much as possible, by vigorous churning by hand every now and then during the freezing. But believe me – the end result will be worth it!
- 450 gram melon purée (tends to require a melon about double that weight)
- about 50 gram sugar
- 350 ml ( about 1.5 cups) simple sugar syrup (proportions 150 ml (2/3 cup) sugar, and 200 ml (7/8 cup) water)
- (optional, but recommended) about 2 gram Agar agar
- (optional) lemon juice from about ½ lemon, depending on taste
- Prepare the simple sugar syrup by mixing water and sugar (by heating it, or simply by shaking it). Let cool down.
- Cut the melon, remove the seeds and purée the fruit, together with the 50 gram of sugar.
- Mix together the sugar syrup and the fruit purée. If you want to make sure that you have the appropriate level of sweetness for sorbet, do the Egg test.
- Take about 100 ml (about 0.4 cup) of the mixture, heat to about 40° Celsius (104 °F) and quickly whisk in about 2 grams of Agar agar.
- When well dissolved, pour back into the rest of the mixture, whisk well and churn in your ice cream machine according to its instructions.
- In case you worry that the sorbet might become too sweet for you, add lemon juice from about ½ lemon (according to your taste) to the base before churning it.