It’s just over a week ago that we were in France and had a lovely meal at La Fine Fourchette in Falaise, Normandy. Jonathan’s dessert of apple sorbet, with some calvados poured over it, was so delicious I decided I’d try to recreate it when I got home. One of the things I particularly liked was that it had pieces of apple within the smooth sorbet, giving it texture, so I decided to make my sorbet and then caramelise some pieces of apple and flambe them with some calvados before stirring into the sorbet mixture.
Of course, the taste of your final apple sorbet is going to be very dependent on the taste of the apples you choose to use. I had a mix of Jazz and Pink Lady apples on hand – both quite sweet with a bit of a crunch. But I think some slightly tarter apples would work well too. It seemed a bit over the top to use my wonderful Pierre Huet calvados for cooking, bought when we drove through the beautiful Pays d’Auge and followed the Route du Cidre. Yet the quality of alcohol used in cooking is important. If you use cheap alcohol you generally get a cheap taste – and in a worst-case scenario, particularly using cheap or days’ old wine can ruin a dish.
As a dramatic storm with torrential rain, thunder and lightning raged outside today, France seemed a long way off, but I went into my kitchen, got cooking, and soon the memories of my fabulous holiday were coming back and wow, just a sniff of that amazing calvados had me swooning happily.
First of all, peel, de-core and chop 900g apples. Add the juice of 1 lemon and give a bit of a stir so the apple doesn’t discolour. Now make a sugar syrup. Put 200g sugar and 300ml water in a pan and bring to the boil; bubble for a few minutes till the syrup thickens a bit. Add the apple, stir to mix well and allow to bubble away until the apples start to soften – just a few minutes. Blitz with a hand blender till smooth or transfer to a liquidiser. Then push the apple puree through a sieve and leave to cool.
While the puree cools, make the caramelised apple. Cut 1 apple into small cubes. Melt 25g butter and a heaped dessertspoon brown sugar in a pan and stir to mix. Let is bubble away for a couple of minutes to start to caramelise.
Now add the pieces of apple and cook, stirring from time to time so the pieces are well coated and start to brown evenly. You only want them to lightly brown and the apple to soften a bit – not turn into mush. Now add 2 dessertpoons calvados. It may flame up, so take care; or if you feel brave, then light it to flame and burn off the alcohol (I can promise you this isn’t something easily done with a camera in one hand – hence the lack of action shot!). Once it dies down, lift the pieces of apples into the apple puree and gently mix. If you have time, I find it best to put the whole mixture into the fridge for about an hour so it gets nice and cold before you put it into the ice-cream maker. It then churns better and more quickly comes together into a nice sorbet.
You could at this point serve it straight away, quite soft, Italian style, but I transferred mine to a freezer container till supper time. However, it’s a good idea to get it out of the freezer a few minutes ahead of serving for it to soften a little.
I served in a glass with a spoonful of calvados poured over the top at the last minute and a gorgeous little madeleine I’d bought earlier at La Boulangerie in East Twickenham – for an extra French touch.
With a total lack of modesty, I can only say it was absolutely wonderful. I’m sure the spoonful of calvados helped, but this transported me right back to France and as there’s plenty more in the freezer, I’m going to go on enjoying more little ‘French trips’ in the coming days.