This is my favorite thing I’ve made in an ice cream machine so far. Hands down.
Seriously, y’all. This stuff is phenomenal. It’s creamy and indulgent, but not heavy, and it floats on a spoon like ice cream. The flavor is intensely, almost explosively orange, with a wallop of brightness in each bite. It’s reminiscent of a Creamsicle, or rather, of what a Creamsicle wishes it could taste like: sweet but not babyish, lush but not dense. And it’s even pretty too, with pinpricks of vanilla and tiny shreds of orange zest scattered throughout.
This is about as decadent as sherbet gets: a whole cup of cream, a whole vanilla bean’s worth of seeds, and a full shot of triple sec. That’s not an apology, mind you. I love how this is the kind of dessert you could imagine kids going nuts for (minus the booze), but also the kind of thing you can happily pamper yourself with as a grown-up. It’s refreshing and luxurious, and–dare I say it–even a little sexy.
The secret weapon here is fresh orange juice. And by fresh, I do mean squeezed. It takes a fair number of oranges to make enough juice for a batch of sherbet, but there really is no comparison. I’m lucky, and have a friend with an incredibly prolific orange tree; if you don’t, just go for the juiciest oranges you can find, the ones you would be happy eating out of hand. I can imagine this working gorgeously with tangerines, too, if you can get those more easily. Oh, and orange juice freezes beautifully, so if oranges are cheap and juicy in winter, just buy ’em, juice ’em, and store the juice till the weather heats up. I made my sherbet with frozen thawed juice, and it still blew my mind.
This sherbet is so flavorful and dreamy that just a small scoop is enough to satisfy (yes, really). On a hot-and-sticky summer afternoon, with the windows open and the fan droning, there’s absolutely nothing better.
Orange Vanilla Sherbet (makes about 1 1/2 quarts)
Note: Oranges vary in sweetness, so make sure to taste your juice before adding sugar and lemon. You can increase the sugar by up to 1/4 cup, and the lemon juice by up to 2 tbsp, to compensate for the relative sweetness or tartness of the oranges.
1 cup granulated sugar, or to taste (see note)
2 tbsp finely grated orange zest (about 1 medium orange’s worth)
Pinch of salt
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
3 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (about 10-12 medium oranges’ worth)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste (see note)
1 1/2 oz (1 shot/3 tbsp) triple sec
In the bowl of a food processor, combine sugar, orange zest, vanilla seeds, and salt. Pulse until the orange zest and vanilla are completely incorporated and the sugar is damp and sandy. Turn on the processor and open the feed tube; with the motor running, stream in the orange juice, cream, lemon juice, and triple sec. Continue processing for about 1 minute, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Strain the orange juice mixture into a bowl or large measuring cup, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until the mixture is thoroughly chilled.
Once the sherbet base is chilled, freeze it in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately for a soft-serve effect, or scrape the frozen sherbet into an airtight container and freeze for 4-6 hours, or until it’s firm but scoopable.
To store the sherbet, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface, then cover the container tightly. Stored this way, the sherbet will keep for up to a month in the freezer.