Misadventures in cookery: Watermelon sherbet

It seemed like a great idea at the time: making watermelon sherbet to serve at a vaguely Southern-themed dinner party in the height of summer. Just four little ingredients.

How hard could it be? But something went very wrong.

First I made a puree out of fresh watermelon. Simple enough. Squeeze in a little lemon juice and chill it until it’s really cold. At the same time, make sure that your ice cream canister is frozen. Checkity check check check.

Now for the potentially trick part. But I followed the recipe to the letter, I swear.

I threw two egg whites and a little salt in the stand mixer and gave them whirl. Beat them just to the stiff peak stage.

Meanwhile, I cooked a four-to-one sugar-and-water mixture to the soft ball stage (238 degrees). I used my candy thermometer. I watched it a like a hawk, I tell you.

When it reached the right temperature, I slowly poured the sugar syrup into the egg whites while the motor was running. This is Meringue Making 101, and it results in some really cool sugar sculpture on your whisk as it flings the sugar syrup around.

When the meringue is done and whipped until it’s cool, you’re supposed to “gently fold” it into the watermelon mixture. Great. I can “gently fold” in my sleep. I am the queen of “gentle folding.” So I put the meringue in the bowl with the watermelon.

So purty! But “gently folding” did nothing but make a big gloppy mess. The meringue was too thick–plasticky even–and after beating the crap out of it for five minutes, all I had was this sickly looking disaster.

I could have beaten this thing all day and never gotten any further than this. I briefly considered pulling out my immersion blender and having a go, but by this time I figured it was time to cut my losses and move on to the other dishes I needed to cook.

So, oh pastry cooks, what the bleep? My only guess is that the sugar syrup got too hot (maybe the hard ball stage) and messed everything up. So maybe my thermometer is calibrated incorrectly? I guess it’s back to making vanilla ice cream for me. Sigh.


One thought on “Misadventures in cookery: Watermelon sherbet

  1. Tamie says:

    here is where you made your mistake. when adding a puree into a meringue you must sacrifice a small portion of the meringue to fold into the puree once that is combined you can then add the puree mix into your meringue slowly. a little at a time. putting a fluffy consistency into a runny one won’t work for anyone. it is one of the things the first taught us in the Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Patissere Program. Hope this helps.

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