Every year at Christmas, I make the dessert. With a bakery on every corner in Paris, there’s not a lot of impetus for the locals to make a resplendent dessert for the traditional dinner. It’s not that people don’t bake, but with the small city kitchens and all the other stuff that limits time around the holidays, it’s just as simple to head to the corner bakery and pick up a cake or tart. Or, of course, ask David to do it.
Because of my unique position as the in-house baker, dessert usually falls on my shoulders and if I presented a store-bought dessert, I would likely get run out of town on a rail. (When the trains aren’t on strike, that is.) So this year since I got a bit pressed for time as the holidays approached, I decided to make something refreshing which could be made well in advance, and made an ice cream bombe. I always thought that a bombe glacée was a fairly well-known French dessert, but Romain had no idea what I was talking about and got a little frightened when I told him I was going to make a bomb for Christmas. So I didn’t push it and just said I was making three different kinds of ice cream in a pan.
I had a bag in my freezer of apricot purée made from the last of the fresh apricots from Provence that flooded the markets at the end of the summer, figuring I’d put them to good use sometime soon. And after a filling meal, I like a little zing from ginger in my dessert—and why not some chocolate? So the first layer was apricot sorbet, and the middle layer of my bombe was White Chocolate-Fresh Ginger Ice Cream. But what I didn’t have was any idea what would be the final layer. I was thinking of something both colorful and strong-tasting, that would stand up to the creamy-spiced ice cream and tangy sorbet.
Shauna is the gluten-free sister I never had and from the moment I met her a few years ago in Seattle when I was on book tour, from the first bite of sushi we shared to the last grounds of our Seattle-made coffee, I was as hooked as are her legions of fans. I was reading her newest book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef and saw her husband’s recipe for Cranberry-Shiso Sorbet, which I used as inspiration for this sorbet. I knew it would pair nicely with the other flavors, yet be assertive enough to hold its own.
Cranberries are frightfully expensive in Paris because they’re shipped from America: available only around the holidays, they normally sell for anywhere between €4 and €6 ($5 to $8) a bag. I did find one sack marked down right after Thanksgiving because I would imagine the few people who buy them in Paris are Americans.
But once the holidays are over, demand is fairly low—they’re relatively unknown and I’ve never seen a dessert in France that used cranberries. And when I served the sorbet, I had to spend a few minutes explaining what les canneberges were because the French are an inquisitive lot. (When I got to the part about flooding the bogs to harvest the berries, I think I lost about half the room, and that was enough and everyone stopped asking questions and started digging in.)
Fortunately a friend brought me a few bags from the states who came to visit recently and I noticed the bags are now 12 ounces, rather than the previous one-pound sacks. Still, I’m fortunate to have a few bags in my freezer which I hope will last until the next year.
The bombe was a big hit, no pun intended. And since you won’t find biscotti in any Parisian bakery, I made a batch of them, a thought which occured at the last minute when I realized I was missing a key ingredient for the other cookies I was planning on making. (Note to self: One should make sure they have almonds on hand if they plan to make almond cookies the day before Christmas.) But I did have some fresh, juicy clementines which I made a suave caramel sauce out of with a shot of Cointreau, which was just right dribbled over the duo of sorbets and ice cream.
Hope you all had a great holiday celebration…and ate well too—wherever you are!
To make an ice cream or sorbet bombe: Choose any smooth plastic or metal container as a mold. Decide how many layers of ice cream or sorbet you want to add, then fill the container with water. Measure out the water with a measuring cup. Take the total volume and divide by the number of layers, and then you’ll know the quantity to use for each layer. (For example if the container holds 6 cups of water and you want 3 layers, each layer should be 2 cups of ice cream or sorbet.)
Line the mold with plastic film and smooth it down as much as possible, then chill it in the freezer. Plastic molds don’t need to be lined, but it does help unmold the bombe later.
Freeze each batch of ice cream or sorbet. Add one layer at a time, when the ice cream is spreadable, shortly after it comes out of the machine. Once you’ve put in a layer, rap the mold on a folded tea towel on the kitchen counter to release any air bubbles then re-freeze the mold as you wait for the next layer. For best results, let the layers get firm before you add another layer.
(If you want to use store-bought ice cream, simply let each one soften until spreadable to make layers.)
Note that being water- or fruit-based, sorbets tend to be icy and harder than ice cream once frozen. So it’s a good idea to add alcohol or use another technique for keeping it softer when frozen.
Cover and freeze the bombe until ready to serve. To serve, uncover the bombe turn it onto a well-chilled serving plate then lift off the mold. Remove the plastic wrap and cut slices with a sharp knife dipped in very hot water between slicing each portion.
Related Posts and Links
Cranberry Ice Cream with White Chocolate Chunks (Serious Eats)
Apricot Sorbet (The Perfect Scoop)
Orange Caramel Sauce (Ready for Dessert)