Sunday, May 25, 2008

Up North Goes Down South: Sugar High Friday #43 - Citrus

Even though I don't bake frequently (that's usually Angelica's department), I never miss a post at Tartelette. The beautiful photography and personal writing style makes it an all-time favourite of mine. It also helps that Helen has a love bordering on obsession with citrus, mirroring my own feelings toward those magnificent fruits, so when she announced that Sugar High Friday #43 would have citrus as it's theme, I almost squealed. Me and Angelica had only days earlier reached the conclusion that we should participate in a blogging event, and if there ever was a sign from above, this was it.

For those not in the know regarding food blogging events, Sugar High Friday is the child of Jennifer at The Domestic Goddess, and works like this: every SHF has a host, who decides a theme, and all participants must simply make a dessert on the specified theme and blog about it before a deadline. The entries are then lined up in an (usually almost endless) entry on the host's blog, where you can then find all the inspiration you ever wanted regarding the theme.

Anybody who has ever been to Sweden knows what a Norway Spruce (Picea abies) looks like. It's a beautiful conifer, growing tall and straight, and together with the Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), it defines the Swedish forest. Lovely enough on their own, these trees are also good news: wherever there is a pine forest, there's also bilberries. We shall return to those at a later occasion, today we focus on the trees.

Racking our brains about tastes to go with citrus, our thoughts turned towards conifers. It is a well known fact that citrus fruits are best friends with dry gin, which is flavoured with juniper berries, and has a distinct conifer flavour. With this thought in place, spruce immediately came to mind. One of those things that every Swede knows, but which is uncommon knowledge abroad, is that spruce shoots are edible. Lovely soft and light green, picking and eating the shoots straight off the tree is an almost mandatory part of a spring walk in the woods. Both of us also have fond memories of chewing the needles from christmas trees (not actually eating them, mind you, just extracting the tastes and discarding the needle itself).

Edit: Angelica points out that the last paragraph made it sound like I was involved in the idea of using the spruce, but that was actually all her. I came up with the actual implementation, see next paragraph. Oh, the joys of collective blogging...

So, the decision was made: spruce and citrus it would be. I suggested that we could modify Angelica's Italian lemon/mint sorbet, hands down my favourite ice cream recipe. The modification was simple enough, we would just infuse the syrup with spruce instead of mint.

Now all we needed was some spruce. We hadn't thought of that as a potential problem, well used to hardly being able to turn around quickly without ramming our heads into a spruce tree, but this is Munich, not Stockholm, and instead of tall, dark spruce trees, light green beeches line the streets. Luckily, I live a mere stone's throw from the Englischer Garten, which is lovingly planted with the most varied flora. A twenty minute search turned out fruitful, and we returned home with a couple of spruce twigs and some shoots.

Since we don't have an ice cream machine, the sorbet turned into more of a granita, but aim for sorbet, it will be smooth and wonderful in every way. This is a light sorbet, perfect for the porch or balcony on a warm summer day. To big up the conifer flavour, we added a shot of gin, which was quite good. If you don't want alcohol in the finished product, add the gin to the water when making the syrup, and let the alcohol boil off.

The spruce aroma was subtle and combined deliciously with the citrus. We felt that it was a tad slight, but for those not used to chewing the needles, it's probably just right as the recipe stands. We also tried serving the granita slightly melted with a splash of Limoncello, and it turned into a lovely summer drink, reminiscent of a frozen daiquiri.

Citrus and Spruce Sorbet

150 ml water
150 g sugar
150 ml full fat milk
150 ml mixed citrus juice (we used lemon and lime)
40 ml dry gin
25 g spruce twigs
spruce shoots for decoration

Tear the needles from the spruce twigs, don't worry if a bit of the bark comes along with them. Roughly chop the needles up with a knife to open them out and let the aroma out. Combine water, sugar and spruce needles in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about two minutes, then remove from heat, add spruce twigs, and let cool to room temperature. When cool, sieve the syrup into a bowl, add milk, gin and citrus juice and whisk together. Run mixture in an ice cream machine for 20-30 minutes, until it's frozen into a smooth mixture. Serve in bowls, or in cocktail glasses with a splash of limoncello, and decorate with a spruce shoot.


Helen said...

Thank you for your lovely words...I am blushing :)
Happy to know that we share the same interest for citrus too!
The granita/sorbet sounds perfect...I was just thinking of making a gin and lemon granita this weekend!
Thank you for participating this month!

Evelin said...

it's comforting to know that someone else in the blogosphere eats them too!:) and with citrus...perfect! I've still got a bunch of fir shoots from last week and I'm going to make jam out of them. stay tuned if you're interested;)

angelica said...

Helen: Thank you for giving us the chance to participate in such a lovely event!

Evelin: Hehe, I know the feeling! :) Whereas everyone in Sweden has at least once eaten a spruce shoot, everyone in Bavaria who's heard of it thinks we're weird... :p