One of the most common desserts, especially at fancy shmancy restaurants here in Spain, is the sorbete de limón, or lemon champagne sorbet. It is normally served in a fluted champagne glass with a straw, and made into a frozen drink by mixing some lemon ice cream or sorbet with cava (Spain’s sparkling wine made using the Champagne method).
At weddings rather than serving it as a dessert, it is often served between the fish platter and the meat platter to cleanse the palate. Yes, it is common to have a very long dinner that begins with appetizers followed by a fish platter, then a sorbete which is followed by the meat dish, all of which are followed by the dessert and the wedding cake! You can imagine that dinners at these sorts of events go for hours.
The most common sorbete that is served is the lemon sorbet “a la cava,” (lemon champagne sorbet) but other common varieties include tangerine, lime, or mango.
I decided to make a sorbete de limón for New Year’s Eve because it was befitting such a celebration.
Here most people make these sorbets at the last minute quite easily by buying a pre-made lemon sorbet and mixing it with cava right before serving. It isn’t difficult to make your own, though, in any flavor you choose.
The first time I made it, I used a simple syrup made with regular sugar. To make the lemon champagne sorbet for our New Year's celebration, I made the sugar syrup early in the day so that it had time to cool off and give me plenty of time to freeze everything before midnight.
You probably know by now that I rarely use regular table sugar, but I left it that way for two reasons. The traditional recipe uses regular sugar, so I figured it was probably best to try it that way first to get a better grip on making it before I started playing with the recipe. Since then, though, I have also tried it with maple syrup, and I'm going to share with you both ways of making it so you can decide for yourself.
As for the champagne part, if you don't want alcohol, there are other options. The lemon sorbet is wonderful alone as a solid treat, but if you want to make a sorbet drink with it, you can use something other than sparkling wine. I tried it with water kefir, for example, and I think I liked it even better than the champagne version. 😉
Sorbete de Limón al Cava: Spanish Lemon Champagne Sorbet
Makes 6-8 glasses, dependent upon the amount of lemon sorbet used in each glass.
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- lemon zest from 2 small lemons
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (or 1/2 cup simple syrup)
- 2 egg whites
- 750 ml sweet sparkling wine champagne, cava, etc. or substitute with water kefir
- If making the paleo version with maple syrup, skip to step 2.
If using regular sugar, mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small pan over medium heat on the stove. Keep heating it and occasionally stirring until the mixture slightly thickens. You should end up with just over a half cup of simple syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool.
- Meanwhile wash and grate the peel of the clean lemons, obtaining only the zest for flavor. Try to avoid adding any of the white pith as it adds a bitter flavor.
- Juice enough lemons to obtain around 1/2 cup of lemon juice.
- Mix the cooled sugar syrup or maple syrup with the lemon juice and zest and place the mixture into the freezer for several hours until it begins to form ice crystals.
- Add the egg whites to a bowl and begin to beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- Fold the egg whites into the cold lemon mixture until throughly combined.
- Place the new mixture into the freezer for several hours more, until you are almost ready to serve your champagne sorbet. To keep large ice crystals from forming, it’s a good idea to remove the sorbet from the freezer and mix it occasionally throughout the freezing process.
- When the time comes to serve the champagne sorbet, mix some sparkling wine with the lemon sorbet to taste. Sweet sparkling wines work best. Use just enough to make it slushy and easily drunk with a straw.
(Servings are based on adding just over 2 Tbsp. of lemon sorbet with 107ml cava, 1/7th of a 750ml bottle.)
- Serve in a fluted champagne glass with a straw, optionally garnished with a sprig of mint.
Non-paleo version makes for a sweeter version of the drink, but that can be adjusted by the amount of simple syrup used.