Pumpkin Sorbet with Hot Pepita Brittle

"Okay, let's look at the problem this way: imagine I had a pizza and then all my friends showed up so I cut it into 100 slices. Then imagine I ate 50 of the slices and..."

" You'd barf."
"um...yeah. You're absolutely correct."
I never pictured myself trying to teach elementary school math, especially after my traumatic experience learning it. Turns out it's not all that bad... and I'm realizing that there's probably no good reason I've felt haunted by long division all these years. (I'm tempted to seriously digress and make this post about how telling kids they're bad at math creates a stigma that murders dreams...but it's going to be about pumpkin.) The upside of being "bad at math" is that all those years of trying to make it quick and painless has made me an empress of shortcuts and tricks. Now I get to be the one who sits down with my frustrated students, hides those daunting zeros with my thumb, and whispers, "I'll let you in on a little secret..." Even though a page of numbers still automatically gives me the chills, time has brought me enough clarity to know that with math, like most things, it helps to have an alternate strategy and an escape route.
So when I decided to make a pumpkin sorbet and discovered the apparent dearth of pumpkin sorbet recipes on the internet, I had to get out my algebra cap, the kitchen scale, and a bottle of Wild Turkey just in case (I'll explain this in a minute).
I've been thinking about alternatives to the heavycreamycustardy pumpkin desserts that dominate this time of year. Also, I've been trying to think of a way to have non-dairy frozen desserts for those of us who can't or don't want to have dairy. I'm not crazy about dairy substitutes--to me, the idea of making pumpkin pie with non-dairy creamer or silken tofu seems blasphemous (but that's just my opinion). Sorbet seemed the obvious solution.
The biggest problem I've had with sorbet is the formation of solid ice crystals (i.e. rock hard rocketpop that breaks spoons). Basically, you want fine ice crystals surrounded by unfrozen syrup. According to scientists Harold McGee and Shirley O. Corriher, to create the appropriate texture, the amount of sugar in a sorbet should be 30 % of the total weight, unless you want a big fruity glacier. The equation goes like this:
[x being the weight of sugar and y being the weight of the other ingredients]
x= 0.3(y+x)

So if you check my math (and know that the weight of a cup of white sugar is 7 oz, a cup of water is 8 oz, and the weight of a 15 oz can of pumpkin is, well, 15 oz) you'll see that I rounded. With gusto. This is the trick, the safety net. Different sugars inhibit freezing by varying amounts, and eggs whites create lightness. A few spoons of alcohol also lowers the freezing point (ever seen a tequila ice cube? Didn't think so) and a little booze never hurt any dessert.

This sorbet is definitely scoop-able and intensely pumpkin-y (maybe even too pumpkin-y for some.) I like it both pie-spicy and hot-spicy and the hot-spicy pepita brittle adds a kick and a crunch.

Pumpkin Sorbet With Hot Pepita Brittle

  • 1 1/4 C water
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C white sugar
  • 1/4 C maple syrup
  • 1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1/2-1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • pinch of salt
  • shake of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T bourbon!
  • 1 egg white, fork beaten until loose
  • 3/4 C "Hot Pepita Brittle", broken into small pieces (recipe coming up later!)

1. Cook water and white/brown sugars over low until sugar is dissolved

2. In another bowl, combine pumpkin, syrup, spices, vanilla, bourbon, and lemon juice. Add in the sugar/water mixture and chill completely or overnight.

3. Add to your ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's directions. Or still freeze.
After the first 5 minutes, add in the beaten egg white.

4. 5 minutes before the sorbet is done, add in the crumbled brittle. Pack into a container, cover with wax paper and pop in the freezer.


  1. Made a simplified version of the sorbet to use up some of the vast quantity of fresh winter squash puree I have on hand at the moment...delicious! But thank you especially for the equation-- the info about the proper sugar:otherstuff ratio in a sorbet is the single most useful thing I've learned on a food blog for quite some time.

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