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I have a plastic ice-cream machine (two quarts).

I water, sugar and lemon juice, cool it until it just starts freezing, and then put it into the ice-cream maker for an hour.

As a result, it comes out with ice clumps and if I put it in the freezer, it comes out hard.

One time, I made it actually come out with a "snowy" texture, and that can be placed in a freezer without hardening it. However, I don't remember what I did special then.

What should I do to get my sorbet snowy?

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How much water and sugar? –  Peter Taylor Aug 22 '13 at 8:28
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This is surely a duplicate of What determines whether a sherbet will set or not? or Tips for Creating a Creamy and Smooth Sorbet, yes? There are probably others. –  Jefromi Aug 22 '13 at 14:52
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1 Answer 1

A variety of factors can change the texture of a sorbet:

The amount of sugar or other large quantity solutes (less dissolved solids, harder texture).

The rate of freezing (slower freezing, larger crystals).

The use of any "stabilizers" (guar/xanthan gum, gelatin, etc.). These interfere with the formation of large crystals. I believe the stabilizer I use is xanthan and guar gums, cold-soluble gelatin, and glucose but I can't remember the ratios I used.

I have started to use liquid nitrogen to freeze my ice cream and sorbet in my standard kitchen mixer. Once I did that I noticed that the texture was much finer, likely due to the stabilizer and the rapid freezing.

Related question: Creating a creamy sorbet

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Slow freezing with good churning actually makes smaller crystals, and if you freeze rapidly without sufficient mixing you'll get large crystals. The fact that liquid nitrogen boils away and essentially mixes/breaks up the ice cream on a small scale is a large part of the reason it makes such finely textured ice cream. If you instead dropped your bowl of syrup/custard into a liquid nitrogen bath and tried desperately to stir it fast enough, you'd get lots of large crystals as it froze way faster than you could mix it. –  Jefromi Aug 22 '13 at 14:55
    
True. The agitation/ churning definitely is a factor also. I forgot to add that some recipes also call for a small quantity (a tablespoon or so) of alcohol as another antifreeze agent to help with finer crystals. I do not know how much real impact this small quantity would make on a half gallon of sorbet. –  RudyB Aug 22 '13 at 17:16
    
Alcohol definitely works, as I mentioned in the possible duplicates I linked above. You'll get noticeable softening from 1-2 tablespoons of something 80 proof, and 4-8 tablespoons is enough to make sorbet hardly even freeze solid. –  Jefromi Aug 22 '13 at 17:18
    
Jefromi : I always assumed that ultra cold temperatures worked more like phase change in metals -- you end up seeding crystals in multiple places so that they don't all form with the same orientation, thus it breaks apart more easily. I don't know how much the agitation actually does. (but I admit, I've never made it that way, myself). –  Joe Aug 22 '13 at 17:31
    
@Joe Yeah, there's probably some of that too, but for example, the layer that nearly-instantly freezes on the outside of a normal ice cream maker is pretty hard. My guess would be you'd end up with a block of ice without the mixing, and it might break up more easily than if you froze it in the freezer, but it'd still be a block of ice. –  Jefromi Aug 22 '13 at 18:01
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