Concentrate on sherbets for cool, pretty desserts

Ah, the sweet tingle of sherbet on a hot summer day. The taste of fruit, the refresher of ice, the delicate pastel of the scoops -- they all make this versatile dish irresistible.

What is especially appealing about sherbets is their many uses. Unlike rich ice cream, sherbets may be served before, during, or after a meal. A tart sherbet makes a perky appetizer before a relaxing lunch. If you feel the need to slow down midway through a hearty roast beef dinner, sherbets have an ancient tradition as a light-on-the-palate detour that resets the taste buds for enjoying the rest of the meal. And then, of course, sherbets offer a delightful stop sign to a meal, their unpretentious message never too cloying or resounding.

Fresh fruit juices make the best sherbets, although this may take too long for busy people. Frozen fruit concentrates are the next best step, and they make it possible to have a variety of homemade ices on hand at all times.

Whether you use a hand-cranked or electric maker, sherbets are churn-frozen the same way ice cream is. Four parts finely chopped ice to one part coarse salt will freeze in about 20 minutes. It's best to leave sherbets 1 to 2 hours in a freezer before serving.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, sherbets may be made in an ordinary refrigerator freezer. Simply place the mixture in ice cube trays without the cube dividers and later beat air into the half-frozen sherbet, then refreeze, as one of the following recipes describes.

Pineapple-orange comes out an off-white color. It's especially good with lemon or butter cookies. Pineapple Orange Sherbet 3/4 cup sugar 2 cups water 6 ounces pineapple-orange concentrate, thawed 2 egg whites 3 tablespoons sugar

Boil sugar and water covered for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add concentrate. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Beat in 3 tablespoons sugar until smooth and thick. fold egg whites into concentrate mixture. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Serves 6 to 8. Tangerine Banana Sherbet 1 cup sugar 4 to 5 orange rind strips 4 cups milk 1 ripe banana, pureed 6 ounces tangerine concentrate, thawed 2 egg whites 2 tablespoons sugar

Stir sugar and orange rind into 1 cup milk. Heat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve. Remove from heat. Add rest of milk, banana, and tangerine concentrate. Cool. Remove rinds. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until smooth and thick. Fold into tangerine mix. Freeze accoding to manufacturer's directions. Makes 2 quarts. Cranberry Orange Sherbet 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin 1/4 cup cold water 2/3 cup sugar 6 ounces cranorange concentrate, thawed 2 cups cold water 2 egg whites 2 tablespoons sugar

Soak gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Stirring, dissolve sugar in concentrate over medium heat. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and add 2 cups water. Beat egg whites. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until smooth and thick. fold into concentrate mixture.

Pour into ice cube trays without the dividers. Place in refrigerator freezer until half frozen. Remove from trays and whip the mushy mixture with a beater 3 to 4 minutes. Pour into a large container with a cover and freeze. Serves 6 to 8. Lime Sherbet 6 ounces limeande concentrate, thawed 2/3 cup sugar 4 cups cold milk 2 egg whites 2 tablespoons sugar

Mix limeade and sugar and dissolve by stirring over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add milk. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until smooth and thick. Fold whites into lime mixture. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Makes 2 quartrs. If desired, stir in a few drops of green food coloring before freezing.

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