How to make Pacojet-Style Frozen Desserts at Home

pacojet-style frozen dessert
If you’ve ever been in an upscale restaurant and ordered a sorbet or ice cream with a consistency that seemed to defy the laws of physics, it was probably made in a Pacojet.  This $4000 machine is a staple in many restaurant and hotel kitchens for its ability to produce exceptionally smooth and creamy desserts and savory dishes.  However, if I’m going to drop four grand on a kitchen machine, it damned well better take voice commands and wear a skimpy outfit.

My method uses dry ice for instant freezing and Xanthan Gum, a popular soy-based gluten substitute, as a thickener for a more velvety texture.  In addition, I’ve added a small amount of Versawhip, which creates a subtle but stable foam, giving the finished product the unexpected lightness usually associated with mousses.  You can substitute the sorbet base of your choice, following the same basic steps.

Makes: about 6 cups
Total kitchen time: 10 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 20 oz. canned pineapple (crushed, slices, or chunks), including juice
  • 6 oz. fresh raspberries
  • 1 oz. (a small shot) St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (optional)
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. Xanthan gum (also available in the baking aisle at better grocery stores. Look for the Bob’s Red Mill label)
  • 1/2 tsp. Versawhip
  • 1 lb. dry ice, crushed into 1/2” or smaller chunks
  1. Combine the pineapple (including juice), raspberries, St. Germain and sugar in the bowl of a large food processor.  Process for one minute or until smooth.
  2. Add the Xanthan gum and Versawhip and process until combined.
  3. With the food processor running, add the dry ice and continue processing another 1-2 minutes, or until the sound of the dry ice cracking has stopped.
  4. Remove from the food processor and serve, or store in the freezer.  Can be made 2 days in advance.

It is true that the Pacojet doesn’t require any added thickeners to achieve its magic consistency.  However, it does require you to freeze your sorbet mix at –20C for 24 hours before churning.  I’d love to do a blind taste test comparison between this method and the Pacojet. As soon as I trip over a pile of cash, I’ll let you know how the test turns out.

5-Minute Dry Ice Elderflower Sorbet

Video Recipe

If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been slightly obsessed with molecular gastronomy (“modernist cuisine” if you’ve read the Nathan Myhrvold interview).  Unfortunately, I’m a long way off from having centrifuges, rotary evaporators and tanks of liquid nitrogen lying around my lab kitchen.  Luckily, some of the geekiest cooking techniques work very well with home kitchen substitutes, and dry ice sorbet is the perfect example.  Eric Rivera first introduced me to this technique during one of our periodic food experimentation meetings.  Depending on the sugar content of the sorbet base and the type of mixer attachment, you can produce anything from fluffy, soft, taffy-like sorbets like this one to desserts with the consistency of Dippin-Dots.  Last night I added lime zest, lime juice and a shot of tequila to the sorbet base, then topped the result with lime salt for the coldest, sweetest smoothest margarita sorbet you’ve ever tasted!

Note: Whenever you’re working with dry ice, WEAR THICK GLOVES. Having sensation in your appendages is a good thing.

Note Two: In the video, I say to bring the sorbet base to a boil.  Further testing has shown that’s really not necessary.  A simmer is usually sufficient for the sugar and water to be completely combined.

Sorbet on Foodista