Corn Syrup may be looked down on when it comes to processed food, but the team at Serious Eats discovered at least one application where using it at home really does improve the flavour and texture of your food: in homemade sorbet.
The best sorbet is smooth, not icy, and only a little sweet — the fruit flavour should shine through. Max Falkowitz at Serious Eats explains why corn syrup — and other “invert sugars” — are better in the many dessert recipes that call for them. He also goes out of his way to make sure we understand the difference between corn syrup you can buy at the store and the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that you should avoid whenever possible.
He goes on to point out that the viscous nature of a normal corn syrup and the fact that it’s actually less sweet than table sugar make it ideal for sorbet. It also resists crystallisation. Just to put the ingredient to the test, he made four batches of lemon sorbet, each with different amounts of corn syrup, from his normal recipe to none at all (replacing it with sugar), and then did a blind taste test to determine the better tasting treat:
The results were clear: even a small amount of corn syrup drastically improved a sorbet’s texture. While the sugar-based sorbets won out on flavour, their texture suffered. The all-sugar sorbet sucked eggs: dry, icy, clumpy, impossible to scoop. A small amount of corn syrup added substantial creaminess, and greater amounts improved texture even more.
How much corn syrup to add is a question of personal taste. I like the super-dense, super-smooth, ice cream-like texture of my all corn syrup sorbet, though it takes a good 12 hours in the freezer to harden and it melts quickly. Others preferred the mostly corn syrup version, which wasn’t quite as smooth, but close. There’s no right or wrong answer here, except to dismiss corn syrup out of hand.
He does note there are some cons to using corn syrup, namely that table sugar tastes sweeter, and corn syrup can have an off-taste compared to table sugar. It also adds volume, something that table sugar doesn’t, so you need to account for that in your recipe. At the end of the day, he suggests you trust your own tastes and experiment freely.