Sherbet: A Soviet caramel dessert with exotic origins (RECIPE)

Create a magical aura at home with the exquisite smell of caramel and fried peanuts thanks to this sweet Soviet-era dessert.

Create a magical aura at home with the exquisite smell of caramel and fried peanuts thanks to this sweet Soviet-era dessert.

Legion Media
Enjoy the pleasure of both preparing and eating this mouth-watering, thick nut-caramel dessert.

Most people born in the USSR remember this wonderful creamy sherbet with peanuts, which was widely available in stores across the Soviet Union. Even though the sweet delight was very popular, few people knew the interesting story behind this dish. 

In general, Eastern delights came from afar and quickly found their proper place in Russian cuisine. But the fact is that in the East, the word ‘sherbet’ meant ‘a sweet drink’, and was basically a fruit juice with spices. In our country, however, what we call ‘sherbet’ is a sweet treat in the form of squares made with lots of nuts, something like Turkish Delight but not entirely so. Turkish Delight is more fruit based, while the Russian sherbet is based on a type of nougat.  

According to historian of Russian cuisine William Pokhlebkin, this resulted from the illiteracy of confectionery factory workers, who used the term ‘sherbet’ to refer to milk and fruit fudges pressed into small squares.  

As a matter of fact, the Russian sherbet is easy to prepare, which is why in my childhood this sweet treat was common both in shops and in housewives’ kitchens. Contrary to popular belief, sherbet is a surprisingly hearty and nutritious dessert, thanks to the abundance of nuts that packs it full of vitamins and vegetable fats.  

I suggest we return sherbet to our everyday life. To make the consistency enjoyable, I add honey to it for viscosity, and milk powder for density. Fried peanuts are perfect as a filling. Of course, any type of nut can be fine. But the rule of thumb is not to violate the proportions specified in the recipe; otherwise, the consequences can be ruinous for the whole dessert. Please note: sherbet should be cooked to a temperature of 115-118°C, so best to use a culinary thermometer. 


For 12 portions 

  • Milk 3.2% (or cream 33%) - 300 ml
  • Sugar - 500 g
  • Milk powder - 2 tbsps
  • Roasted peanuts - 150 g
  • Honey - 2 tsps 
  • Butter 82% - 130 g 
  • Salt - 0.5 tsp  


1. First, dry the nuts in a frying pan for 5 minutes.

2. After the roasted nuts are cooled, peel off their skin. 

3. In a small pot, stir the cream with milk powder. Warm up in several steps so that the dry mixture disperses with no lumps left, and leave the mixture aside to cool a bit. 

4. Take a large and deep saucepan of 2-3 liters. While cooking, the mixture will boil and foam; make sure there’s enough space so it won’t overflow onto the stove. I poured all the sugar into the saucepan, and immediately added butter and honey — it will make the mixture more malleable and won’t let it become candied.

5. Put the saucepan on low heat and cook the syrup, but don’t stir the mixture for the first 4-5 minutes. The sugar grains should melt, and then the caramel will gradually become a darker nutty color. Also, make sure to add salt; it’ll harmonize the taste. As soon as the sugar melts, you can stir the mixture with a spatula until you get a dark brown shade of syrup.

6. The next step is to slowly but surely pour the warmed cream (milk) into the saucepan — be very careful. The mixture will foam and bubble when we add liquid to the boiling caramel. Don’t forget to mix it.

7. As soon as the caramel dissolves in the cream and the mixture begins to boil, mark the time - we need to cook it for about 20-30 minutes, on medium heat, stirring constantly (if you cook half the amount, then half the time). Notice the mixture gradually becoming thicker while boiling; it won’t flow, so smoothly drain from the spatula. Boil the mixture to 115-118°C, measuring the temperature with a thermometer.

8. When it reaches the right temperature, turn off the heat, add the peanuts and mix in with a spatula.

9. Cool the mixture to about 60-70°C.

10. Next, actively mix with a spatula until the sherbet begins to thicken. Don’t pour it into the form immediately, otherwise, it will harden and crystallize. The process of mixing will take 10-15 minutes. As a result, you’ll get a mixture so thick that it’ll be difficult to stir with a spatula. 

11. Now, place it into a form. I used a silicon form because it’s very easy to remove the sherbet from it. If you don't have one, then take any other dish, but make sure to line its bottom and sides with cling wrap. The sherbet should be cooled to room temperature, and then put in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until it completely solidifies.

12. Enjoy with tea! 

READ MORE: Make your life sweeter cooking Caucasian halva (RECIPE)


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