Granita is an Italian frozen dessert very similar to sorbet, except that it's made by hand instead of in a machine. Because of this, the texture of granita is coarser and flakier - like eating snow! It's briefly crunchy at the first spoonful and then melts deliciously in your mouth.
You can make granita in a whole range of flavors from coffee to traditional Italian bitter almond, but during the summer, we go for whatever fruit is in season. Rhubarb, peach, strawberry, blackberry - whatever looks the best!
Making the Base
The exact recipe for the granita base can vary depending on how ripe your fruit is, how sweet or sour it is, and how much liquid it holds. Here's the basic formula we follow:
1 lb fresh fruit, peeled and sliced into chunks
1/4 - 1 cup water
1/4 - 3/4 cup granular sugar
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the fruit has broken down into mush (15-20 minutes).
Alternatively, you run the fruit in a food processor until it is pureed. Cook the sugar and water on the stove until the sugar is dissolved and then stir it into the fruit puree.
Either way, the end goal is a slightly thickened liquid with a consistency somewhere between orange juice and applesauce. The water helps to break the fruit down and thin it out. Start with 1/4 cup of water and add more if the pot looks like it's too dry or to thin it out a little at the end. Ditto with the sugar - start with 1/4 cup, taste the mash toward the end of cooking, and add more to taste.
Off the heat, add in any extra flavorings. We like to add a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a pinch of salt. You can also add wine or other liquor, spices, or fresh herbs.
Making the Granita
Let the base cool to room temperature. If the fruit had a lot of seeds or was particularly pulpy, you can press the mixture through a strainer. We actually like the extra texture, so unless the seeds are inedible, we often leave it as is!
Pour the base into a shallow baking dish. The more thinly spread the base is, the quicker it will freeze. Put the pan into the freezer.
After 1/2 hour, take the pan out of the freezer and rake or stir the granita with a fork. Put it back in the freezer. Continue doing this every half hour or so until the granita is completely frozen and resembles fresh snow. Depending on how often and how vigorously you stir the granita, the texture can be flakier (less stirring) or finer (more stirring).
At this stage, you can either serve it up in individual bowls or lightly pack it into an air-tight container for later.
Enjoy Your Granita!
That's really all there is to it. We like to serve granita with a little cookie or thin tuile. In Italy, granita is often served with a brioche and eaten for breakfast!
For inspiration, here are a few granita recipes that look good:
• Simple Lemon Granita from Pinch My Salt
• Rhubarb Granita from the Washington Times
• Honeydew and Sake Granita from Epicurious
• Strawberry Granita from David Lebovitz
• Coffee Granita from Alton Brown
What's your favorite flavor of granita?