Black and Decker was the inventor of the first pistol grip, trigger-switch portable electric drill, the first motion activated screwdriver and in 1916 changed the world by obtaining the first patent for a portable power tool. Their impressive wealth of industry expertise has probably helped you build and repair your home or car, manufacture the office building where you work and tidied up your yard. But I’m thinking more about hardware power in the kitchen specifically a kitchen appliance used to make the classic Italian granita.
The Italian granita is a semi-frozen crunchy mound of flavored ice brought to America by Italian immigrants. Common and traditional flavoring ingredients include lemon juice, mandarin oranges, jasmine, coffee, almonds, mint, strawberries and chocolate. Originally born in Sicily this refined version of the snowcone spread all over Italy, found at street fairs and Italian pasticceria. Today granitas are not only served as a dessert but between courses to refresh the palate or as condiments for savory dishes. New flavor combinations infuse ice with everything from lemon verbena to beet root and are likely to be found not only as an after dinner sweet but as an accompaniment from sushi to soups.
Black and Decker’s PartyMate Portable Drink Maker isn’t the only method for creating a delicious granita. You can make a granita with 3-inch x 9-inch baking dish and your home freezer. Granita will definitely be on my “things to make” list this summer. I’ve got a great bottle of balsamic and my tarragon and rosemary are looking for a new flavor partner.
Granita al caffe’ con panna. What could be better than a frozen shot of espresso on a hot summer in the city day? When the temperature soars I like to have my morning espresso in one cool, heat-dissipating shot.
A granita is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and flavorings, kind of like a slushy, sophisticated snow cone. The technique for making a granita is super easy; all you need is a casserole dish or shallow pan, your freezer and a fork.
Flavorings are limited only by your imagination and in this case I’m imagining un caffe’ so I’ll stir coffee and sugar together (about 1/4 cup of granulated sugar for every two cups of brewed espresso or strong regular coffee) let it cool, then pour the coffee mixture into a shallow dish or pan and put it in the freezer. In about 20 minutes to half an hour, it should start to freeze. Break it up with a fork, and leave in the freezer. Do this again in another 20 minutes and continue until there is no more loose liquid in the mix. Serve in a glass dish or cup with a good amount of panna (whipped heavy cream) on top. The great thing about this recipe is easily adaptable to your taste and lots of slushy fun.
Summers not over yet, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy an Italian granita di caffe’. A semi-frozen dessert made with sweetened espresso. Originally from Sicily, a granita (granita siciliana) is made from sugar, water and flavorings, freezing the ingredients while mixing them. In Italy, regional variations in preparation result in a coarse or smooth texture similar to a sorbet.
The method of freezing is critical to the outcome. You can make a granita in a shallow container and as a film freezes on top of the container, break it up and stir it with a fork every 20 minutes or so. This will create a granita with the characteristic grainy texture. A smoother texture comes from using a gelato machine but you don’t have to have a gelato machine to make a smooth granita. All you really need is some version of a Donvier, a machine that breaks up the ice crystals and makes the texture lighter. A Donvier has a metal container that must be frozen at least 7 hours before you want to use it. The cylinder acts as a cold collector and allows you to freeze mixtures in just 12 minutes, hand cranking it every once in a while. The result will be more like a sorbet but as there is no electricity driving the mixing you can control the texture to achieve the desired constancy.
In Italy, coffee granita is served in tall glasses and topped with whipped cream. Unlike gelato or ice cream; there is no butterfat in a granita so it can be a guiltless summertime pleasure to enjoy. Divertiti!
Here are a few links to other granita variations including one from La Cucina Italiana Magazine for coffee granita with almond tuiles