Oct 4, 2007

Apfelpfannkuchen

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Still blissful and dreamy after our day spent apple picking in the country, it was only right to start the next day with a breakfast celebrating the literal fruits of our labor. And I was not about to do something all diet-y and stir a chopped Fuji into some cottage cheese with cinnamon (although that breakfast will be coming in handy in about a week when all the glorious apple desserts I’ve been making start to catch up with me). It was a lazy Sunday, after all, and before the morning gave way to an NFL marathon, I thought it would be nice to enjoy a special apple-inspired breakfast with the husband. But what to make?

The problem with a lot of fruit-centered breakfast dishes is that they are cloyingly sweet and punch you in the gut about 20 minutes after eating–thick and starchy pancakes or heavy french toast with syrupy compotes as a crutch and mounds of whipped cream or even ice cream (!) as a topping. Now, we all know I’m not afraid of dessert, but first thing in the morning? Meh. I wanted something lighter, that really championed the fruit.


Enter the German Apple Pancake, otherwise known as a Dutch Baby. It’s a big baked pancake that needs little babysitting and leaves few dirty dishes, key for sleepyheads on a Sunday. It all starts by sauteing some fresh apples with a little butter and sprinkling on a bit of brown sugar to get some caramelization going. Meanwhile, a quick, light egg batter is blended and poured around the golden fruit. Then it’s into a hot oven for a short bake where it transforms into a beautiful, puffed round that when inverted is reminiscent of a gleaming tarte tatin.

A pretty dusting of confectioners’ sugar and a good cup of coffee is all this pancake really needs. But then again, who would argue with the addition of warm maple syrup and crispy strips of applewood smoked bacon? Communists.

German Apple Pancake
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

Serves 2-4

2 large eggs
3/4 cup half and half (you can use 1/2 milk, 1/2 half and half, if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 medium Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, about 1 1/4 pounds total)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 500 degrees and set an oven rack to the middle position.

Combine the eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt and granulated sugar in a blender and process until well-combined, about 15 seconds. Add the flour and process until well-mixed and free of lumps, about 30 seconds. Set the batter aside.

Add the butter to a 10-inch nonstick skillet with a heatproof handle over medium-high heat until the butter foams. Add the apple slices and sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over them. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and quickly pour the batter around the edge of the skillet over the apples. Put the skillet into the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 425 degrees. Cook until brown and puffed, about 16 to 17 minutes.

Loosen the edges of the pancake with a spatula and invert the pancake onto a serving platter (apples-side up). Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately with warmed maple syrup.

Oct 2, 2007

Apple Crisp with Sweet Cream Cheese Glaze

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Los Angeles is notorious for having a complete lack of seasons. A sudden drop in temperature to about 60 degrees and a blustery rainstorm a couple of weeks ago quickly lead to thick sweaters and Ugg boots as far as the eye could see. And I include myself in that group, much to the chagrin of my Midwestern roots. But what can I do? I long for a true autumn in this beachy town–leaves falling and swirling in the wind, temperatures dropping, chilly evening mist every night. But no snow. I don’t miss snow at all, sorry.

Here in L.A., I’ve realized, one needs to make her own seasons as best as she can. And so, this past weekend, the husband and I took a drive to an orchard village so different from where we live our everyday lives that the mere 90 minute drive felt like a real road trip, and we commenced to apple pickin’. Since I keep a blog strictly about baking, it’s difficult to participate in all the farmer’s market hubbub with other, more general food bloggers, as it’s tough to make dessert out of, say, heirloom potatoes. Apple picking at the height of the harvest is one of my few opportunties to bake seasonally. Locally. Sustainably. Whatever.


The Oak Glen area of Yucaipa, California is only 94 miles due east from our beach apartment, but the winding roads and sprawling mountainous countryside suggest a New England lifestyle that only J. Crew could bring us. Except in the desert. It was a beautiful day, sunny and clear and just enough of a fall nip in the air to call for a light sweater when in the shade of the apple trees. Oak Glen reminded us of touring Santa Ynez wine country outside Santa Barbara, but not drunk. You can drive down Oak Glen Road for miles, stopping at different orchards and kitschy shops along the way. And that’s exactly what we did.



Our first stop was the Parrish Ranch, where the goal was lunch. They had dramatic red signage leading up to the entrance, like the one touting “Yodeling Merle!”, and another one with hanging planks naming all the varieties that were good for the picking. But it was the sign advertising the Apple Dumplin’s Restaurant that sold us. Anything with an apostrophe in lieu of a “g” was sure to serve the kind of food we were in the mood for. Like a grilled cheddar, smoked bacon and Granny Smith apple sandwich. Oh, my.

After that lunch, how could we not be in the apple picking spirit? Before heading onto the next orchard, we quickly ducked into the Parris Ranch shop to browse, passing an alluring Kettle Corn stand on the way. Someone’s been reading my blog! I kid.

Our next stop was Riley’s Log Cabin and Farm just a short drive down the road. We walked up a dirt path to find a sweet teenage girl standing at her post, doling out advice on how to best pick the apples (use your thumb to separate the fruit’s stem from the branch, making it easier for blossoms to grown in its place next year) and paper bags for loading up our loot.


Visiting Riley’s is kind of like traveling back in time, and not just because it makes you feel like you’re on a school field trip or at camp, what with all the archery, pressing your own cider and corn husk doll and rope making classes. No, farther back in time than that. Riley’s has been a real working farm since 1877, and many of the huge seedling trees have been around since the beginning. It was really charming.

We scored some beautiful Rome, Fuji and Red Delicious for eating out of hand, and plenty of Winesaps and Northern Spy apples for baking. We figured that the last time we went apple picking was before we were married, at least six years ago. It’s nice to know that the exhilarating feeling of searching for buried treasure on a tree never goes away. When we first started picking, we laughed at some of the little munchkins running around screaming, “I found a a really pretty one, Mom!!!”. Half an hour later, WE were the nerds jogging between the trees when we spotted a winner from several feet away and saying, “Check it out!” to each other after pulling a beauty from the branches. We decided that our $33 tab was a charge for half apples, half good times.


After piling into the car with our finds, we made one more stop in Oak Glen. I was NOT leaving without a chilly jug of cider and a proper cider donut. And really, how could we resist Snow-Line Orchard, with its cheery sign bragging about their mini-cider donuts “As Seen on TV”?! We were at a Southern California orchard, after all. And you know what? If I was a TV producer, I would definitely be insanely proud to say I “discovered” these doughnuts. Especially after putting in our order and then waiting in a crowd of dozens for nearly 20 minutes of torture as the smell of spicy, sweet fried dough filled the air. Good thing we also bought a slice of pie at the counter when we put in our order. There will be no photo of said pie because, well, we scarfed it while waiting for the donuts. But I will tell you that it was amazing, especially when the bites were chased with sips of hot cider, and the filling was unlike any other apple pie filling I’d seen before: a rich maple color (Generous cinnamon? Dark brown sugar?) rather than the blondish golden filling we’re used to seeing. And then our name was called, and the donuts came forth:


I really don’t know quite how to describe this mini-cider donut experience, other than to say that there was a lot of eye-closing and deep exhaling while chewing. Not that these remarkably light fried wonders, exemplifying the perfect balance of crisp exterior meeting fluffy interior, required much chewing at all. They nearly dissolved on the tongue along with their cinnamon sugar coating, the chewing was just to sort of make the whole experience last longer. And when followed by a long drink of cold, freshly pressed cider, well, it really doesn’t get much better than that, now does it?


With our bellies full of donuts and cider and our Midwestern spirits satiated by a day spent in a sleepy town, walking in the dirt and the shade of apple trees and plucking their fruit, we fell into the car for a two-hour drive back home in very L.A.-style traffic.


After dinner that night, despite the happy exhaustion and consumption of many, many calories already that day, I just had to eek out a quick apple crisp. With a lack of vanilla ice cream in the house, there was nothing to do but whip up a wacky original recipe for a sweet, spicy cream cheese glaze to help celebrate the gorgeous Winesaps we picked up. And you know this won’t be the only post with an apple recipe, right?

Apple Crisp with Sweet Cream Cheese Glaze

Serves 4-6

For the Topping:

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds (pecans work well too)

For the Filling:

6 medium apples (choose good, firm baking apples, I used a combination of Winesaps and McIntosh, about 2 1/2 pounds total)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (apple pie spice is nice, too)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons half and half

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set an oven rack to the lower-middle position.

For the crisp topping, place the flour, sugars, spices and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Add in the cold butter and pulse about 10 times, until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add the chopped nuts and process again, for about five seconds, until the topping looks like slightly clumpy, wet sand. Don’t overmix. Refrigerate the topping for 15 minutes while you prepare the fruit.

For the filling, peel, core and cut the apples into one-inch chunks. In a medium bowl, toss the fruit with the lemon juice, sugar and spices. Dump the filling into a 8×8-inch square baking dish or a similarly-sized casserole and evenly distribute the topping over the apples. Tap the dish on the countertop to get some of the topping to drop into the spaces between the fruit. Bake for 40 minutes, and then increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake 5 minutes more, until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbling along the edges. Let cool briefly while you prepare the Cream Cheese Glaze.

For the glaze, beat together the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar, sweetening to taste. Add the cinnamon and vanilla, and then begin adding the half and half until a drizzling consistency is reached, about two tablespoons. Spoon over big bowls of warm apple crisp and serve. Think autumnal thoughts.

Sep 28, 2007

Vanilla Bean Loaf

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I’ve talked about my love of vanilla so many times on this blog, I should really start a foundation. I’m constantly craving and searching for great vanilla recipes. So when I came across a recipe for Vanilla Bean Loaves (Vanilla cake! Vanilla bean syrup! Extract! Beans! Glamour!), I pretty much needed to get to work immediately.


I made a special trip toSurfas, which always excites this food nerd, just to purchase whole vanilla beans. Sure, I’d been showing all of my baking projects plenty of vanilla love with my favorite extract, but whole beans are really where it’s at for serious vanilla needs. And since I’d already made up my mind that this latest recipe was to provide the apex of my vanilla experiences, I didn’t even mind forking over $12 for six potent, mahogany Tahitian beauties (this is actually an excellent price for the quality of beans that I purchased…some are so expensive it makes you wonder if you’ve traveled back in time, like before modern currency).

The original recipe makes two full-sized loaves this cake, but I opted to halve the recipe after looking at the list of ingredients and considering the cost as well as my waist size. I do consider both of those things on occasion, you know. Anyway, even in its halved state, this recipe calls for–brace yourself–one and a half sticks of butter, nearly three cups of sugar and four eggs. And then there’s the vanilla. Oh, the vanilla! One loaf has half a tablespoon of pure extract and two whole beans between the batter and the glaze, plus another bean sacrificed to make vanilla sugar, which is used in place of boring old granulated sugar. So this cake is RICH–both in texture and expense.

The scent of the baking cake was really lovely, of course, and the applications of vanilla sugar syrup during cooling accumulated to create a sweet, laquered glaze that added nice visual and textural elements to the finished cake.


But unfortunately, for all the vanilla on vanilla on vanilla hype involved with this recipe, the flavor was not all that stellar. I’m keeping my insanely high expectations in mind here, so I don’t want to call it boring, per se–the cake is a fine one, to be sure–a rich, tender pound cake with a beautiful velvety interior. But somehow it’s not the breath of vanilla in every bite that I was hoping for. I decided to serve the slices with generous dollops of some sweetened vanilla bean cream that I whipped up, and that definitely added some interest. I suppose you could always serve some berries alongside or, even better, add some bourbon or rum to the batter and glaze, but then why go through all the vanilla effort? I feel like a recipe with this much vanilla grandstanding should deliver, or at least taste strongly like its name, and not torture poor vanilla with its very false stereotype for being, well….plain old vanilla. That’s just how I feel. This cake freezes really well, so my leftover cake is being saved for a fondue party or something like that.

So if you want a good pound cake recipe, try this one. If you want to feed your vanilla addiction, umm…maybe try something else.

Vanilla Bean Loaf
Adapted from Amanda Hesser’s Cooking for Mr. Latte

Makes 1 Cake

For the Cake:

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar*
1/2 whole vanilla bean
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Syrup:

3/4 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 whole vanilla beans
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and set an oven rack to the middle position. Generously grease an 8x4x3-inch loaf pan, or one that is similarly sized.

For the cake, begin by creaming the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, or use an electric mixer, until the mixture is pale and fluffy, like frosting.

Prepare both vanilla beans at once, by splitting them in half lengthwise. Set three of the halves aside for the syrup, and scrape the seeds of the remaining half, saving the scraped pod for the syrup as well.

Mix the seeds from the one vanilla bean half into the butter and sugar mixture for the cake, along with the vanilla extract and four eggs. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and fold carefully into the butter mixture until well-blended, but do not overmix. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake until the cake is golden and a cake tester comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the vanilla syrup. Dissolve the granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat and then stir in the 1 1/2 beans and the reserved, scraped pod as well. Bring the syrup to a boil, then remove it from the heat and let it steep as it cools.

When the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for ten minutes on a wire rack, then turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely. Every so often, while it’s cooling, brush coats of the syrup onto the entire surface of the cake–top, bottom and sides–with a pastry brush until all of the syrup has been absorbed into and brushed onto the cake. Wait until completely cooled, and then slice. Serve with sweetened vanilla whipped cream.


*To make the vanilla sugar, simply bury a split vanilla bean in a pound of granulated sugar in an airtight container and let it sit for a few days, shaking every so often. This is a great way to use leftover vanilla pods from other recipes. Vanilla sugar is awesome in place of plain sugar in just about any baking recipe, sprinkled in oatmeal, your morning coffee, etc.

 

Sep 24, 2007

Fairy Cakes

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I’ve never fallen more in love with a city at first sight than when I touched down in London. It’s been a long time since I visited, but I still cackle with delight when I come across my favorite UK goodies in specialty stores (Cadbury Snaps, anyone?). In all honesty, my time in England fell right in that “I’m much more interested in drinking than eating” phase of life, and really, there’s not a better place to be in the world when you’re in that phase. As a result, there wasn’t much fine dining or bakery visiting done during my stay. But I did recently remember a certain British cake that I thought would be perfect to recreate for this blog.


Fairy cakes are Britain’s answer to America’s huge, hyper, cloyingly sweet cupcakes. They are traditionally smaller, slightly denser cakes topped with a modest layer of thick, sweet-tart fondant icing, which is often made simply by blending confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar, as the Brits call it) with citrus juice, traditionally lemon. These cakes are so easy to make, I dare you to not run off to the kitchen upon reading this post.

Just the thing for your afternoon coffee break (or tea, if we’re going to keep it real), fairy cakes are the ultimate pick-me-up–a simple confection that is adorable to look at: the pastel fondant icing lies pretty and polished on each cake, creating a perfect platform for a precisely placed dragee or candy flower.

Fairy Cakes
Makes 12

For the Cakes:

4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2 ounces superfine sugar (I take granulated for a quick spin in my clean coffee grinder)
2 eggs, at room temperature
4 1/2 ounces self-rising flour
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set the rack to the middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or generously butter the tin.

Begin by creaming the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition, then add the vanilla, beating to combine.

Sift in half of the flour and fold to combine. Add the milk and the rest of the flour, and stir until fully incorporated.

Divide the batter equally into the muffin tins, and bake until the cakes are golden on top and puffed, about 12 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the tins on a rack for ten minutes, then remove the cakes from the tins and cool completely before icing.

For the Icing:

4 ounces powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice
Food coloring
Edible baubles for decorating (dragees, candied or sugar flowers, etc.)

In a small bowl, beat the sugar and the fruit juice, a little at a time, until a thick fondant forms. It should be a thick paste with a bit of shine, not a drizzling glaze. Add a bit of food coloring at this point, pastels are best to keep this treat traditional.

Drop a dollop of the icing on each cake, and give it a minute to spread to the cakes’ edges. For a more finished look, you can smooth the icing on the cakes with a knife dipped in hot water. Top each cake with some kind of cutesy edible bauble. The flavor of the icing improves even further as it sets.

Sep 22, 2007

Kettle Corn

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It’s fall! Hooray! And really, what is better for a fall evening than kettle corn, a warm drink and your favorite huge sweater? Actually, I guess kettle corn is more of a summer fair kind of food for most, but carnivals frighten me, people. So kettle corn is fall food for me. And if you’ve never made it at home, you really should. It all comes together in less than five minutes and will make you instantly, maniacally happy.

I know you’re used to seeing some rather time-consuming recipes with occasionally verbose, albeit related, prose around here, but some treats are just so fantastically delicious in their simplicity, there’s not much to say, other than…

It’s fall. There’s corn. In a kettle. Sweet and salty. Hooray!

Kettle Corn
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

Makes about 10 cups

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popping corn
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a dutch oven or another large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn and when it starts to sizzle, sprinkle the sugar over the kernels. Place the lid on the pot and as soon as you hear a pop, begin shaking the pot over the heat until the popping slows down, about three minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and when the popping stops completely, lift the lid and sprinkle with the salt, tossing until the corn just begins to cool, leaving a delicious, crisp, sweet and salty coating on the popcorn.

Sep 19, 2007

Cheese Cake from Denmark

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(Update! You can also find a Triple Berry version of this glorious recipe here, and check out a little video with the story behind it here.)

I love baking for many reasons. It’s therapeutic, creative, cerebral. Chemistry meets artistry. And then there’s the sharing and eating of the results, and well, that just makes you feel good all over. A great recipe is more than just a formula, it’s like a character in a great story. Sometimes you stumble across a new recipe that helps you create your own stories and memories with people you love, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to be given a recipe that you just know has made memories for people you’ll probably never meet. I love that most of all. I guess you could call them heirloom recipes.

I was recently given such a recipe by a friend of mine named Malene. Malene is from Denmark and when she and her boyfriend Mark learned of this blog and what a baking fool I am, she e-mailed me this recipe from her home country and I couldn’t wait to try it. She sent it to me with the title of “Cheese Cake with Raspberries from Denmark”, and I soon discovered that the separation of the words cheese and cake wasn’t a typo.

This cake is definitely not like any cheesecake I’ve had before. After parbaking a buttery cake layer, fruit is layered on and then a sweetened cream cheese mixture is poured on top. When completely baked, the tender, moist butter cake mingles with the blond, custard-like cream cheese layer, the fruit playing halfsies in between. It was delicious for dessert the first night and a perfect breakfast with coffee in the morning (did I say that?).


I am a sucker for other people’s favorite recipes, and it becomes a mission of sorts for me to do it right. In this case, I did something a little unorthodox and exchanged the raspberries in Malene’s recipe for a few of the sweet, crisp Fuji apples that have just begun ruling the fall markets. I couldn’t resist. With this great recipe as my guide, the result was wonderful–cakey, creamy, lightly swirled with cinnamon, al dente slices of the season’s first apples buried within. Nyde!

 

Cheese Cake from Denmark
Adapted from Malene Nielsen

Cake Layer:

150 grams granulated sugar
75 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
150 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
100 ml milk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and set the oven rack to the middle position. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment before locking it into place and lightly grease the pan.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitter with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and fully incorporate it, then add the vanilla sugar (or extract). At low speed or by hand, mix in the flour mixture, followed by the milk, until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and parbake the cake for just 10 minutes. While the cake is baking, prepare the next layer.

Cheese Layer:

2 eggs
100 grams granulated sugar
200 grams (I used a full 8 ounce package) cream cheese, at room temperature
250 grams fresh or frozen raspberries (I used 2 medium Fuji apples, sliced thin)
1 teaspoon of lemon zest (if using berries)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar (brown sugar if using apples, and also add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)

Whip the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy, and then beat in the egg. Stir in the lemon zest if using berries. Set aside.

Toss the fruit with the teaspoons of cornstarch and sugar. Layer the fruit onto the parbaked cake and then pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 more minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the cake begins to get too dark during baking, cover the cake with foil.

Cool completely on a wire rack before serving, perhaps with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Sep 13, 2007

Watermelon-Lime Granita

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It seems like every food blogger I read regularly is writing a post reluctantly celebrating the last edible remnants of summer–one last fat, juicy heirloom tomato here, a tragic ode to lobster over there. We’re gobbling up the last of these goodies with careful relish just because we know we won’t enjoy them at their succulent best again, until next year. Insert pouty cry here. Me? Well, I had an enormous watermelon in the fridge, that I just knew was ruby red inside and seeping with juice, but was saving it for something special.

It’s just not appropriate to say goodbye to our summer loves by preparing them the same old way we’ve been doing all season. It took a while to think of how to use this mammoth of a melon occupying most of the bottom of my refrigerator. How to celebrate this last bit of summer? And then it came to me.


Watermelon granita just looks like a party. When piled in a chilled glass with an elegant stem, the glittering flakes of sweet, ambrosial ice are immediately ready for their close-up. Light, fruity granitas like this one are delicious as dessert, alone or with delicate crispy cookies, and are lovely as a palate cleanser between courses, if that’s how you like to roll.

As far as granita flavors go, you are only limited by your imagination. There are recipes out there made from the sweet and traditional, like fruit and espresso flavors, and the just plain nose-wrinkling wacky, like vegetables and herbs. Whatever the flavor, all granitas contain some sugar, and I find that I like the texture of granitas made with simple syrup (a two to one ratio of sugar to water, boiled until clear) better than just stirring granulated sugar straight into the mix. For fruit flavors that are naturally sweet, like a perfect late summer watermelon, depending on the sweetness of the melon you’ve got your hands on (now, that sounds fantastically naughty in a summer love kind of way, doesn’t it?), the amount of simple syrup may vary. I usually find that 1/2 cup of prepared simple syrup works well in most cases.


I also like to add some alcohol to the granita liquid for two reasons. First, candy is dandy but liquor is quicker, and second, it slows the freezing of the liquid so you get nice, fluffy flakes, not sharp, flat shards. I love to use infused vodkas for this, like a lovely herb-infused vodka I’d been saving for special things, much like the watermelon that inspired this post. As for the amount of alcohol to add, well, you can’t get all college with granita. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to alcohol in a granita recipe–it won’t freeze well if there’s too much in the mix. Sorry.


Watermelon-Lime Granita
Makes about 1 Gallon

6 cups of watermelon juice (made from about 4 pounds of ripe, seedless watermelon)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup of your favorite vodka

Start by making the watermelon juice: Remove the rind from a ripe watermelon and cut the fruit into chunks. In batches, puree the watermelon in a blender until smooth and pour the resulting puree through a fine-mesh sieve over a large mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir the puree in the sieve and encourage the juice to flow into the bowl. Discard any pulp and seeds and repeat the process until you have about 6 cups of watermelon juice in the bowl. Set aside.

Next, make a simple syrup by placing the sugar and water in a small saucepan and boiling it over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear and just beginning to take on a golden cast. Pour the syrup into another container and set aside to cool.

Pour the lime juice and vodka into the watermelon juice and stir to combine. Begin adding the simple syrup, sweetening to taste. Pour the granita mixture equally into two 9×13 baking pans and put in the freezer (or use one big roasting pan if you are lucky enough to have the freezer space). After about an hour, begin breaking up any ice crystals that are forming with a fork, and return the pans to the freezer. Repeat this process of scraping and fluffing the granita every hour until the mixture is completely crystallized, but not frozen solid, about 4-5 hours.

Serve in chilled glasses. Frozen granita keeps well covered in an airtight container in the freezer for at least a month, but I really don’t think you’ll have any leftovers. Everyone wants just one more taste of summer.

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