Need a refreshing treat for the warmer days to come? Go with a granita. Granita is a semi-frozen, Sicilian specialty that is served both as dessert and as a palate cleanser between meal courses. Essentially, is is made up of sugar, water, flavorings and, in this case, booze, and is very similar to Italian Ice.
Granita one of my go-to desserts because it’s incredibly easy to make and requires no special equipment to prepare. A baking dish, a fork and a freezer — that’s it. Seriously, this recipe is hard to screw up. Granita does require a few hours to prepare, but your freezer does most of the work. I’ll usually prepare this the night before I serve it so that it’s icy, but not too hardened from being in the freezer for more than a day.
As for flavoring it, you can use just about any liquid as the base: fruit and citrus juices, alcohol (in moderation), coconut milk, zest, herbs, etc. If you can dream it up, then you can probably mix and freeze it. The mix must be sweetened with a liquid sweetener, so a simple syrup (sugar dissolved in an equal amount of water; see recipe below) is most often seen used to make this, as well as honey and agave nectar.
For this iteration, I flavored my granita with grapefruit, lemon and bubbly. Even though I call this a “Champagne” granita, you can certainly use cheap sparkling wine. Keep in mind that if you use a sweeter sparkling wine (like Asti), you’ll probably want to add less simple syrup. Also, be sure that your juice ratio is greater than the amount of wine and sugar combined. Alcohol and sugar inhibits some of the freezing process, so a mixture with too much of either will result in a watery, slushier granita. If you opt for hard liquor, don’t use more than a few ounces.
So when the mercury starts to rise, whip up this cold Italian treat to impress your guests (or to keep all to yourself).
Citrus Champagne Granita
Makes 6-8 servings
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups grapefruit juice
1 lemon, juiced and 1/2 teaspoon zest
1 cup sparkling wine (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, etc.)
1/2 cup prepared simple syrup (more or less, depending on sweetness level desired)
For the simple syrup, mix sugar and water in a saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear, stirring often. Let cool to room temperature before using in the granita (put in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process).
In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the grapefruit and lemon juices, zest, sparkling wine and cooled simple syrup. Taste and add more simple syrup if the mixture needs to be sweeter; add more juice if it’s too sweet.
Pour mixture into an 8×8 or 9×13 baking dish and place in the freezer. Make sure it’s fairly level and won’t move when the freezer door is closed or opened.
After 30-45 minutes, check on the mixture to see if it has started to freeze; it will start to look slushy. Stir up any ice crystals forming with a fork. Let freeze for another 45 minutes, then stir/rake it up again. Let the granita sit in the freezer for a few hours to overnight to let it freeze solid. An hour or so before serving — you guessed it — stir it up again.
To serve, stir up the granita again so that it looks like icy flakes. Scoop and serve immediately. Granita looks especially pretty when served in a clear glass dish or in hollowed out lemon or other citrus fruit (in this case, a grapefruit half).