Monday, July 27, 2009

If You Don't Have An Ice Cream Maker

I am having serious ice cream cravings lately. It is summer after all, and while I can certainly appreciate what Haagen-Dazs or Ciao Bella have to offer, even the best store-bought ice cream pales in comparison to that which is freshly homemade. It is probably a very good thing that I don’t have an ice cream maker, for I would be tempted to make ice cream all the time, in which case I might as well just tape it straight to my hips.

I also don’t have room for such a contraption. My baking sheets live in the broiler when I’m not using them, while my stock pots and grill pan have taken up residence directly above in the oven. My cupboards are chock-a-block full, and I store many of my specialty baking items in the living room closet, a space which is surprisingly well organized, if not stuffed to within an inch of its life. I do make room in my kitchen for a chocolate tempering machine for CocoaRoar purposes, but I can't justify the real estate required for an ice cream maker, no matter how much I'd love to have one.

Luckily for me, there is a treasure trove of granita recipes available that don’t even require an ice cream maker at all. A granita is similar to a sorbet, as both are made from a lightly sweetened fruit puree or another dairy-free liquid, though a sorbet will have a more refined texture as it is churned slowly in a machine to whip in lots of air. But to make a granita, all you have to do is pour the liquid mixture into a container and place it in the freezer, peeking in on it every half-hour or so to stir up the ice crystals. The texture of a good granita is similar to finely shaved ice, fluffy and soft just like powdery snow when it first falls.

David Lebovitz’s Chocolate Granita is a snap to make. Think of it as a grown-up Fudgesicle, the chocolate snow cone of your dreams. It is intensely fudgy, deepened with both bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened cocoa, yet it manages to be surprisingly light at the same time as no dairy richness interferes with the purity of the chocolate taste. But if you want to enjoy your granita the way Italians typically do—topped with a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream—I’m certainly not going to stop you.

Who needs an ice cream maker anyway? (Sigh….)

Adapted from a recipe in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

I used my favorite Valrhona cocoa and Dagoba New Moon organic bittersweet chocolate with very happy results. I would love to try making this with the Lindt Excellence Orange Bittersweet chocolate bars sometime, just to add another layer of flavor to the chocolate.

4 cups water
1 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Combine the water, sugar, salt and cocoa powder in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring occasionally, and continue to boil for 15 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until it is completely melted. Mix in the vanilla.

To freeze the granita, you will need a flat plastic container or a metal baking pan with a 2-quart capacity and sides that are at least 2 inches high. Pour the chocolate mixture into the container and place in the freezer. Check after 1 hour, using a fork to break up any ice crystals that have formed around the edges and moving them into the center. Return the container to the freezer and continue to check every 30 minutes, stirring well to break up the large frozen parts into smaller pieces. The granita is done when you have a container full of fine icy crystals.

Serve on its own or topped with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Makes 1 quart.

My Little Chef was very focused as he helped me stir the chocolate granita.

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