One of my favorite desserts on this planet (yes, we’re going for High Melodrama today, also, it’s that wonderful) is affogato, which translates from Italian as “drowned.” The lucky drowner is top-notch vanilla gelato, and it is draped in a single shot of freshly-pulled espresso. I see you arching your eyebrows and you are full of questions, aren’t you? Isn’t that horribly bitter? Doesn’t it melt the ice cream? How can it be your favorite dessert if it has neither butter nor chocolate with it? All are legitimate concerns but the thing is, when it’s done right — and there really is a magical balancing point between the volume of ice cream and the amount of espresso, that is, sadly, rarely achieved — the resulting mess is a semi-slumped mound of cold and sweet vanilla cream with a trench of faintly bitter latte around it. It is the ultimate grownup dessert — sure, you get the ice cream you’ve been angling for after dinner since you were 3.5, but you also get a bracing hit of espresso, just enough to keep you up past your bedtime, you know, when all the fun begins.
Of course, we’re not going to talk about affogato today because, well, you already know how to make it now. Instead, we’re going to talk about the cups of granita di espresso con panna we fell head over heels for in Rome, which reminded me of an inversed affogato. Instead of unsweetened espresso coating sweetened creamy gelato, it’s the coffee that’s icy and sweet and the cream that’s plain and soft. The result is the same contrast of bitter versus sweet, soft versus icy that I love in affogato, but stacked in a cup that you can eat with a spoon as you wander the ancient cobblestoned center of Rome on blazing hot day when even the dapper businessman we passed along the Tiber was licking a gelato cone with the utter abandon of a kid. (Rome, you are wonderful.)
When we got home, and sadly, yes, we are back in the land of hail-able taxis and waiters that drop the check on your table as you take the first bite of dessert, this espresso granita was at the top of the list of new things I had to cook immediately, although the word “cooking” is a stretch when all you’re going to do is stir some ice around and whip a little cream. In true Roman fashion — i.e. why make things complicated if you could keep them simple — there are all of three ingredients in this dessert, and though you may wish to clutter, I mean, enhance it with vanilla extract or orange zest or a glug of Kahlua, it needs none of these things to work its magic.
Rome, Notes and Tips: I compiled all sorts of stray observations, fun things we learned, little travel tips and a list of places we ate while we were on vacation in Rome over here. Even if you’re not going to Rome anytime soon, I hope you’ll find some fun stuff to read (two words: pasta pavement!). [Notes and Tips from Rome!]
Heads Up, Google Readers! As someone has been using Google’s RSS reader from the day it launched in 2005, I’m definitely among those sad that it will be shutting down at the end of this month (i.e. less than one week from now). More than 250,000 of you subscribe to the site through Google Reader, and I think it would be a huge bummer if you missed out on everything I hope to share here this summer (popsicles! sandwich slaw! mini-pies! ribs! picnic mega-sandwiches! grilled bacon!) because of it. What can you do? 1. Google makes it very easy to download your Reader data through Google Takeout and all alternative readers make it a cinch to upload this file to import your settings. 2. But why fuss? Two alternative readers I’ve been checking out since the announcement was made, Bloglovin‘ and Feedly, make it even easier, letting you skip this step entirely by prompting you to ask if it can import your Google Reader feeds the moment you set up an account. Both are so gorgeous and intuitive to use, you won’t be missing your retired Reader for a minute.
[If you’re all “What’s an RSS reader?” right now — hi, mom! — they basically work like magazine indexes of every single website you like to read, letting you know when they’ve got something new to read, and giving you either partial or full previews to read, depending on what the publisher has chosen. What I love about these is that I only have to go to one page to find out what’s new on my favorite sites, and never have to click-reload-tap feet multiple times a day, waiting for a site to update. Because you know, some sites don’t update as often as they should. Not that we know any like that. (Cough!)]
One year ago: Chocolate Swirl Buns and Cold Rice Noodles with Peanut-Lime Chicken (still a favorite!)
Two years ago: Rich Homemade Ricotta and Linguine with Pea Pesto
Three years ago: Crushed Peas with Smoky Sesame Dressing and Chocolate Doughnut Holes
Four years ago: Spanikopita Triangles and Neapolitan Cake
Five years ago: 10 Paths to Painless Pizza-Making and Pistachio Petit-Four Cake
Six years ago: Fideos with Favas and Red Peppers and Strawberry Tart
Espresso Granita with Whipped Cream [Granita di Espresso con Panna]
Inspired by Tazza d’Oro, Roma, Italy
2 cups freshly-brewed espresso (from about 14 single shots or 7 doubles)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
When espresso is still hot, stir in sugar. Chill espresso in fridge until completely cold. This will immensely speed up the time it takes to freeze. Once cold, pour into a large, wide baking dish; I’d recommend something ceramic, glass or enameled over a metal-surfaced baking pan. If you’re me, clear your horribly overstuffed freezer of things that can survive outside of it for a few hours. Place dish in now-cleared freezer and freeze for one hour, then remove the mixture and scrape with two forks to break up the ice. (Your freezing time will vary, depending on the temperature and muscle of your freezer.) Return to the freezer and freeze until solid, about 2 to 3 hours, scraping it again with forks every 30 minutes or so.
To serve, whip cream to soft peaks; estimate 2 tablespoons unwhipped cream per serving so you don’t have to make too much at at ime. Place one spoonful in the bottom of a small glass. Scoop granita on top. Top with a much larger tuft of cream. Eat with a spoon on a hot day.