Among frozen summer desserts, granitas are a hard sell, not matter how you rename them. A coarse, grainy sorbet, they’re the shaved ice of the Italian food world. Sure, they’re insanely refreshing, require no churning and are probably the kind of thing you ought to be cooling off with on a very hot day, but who’d choose them over hot fudge sundae cakes, toasted marshmallow milkshakes, saltine crack ice cream sandwiches or key lime pie popsicles? Nobody we’re going to be friends with, for sure.
Except, my friend Ang, who freely admits that she’s not a dessert person — and is therefore inherently suspect, I know — makes them all the time and every time she does I wonder why I don’t more often. We were halfway out the door after her crab boil last weekend with two almost melting down children* when she insisted I stop to at least try the golden raspberry granita she’d made and it was so good, I kind of wanted to run away with it.
What it had that so many lack was intensity. This was not flecks of fruit juice-flavored ice, this was a crushed popsicle. And sure enough, Ang said she just blended the berries with a little water to loosen them and a small amount of sugar to taste. And there I was, having recently renewed my 18-year agreement to forego all sorts of personal comforts, conveniences and sleep to devote myself to the upbringing a second child and pretty much the last person who should be making anything from scratch these days thinking even I might be able to pull it off.
It only took 8 days. Well, 8 days and 3 hours but believe me, it was worth it. It’s so much better than you can even imagine it will taste. If you’re not a fan of very sweet desserts, this is perfect, as you can adjust it any level of austerity. If you, like me, are unusually bothered by seeds in raspberry and blackberry desserts, you’re going to love how unnoticeable they are here. And if you, like me, do not currently have a lifestyle that allows you to attend to the freezer, it’s totally fine if you let it go too long and need to let your ice block melt and start again when you have more time. Granitas are forgiving. And I don’t think you’re going to find one more gorgeous or robust celebration of summer berries anywhere else in your freezer.
* sidebar: it has occurred to me that there will be a time, probably soon, when both of our offspring will be crying at the same time. I am preparing my bunker for the occasion as we speak.
One year ago: Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde and Bourbon Slush Punch
Two years ago: Banana Nutella and Salted Pistachio Popsicles and Charred Corn Crepes
Three years ago: Pink Lemonade Bars and Charred Pepper Steak Sauce
Four years ago: Corn Buttermilk and Chive Popovers and Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
Five years ago: Raspberry Brown Sugar Gratin, Summer Succotash with Bacon and Croutons and Nectarine Brown Butter Buckle
Six years ago: Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie and Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons
Seven years ago: Nectarine Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart and Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte
Eight years ago: Ratatouille’s Ratatouille and Red Bean Chili
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Fried Egg Salad and Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Biscuits
1.5 Years Ago: Warm Lentil and Potato Salad and Homemade Dulce de Leche
2.5 Years Ago: Potato Chip Cookies and Cheddar Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread
3.5 Years Ago: Pasta and White Beans with Garlic-Rosemary Oil and Egg Salad with Pickled Celery and Coarse Dijon
Raspberry Crushed Ice
As you can see above, I went a little overboard in my attempt to celebrate summer raspberries, intending to make a 1/3 batch with red, golden and black raspberries but then the black raspberries went bad and I couldn’t get them again because this is real life so I used blackberries instead and unsurprisingly, they’re delicious here too. For reasons a food scientist (or just a scientist) will better explain, I find that frozen desserts (popsicles, this, etc.) get a better texture when you start with a simple syrup, however, I cannot be bothered to heat and cool simple syrup, not when I can simply add sugar to water and let it sit for 15 minutes to dissolve and not require cooling. (Thank you, Alice Medrich for this tip.) That said, this is not a “true” simple syrup (which are 1:1 sugar and water); here we use a little more water to help thin the berries enough to make them freeze with an icy texture. The sweetness level here is on the tart side, but you could make it even more tart by using 6 tablespoons sugar instead. You might try your mixture and adjust the sweetness to the sweetness of your berries, which will vary, but keep in mind that desserts taste less sweet once frozen.
Serves 6 to 8
1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 cups fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Stir water and sugar together in a glass or bowl and let sit 15 minutes. Stir again thoroughly; sugar should have dissolved. In a blender, combine this sugar water, berries and lemon and run until smooth. Pour into a large baking dish; keeping the thickness of the puddle shallow means your dessert will be finished more quickly. After about an hour — freezing time will vary by freezer temperature and puddle depth — the mixture should be half-frozen. Stir with a fork, scraping the surface and out to the corners to break up the ice, forming coarse glittery crystals. Return to the freezer and repeat this process every 30 minutes for another hour or two, until the mixture is fully frozen in flakes. To serve, scoop into glasses.