Sunday, September 16, 2012

Granitas for Summer's End

My sweet tooth was a late bloomer with a so-so desire to occasionally inhale shortbread biscuits, chocolate mousse and carrot cake — in that order of preference. Away from those, there was little that captured my attention.
I was the child at the party that might forgo a slice of birthday cake topped with a clean cut of the marzipan superhero’s head. I’m still the person at the wedding who really doesn’t want any sharbat, who’d rather not have the sugar-coated almonds offered when a baby is born, who’d be a dull partner at a cupcake shop.
As I grew older and gave way to my appetite, my sugar cravings leaned mostly toward the frozen kind: ice cream, popsicles, sorbet (which comes from the Arabic word sharbat), semifreddo, granita, and recently, ais kacang, the Malaysian shaved ice dessert with peanuts, sweet corn, red beans and a generous drizzle of thick condensed milk.
These frozen desserts stand out as distinct memories:
1. the, unapproved-by-mom strawberry popsicle of my Cairene childhood summer in 1991, sold in a clear plastic tube that you’d have to dig for in your neighborhood grocer’s aging deep freezer that smelled like cheese. Nothing was more artificial, but with the thrill of eating it behind my mother’s back in the corner of our building’s courtyard, right under the balcony where she sat, nothing was ever sweeter.
2. the crema gelato I ate in Rome in 1995 after one of many pizzas. I am still on the hunt for its equal and being 11 at the time, I cannot for the life of me remember where I ate it.
3. the moment I realized that my date who had taken me to Ramses Hilton’s Windows on the World in the early 2000s was not the man for me when he asked, me already half-way through my bitter lemon sorbet, why they were “serving ice cream in the middle of dinner”.
4. fried ice cream and caramel sauce with my dad as the ceremonious closing to our Chinese dinner; later the memory resurfacing as I sat alone at Genting Highlands theme park with my own freshly fried ice cream, cold in the center, looking up at my husband and step-kids screaming from the top of a crazy ride.
5. walking into Stavolta, the gelato store in Maadi, and taking a moment to happily embrace the fact that we Cairenes had a place that was finally using up the ingredients around us to create among their flavors ones that taste like the many pleasant smells of Egypt: sweet-smelling guavas bursting from the cup, karkade scoops that are delicate and could easily replace our traditional cold jug of karkade.
Now today, I didn’t have enough cream to make ice cream and I didn’t have an ice cream maker to pull off the smoothest sorbet so instead, I made a granita — essentially effortless except for the fact that you need to be at home for a few hours to get this done. Granitas can be dressed up or down to use as you please. Your guests will be thankful for being served this on a hot summer day and you can use the liquid you prefer to make it — fruit juice, coffee or one of those stronger drinks for adults only. It’s rustic, it’s textural and it melts on your tongue. Experiment with the basic idea – blend, freeze, rake — to find your balance and to determine how coarse you like it. This particular granita brings with it notes of the coming fall and scents of a warm carrot cake.
Orange-Carrot Granita
You’ll need:
450 grams of carrots, peeled
300 ml of fresh orange juice
300 ml of cocktail juice, unsweetened
2 drops of orange blossom water
A small piece of ginger, peeled, around 3 cm
¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
3 tablespoon of honey
Finely dice the peeled carrots and the ginger. Throw them into a blender. Add the orange juice and cocktail juice then pulse making sure your blender is sealed well. Add the honey, ground cinnamon and orange blossom water then blend once more until smooth.
Strain the mixture using a fine mesh strainer then pour it into a shallow baking dish. After pouring, your mixture should be around 2.5-3 cm thick. If it’s thicker than that, it will take a much longer time to freeze. Place your baking dish in the freezer then freeze, removing it from the freezer after 45 minutes to rake the mixture with a fork. Repeat this step every half an hour after that. Try to avoid scratching the bottom of your baking dish with a fork. Don’t forget the corners because they harden quickly. The final texture should be fine, fluffy and light. Mine froze in around 2½ hours. Each freezer is different and so you will have to look out for when it’s ready.
If you prefer, you can space out the times you rake to end up with bigger crystals.
Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving, depending on the weather. When you’re ready to serve, rake with a fork to collect the layers of shaved ice. Serve in glasses that have been chilled in the refrigerator.

1 comment:

  1. Wow,the recipe looks quite healthy and tempting.Thanks for flagging it.I MIGHT try it sometime soon!!!


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