I had a special request – a commission, if you will, for some edible artwork. The project outlines were the following:
1. Create an espresso granita like the one a friend had sampled in Tuscany.
2. Whipped cream too, please.
Keep in mind that I had not been in Tuscany with my friend at the time she sampled this delicacy. So I had to ask for lots of details because I was flying taste-bud blind.
Was the espresso flavor strong?
What was the consistency of the ice?
Like little chips, all in different sizes so you could crunch them.
What about the whipped cream?
Not too sweet. Just a tiny bit to give a little contrast to the espresso ice.
I began with some research. It’s pretty easy to make granita (really). You really just need to freeze stuff, and break it up with a fork during the freezing process every now and again so you don’t get one giant ice cube. One giant ice cube does not a granita make.
Following this research, I purchased some espresso from Eataly. This stuff looked pretty good. And I really liked trying to say “Heuhuetenango” too.
Then I brewed some up using my French Press. I like the way coffee tastes brewed in a French Press. It’s STRONGER! I used 5 heaping tablespoons.
Meanwhile, I boiled some water (3 cups) with about 1/8 cup of sugar in a pot. Once it was all heated up, I poured it into my French Press, waiting the appropriate amount of time (3-5 minutes), and then PRESSED.
Then, I poured this lovely concoction into a pan and popped it into the freezer. I tried to give it a stir and break up the ice with a fork every half hour or so. Eventually, I had to use something stronger than a fork (I bent the fork), so I opted for some tongs (please picture a ridiculous scene of me smashing coffee flavored ice with metal tongs).
And then I made some whipped cream. Initially, I made the whipped cream without sugar. But just a tiny bit of confectioners sugar adds a whole lotta goodness. Gather 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1 1/2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar. Put them in a mixing bowl and with a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream and sugar until it’s whipped and soft peaks form.
Scoop some granita into a bowl or fancy glass (I used retro snow cone holders) and top with whipped cream.
Now for the ridiculous part of the story…. you knew there was one, right? I was meeting my friend after work for her to try this granita and give me the final word. But how to transport it? It’s ice, it melts. So, I brewed the coffee at home. Poured it into one of my insulated Camelback water bottles. Transported it to work. Transferred it to a baking pan and put it in the office freezer. Then from time to time I would get up from my desk to go smash ice chunks. It was actually a very therapeutic workplace activity. Before I left work, I whipped up the cream and transferred the granita BACK into the Camelback (I was hoping this would prevent it from melting). Then I walked to a bar, commandeered us some fancy glasses and served it up.
Success! The espresso granita is crunchy, strong and slightly bitter which pairs nicely with the smooth, creamy and ever-so slightly sweetened whipped cream.
Note: The first time I made the cream, I made it without confectioners sugar, but all the tasters agreed that a lil’ bit o’ sugar greatly improves it.