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6 Easy Icy Desserts For Hot Summer Days

OIL&GRANITA 065

Father’s Day was so late this year that it kinda nudges July 4th.So it seems reasonable to continue on the same subject, dessert, as we slide from one holiday into another. I mentioned in last week’s post that I was offering some very old recipes that could be served equally well today because they fit the occasion. They could be made ahead and showcased seasonal fruits. Well, this group of recipes is also ‘older’ in the sense that they’re classics, but they can showcase the seasonal fruits too and fit this particular occasion perfectly. They’re easy to make but do need time, which is why I’m posting them now.

The 4th of July symbolizes the height of the summer season. The mention of the date alone conjures visions of hot weather and icy treats. The beauty of icy treats is that they can be prepared, not just ’ahead’ but waaay ahead, a couple of weeks in fact, and popped out of the freezer at will. They’re ideal for feeding a group on a holiday that’s traditionally, casually observed.

A few years ago home ice-cream makers were hot items. I confess I bought one and have made a few concoctions, banana, pineapple-ginger and blueberry, which were pretty good, but I have one major problem. They require a lot of free freezer space and I don’t have that but I do like having something icy- sweet on hand. The answer is in making ice-cream and its alternatives, granita, sherbet, sorbet, semifreddo and gelato, the old-fashioned way. I’ve been doing it, and it works out well, in fact I’ve even made some on a stick for easy eating especially for children. (There’s a short-cut recipe below for that!)

I give descriptions of each of these types of dessert below, with recipe examples. Naturally, it’s understood that the flavors can be changed at will. The basic formulas define the differences between them and outline the choice options. Here’s a tip though, most are healthier than ice-cream. However, if you’re still interested in the ‘real thing’ I’m including a recipe below for ice-cream made the original way—without a machine.
I do want to repeat the advice I gave last week. I notice that current magazines and recipe sources include the use of raw eggs, especially the whites. For anyone concerned over Salmonella, I recommend substituting Wilton Meringue Powder in any recipe that calls for directly adding raw beaten egg whites. It’s available at all bakery supply stores and craft stores that sell baking equipment such as A.C.Moore. Another helpful note is to follow the ingredient quantities exactly and be sparing with any alcohol based flavorings. Both excess sugar and alcohol deter freezing and that’s a disaster with these dishes.

The recipes are divided into two groups of three. The first is water based and the second dairy. Granita and semifreddo can’t be made in machines; the others can, following the individual manufacturer’s directions. You will notice that several of the recipes like sherbet and sorbet seem similar. The main distinction is in the product’s purpose. Sorbet, made from fruit juice or juiced fruit, is lighter and often used as a ‘palate cleanser’ between courses during a multi course meal, or a light finish to a heavy or rich one. Sherbet, based on pureed fruit, is a dessert. (There’s a shortcut included in the recipe below.) Gelato is a bit less caloric and cholesterol laden than ice-cream (or Italian vrs. French.)
Here’s to celebrating Liberty, by enjoying the liberty of having something prepared ahead and ready to serve.

Basic Granita: Serves 4
1 ½ cups water
½ cup sugar
½ cup juice or other flavoring liquid- or extract squeezed from pureed fruit*
¼ cup lemon or lime juice
Pinch salt – optional
Additional flavorings-spices, herbs and/or garnishes—optional
Over low heat dissolve sugar in water, remove from heat and add flavoring liquid and juice, cool and put into a metal 9 X 13 inch pan. Freeze, scraping with a fork to break up every 20-30 min., for 2-3 hours until resembles fluffy shaved ice. Store in a covered container in the freezer for 1 week. Scrape to fluff before serving. (The ice chips don’t clump during storage.)
*I often make this with cranberry juice, but other juices and liquids like coffee, green tea(matcha) even flat soda pop and pureed, strained fruits can be used as well. For example, it can be made with meat from ½ a watermelon, blended and squeezed through a sieve. Small amounts of liquor can also be added but beware the alcohol prevents freezing so use only enough to give taste. With some mixtures a dash of pepper is nice. The flavoring options are endless.

Orange-Campari Sorbet: Serves 4-6*
Juice of 3-4 large oranges strained, to make ½ cup*
½ cup superfine or bar sugar-or slightly more to taste
21/2 cups water
3 Tbs. Campari
2 large egg whites
Mint leaves to garnish
If using fresh oranges, remove peel, without white pith, from 3 of them. Dissolve sugar in water over low heat then boil for 2 min. without stirring, wiping down pan sides with a wet brush. Pour mixture into a non-metallic shallow, freezer safe container with a cover and add orange peel to steep while mixture cools. When cool add strained orange juice and Campari; cover and chill for at least 30 min. Remove zest and freeze for 1 hour. Transfer mixture to a bowl and beat to break-up ice crystals. Return to freezer container and freeze for 30 min. Repeat twice more. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and beat into juice mixture and freeze for 30 min. Beat once more. Store covered for 2 months. Serve by the scoop.
*Strained commercial juice can be used and flavors are optional—omitting the Campari.

Melon Sherbet: Serves 6-8
1 medium melon-cantaloupe or casaba
Juice of ½ lemon
4 egg whites
6 oz., sugar-super-fine or ’bar’ sugar is best
¼ -1/2 cup cherries or berries for garnish-optional
Fresh mint leaves for garnish-optional
Cut the melon in half, in a zigzag pattern if to be used it for serving. Remove seeds and cube meat. Blend with the lemon juice until smooth. Pour into a 1 ½ quart container and freeze until beginning to set. Beat the egg whites until stiff and gradually add the sugar. Gently whisk or beat the melon mixture until broken up and light. Fold in the egg whites and return to the freezer and freeze until firmly set. Serve by the scoopful, in the melon shell or dishes. Garnish with fruit and/or mint. Keeps frozen about 1 month.
NOTE: Choose overripe fruit to make sherbet, or blanch it if not quite ripe. It freezes smoother.
A short cut to making sherbet is to freeze a can of fruit in syrup. Puree the frozen contents and combine with eggs and optional ingredients, adjusting quantities to fit the basic recipe. Examples: Peaches with almond extract or Litchi with ginger.

Semifreddo: Serves 6-8
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon flavor extract—almond, vanilla etc. –optional but advised
2 egg whites*–also optional recipe
2 cups whipping cream – well chilled
Line a 5 x 9inch loaf pan or 3 quart capacity dish with plastic wrap leaving generous overhangs on long sides.
Place the eggs, egg yolks, flavor extract and ½ the sugar if making meringues, all if not, in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, (a double boiler or Bain Marie). Using a hand held mixer, beat the mixture for 6-8 minutes until custard is pale and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and beat for an additional 4-6 minutes until cool. In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until thick. Gently fold into the egg mixture until smooth. *If adding meringue- beat egg whites in a clean Bain Marie or double boiler over simmering water until soft peaks form, add sugar and continue beating until billowy and glossy. Fold into the eggs and cream. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours but better overnight, unmold and slice to serve-DO NOT SCOOP OR SPOON.
Note: Semifreddo is intended to contain a mixture of flavors. Chopped fruit, ground nuts or fruit purees are usually incorporated into the whole or just one layer (see puree directions below) to give a color and flavor contrast. 4 oz. of finely chopped chocolate can be added to the custard while hot to make a chocolate semifreddo or just 2 oz. to half the custard to make just one layer. This means the whipped cream and meringue will have to be added in half portions as well.

Berry Puree:
2 cups blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
To make the puree, combine the berries and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary. Strain through a mesh strainer.
To make swirls, spoon the blueberry puree over the top and use a spatula to gently fold it into the cream. Otherwise gently fold it into half the finished mixture and pour it into the mold first to make a bottom layer.
Gelato: Serves 4*
6 large eggs
¾ cup superfine or bar
¼ cups milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1tsp.flavoring-vanilla, butterscotch, mint etc. –optional
2 oz. finely chopped dark chocolate, butterscotch, nuts, candied fruit or cookie crumbs
Beat the eggs and sugar in the top of a double boiler or Bain Marie, until creamy. Stirring, heat the milk and cream to a simmer and add it in a stream to the egg mix while whisking. Heat the mixture in the double boiler over medium heat, stirring constantly until it coats the back of a spoon or the spoon pulled across it leaves a mark on the surface.in. Remove from the heat and add flavoring. Allow to cool at least 1 ½ hr. then chill for 30 min. Strain to remove any lumps, transfer to a freezer container and freeze for 2 hrs. until frozen 1 inch from the sides. Transfer to a bowl and beat until smooth. Stir in chocolate etc., return to the freezer container, smooth the top and lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on top. Cover and freeze for up to 3 months.

Vanilla Ice Cream: Serves 4-6 *
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1 pared zest of 1 lemon
4 eggs beaten
2 egg yolks
6oz. superfine or bar sugar
Whisking, bring the cream to a simmer, add the eggs and lemon zest. Lower the heat and cook 8-10 min. still whisking until thickened. Stir in the sugar remove from the heat, let cool and strain. Open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a shallow freezer container allow to just freeze 1-2 hrs. remove to a bowl, beat and return to the freezer container, cover and freeze overnight or for up to 3 days.
*Although these recipes are basic to the dish, the particular flavoring combinations are from the Summer Foods and Desserts volumes in the Practical Cooking series of book

Quick Banana Pops: Serves 8 in plastic pop sickle molds, 4 in Dixie cups used as molds
1 pt. vanilla ice cream
1 large VERY ripe banana
Wooden sticks if using Dixie cups
While the ice cream softens, mash the banana in a bowl, with a fork until no lumps remain. Combine the two well and fill the molds. Insert the ‘sticks’ and freeze until firm. Rub with a warm cloth to unmold, if necessary. This can also be made in a single mold for table service.*
*If considering substituting other fruits, use them in proportion bearing in mind that bananas have a low pulp/juice ratio and changing that will affect the ability to freeze. Fruits should be very ripe and pureed, then strained if necessary. The addition of sugar depends on the fruit, some powdered may be needed, but remember sugar inhibits freezing, so be sparing.
This tip can also be used to flavor the other dairy based desserts here. Delete the given flavoring agents and replace with the preferred ones. You can use the Berry Puree above as a guide for quantity and swirl (sugar may be needed) or mix (possibly no sugar) into the dessert base ingredients. The best move is to research other recipes for quantities as to specific flavoring agents. Basically any recipe for machine made ice cream type desserts can be processed by hand following the guidelines given here.
Have fun, experiment, be independent and create your flavor for the holiday. For example, the dessert pictured with this post is Espresso Granita garnished with Lemon Thyme. It’s the perfect end to an outdoor dinner, and ’kills two birds with one stone’ because hot coffee isn’t missed.

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