When the weather turns too hot, I turn to a fantastic and unusual breakfast recipe that I remember from Italy. In Sicily, where the best Italian ices are reportedly made, you’ll find granita di gelsi neri topping traditional menus. It’s made from tart fat black mulberries, pureed with simple syrup and a kiss of lemon, and frozen into ice crystals that look like individual gems.
It’s the balance of sugar water and fruit puree in a granita that allows you to form the crystals easily. Too much water and it’s too hard, and to much syrup and it’s too mushy. Preparation is ridiculously simple: put a pan of your puree and syrup into the freezer, fluff and mash the ice with a fork after one hour, repeat thirty minutes later, and freeze overnight. In the morning, let it sit for five minutes. The ice will be fine crystals that you can scrape away with the tines of a fork.
But don’t let this simplicity deceive you. A granita de gelsi neri is no snow cone. It’s a deep purple-red color, like a full-bodied wine, and just as intoxicating on summer mornings. Traditionally, a hot brioche accompanies the granita, and the crisp hot buttery texture perfectly offsets the sweet bright ice.
Urban foragers, grab your bags and tree climbing shoes. Mulberries are now in season and, if you live in the US, are rarely used for food. Remember the darker the color, the sweeter the berry. In Asia and parts of Europe, I’ve been lucky enough to find them in my local market. If you can’t find black mulberries, use a blend of ripe blackberries and tart raspberries, but be sure to strain the seeds out of your puree.
Granita de Gelsi Neri
Black Mulberry Granita
500 grams black mulberries, or a mixture of tart blackberries and raspberries
The juice of 1 lemon
4 cups water
1 cup fine sugar
1.) Combine your water and sugar in a saucepan over low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Allow the simple syrup to cool.
2.) Puree your fruit and lemon juice in a blender or fruit processor. You should have approximately 1 1/3 cups of puree.
3.) Combine the simple syrup and the fruit puree. Pour into a long deep pan and cover with foil. Place into a freezer.
4.) After one hour, take a fork and scrape the ice crystals from the sides and bottom. Fluff and mash them back into the liquid. Repeat 30 minutes later. You can continue to do this at 30 minute intervals, until you have dry separated ice crystals that are approximately the same size, or you can let it sit overnight.
5.) Before serving, let your granita defrost for 5 minutes. Then scrape off ice crystals using a fork. Serve immediately, in a tall glass. If eating for breakfast, accompany with a hot brioche or buttery pastry. If eating for dessert, you can top with a whipped cream or an ice cream of the same flavor, or combine with other granitas (almond milk, pistachio, coffee, lemon, or orange).