Hot days call for cold treats. The colder the better, and if they’re bursting with the flavors of fresh fruit, even better.
There’s more to the array of frozen desserts than just ice cream, though. Granitas, sorbets and frozen fruit satisfy that need to cool off without the heaviness of dairy products, making them even more refreshing in the summer heat.
Granitas are one of the easiest frozen concoctions to make, since they don’t require churning or an ice cream maker. According to Nadia Roden, author of a granite cookbook, a granite is defined as “ a type of water ice that is looser and grainier in texture than its cousin, the sorbet, and doesn’t contain egg whites,’ she writes. “One of the advantages of granitas is that they are incredibly easy to make and require no special equipment. All you need is a fork, a tray and a freezer.”
Centuries ago, making a granite didn’t even require those basic tools; both Chinese emperors and ancient Romans mixed fruit juice or wine with snow brought down from nearby mountains to make a cooling summer delicacy. In essence, the first ice cream was very similar to a snow cone, only with less processed, non-fluorescent syrup.
Making a granite today involves freezing a thin layer of fruit juice and flavorings in a thin layer, then using a fork to scrape the frozen juice into a pile of glittering ice flakes. Almost any fruit, or even vegetable, can be the base of a granita.
For those who moved to Texas because they swore they would never scrape ice off anything again, a sorbet is almost as easy to make as a granite, though it does require using an ice cream maker. Sorbets are also fruit juice-based, but typically have an egg white added for a smoother, creamier texture. Whether made with something as basic as oranges or as exotic as prickly pear fruits, sorbets are light and bright. They can be eaten with a spoon or frozen in paper cups for a one-handed eating adventure.
One of the easiest frozen desserts of all comes from Galvestonian Lisa Lewis, who developed a “one-ingredient ice cream” recipe using only a frozen banana. When the banana is processed in a blender or food processor, it metamorphoses into a texture remarkably similar to gelato.
The key to any of the frozen fruit desserts is a cold freezer. Keeping ice cream, sorbets and granitas as cold as possible helps them retain their texture (though a granite can be returned to its icy, fluffy state with a quick whirl in a food processor.) Starting with cold ingredients helps, too. Making the sorbet base in advance and chilling it in the refrigerator makes for a faster, better freezing process.