Tasted on its own or with a brioche, the coffee granita remains the undisputed star of breakfast and tasty breaks for anyone deciding to combat the summer heat with sweetness.
We will show you how to make this famous, and oh-so-simple, Sicilian recipe. To make everything more interesting, we will also tell you about its history, which sees the creation of a cool creamy dessert on the top of a volcano.
The history of the coffee granita
Sicily is a land full of contradictions and gastronomic traditions: coffee granita embraces both of these. Indeed, today, it may seem strange to think that in the past snow was used to prepare it and it was necessary to climb up to the top of a volcano to get it.
It was right on Mount Etna that the “nivaroli” (people who originally climbed to the top of the volcano to collect the snow needed for this kind of food preparation and storage) in winter placed the snow in large trenches especially dug into the ground; in this way it was possible to go and “retrieve” it during the summer, wrapping it up in balls covered with ferns and straw, so as to be able to transport it down the valley in jute sacks by cart or mule.
The first preparations were actually very similar to what we know as “grattachecca,” the traditional Roman granita with large pieces of ice. Then an invention arrived in the 16th century which changed everything: the pozzetto. This is a large wooden tub with a zinc bucket inside equipped with a crank. In the space between the wooden tub and the zinc bucket, a mix of salt and snow was placed, which served as a refrigerator.
The mix with the coffee was poured into the zinc bucket, and once frozen, was regularly stirred, using the crank. In this way what we know today as the Sicilian granita was created.
Ingredients for coffee granita
Few but well-prepared: these are the ingredients you need to prepare a coffee granita:
- Coffee: 9 fl oz
- Water: 9 fl oz
- Sugar: 2 oz
- Vanilla pods: 1 (optional)
For the decoration the ingredients are:
- Fresh liquid cream: 7 fl oz
- Powdered sugar: 1 oz
Making coffee granita
You will need good quality coffee, time and determination. The ingredients of coffee granita are certainly easy to find, but the method requires several hours and perseverance. Let’s get to work!
1) The first step is to prepare the fundamental ingredient, the coffee. Our advice is to choose a blend with an intense flavor and use the moka, always remembering that the best infusion technique is not to press the coffee grounds down too much in the filter and to remove the moka from the heat as soon as you start to hear that unmistakable sound of the coffee starting to bubble up. Then put the coffee to one side to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
2) While you are waiting for the coffee to cool, prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan, put the water and the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring carefully. Once you have reached the appropriate temperature, keep the syrup on the heat for at least another three minutes, to obtain the desired consistency and level of sweetness. If you want a sweeter and more unusual version, you can add a vanilla pod.
3) Leave the syrup to cool too, add it to the coffee and put everything in a glass or stainless steel container, and place it in the freezer.
4) Every 30 or 40 minutes open the freezer and stir your coffee granita, so that the coffee is distributed evenly and the ice crystals are not too large. Repeat this operation for at least 2 or 3 hours, until the desired consistency is achieved.
5) Time is never wasted! While you are waiting for your coffee granita to be ready, prepare the cream which you will need to decorate your coffee granita. Using an electric whisk, add the powdered sugar to the fresh liquid cream and start to beat until you get a light, fluffy consistency.
6) Finally, after the necessary 2 or 3 hours have passed, take your granita out of the freezer, put it in a large sundae glass and decorate with the whipped cream. Enjoy your coffee granita!
Now the wood basin and bucket have been replaced by the batch freezer, and the snow and salt by ice. But the taste and the unmistakable “flaky” consistency remain classics of Sicilian tradition. If you don’t want to miss out on any of our mouth-watering recipes, sign up to receive our newsletter!