Living within a much smaller radius than I am used to has me reveling in my treasured travel memories. The hot summer sun — and the need for a cooling break from it — brings me back to Sicily when, a couple of years ago, I discovered their renowned almond granita. I ate it every day on that trip, determined to taste one in every town I visited, so I could settle on my favorite place — in the name of research, of course.
The winner, hands down, was Bam Bar in Taormina. Besides its festive atmosphere, with every surface covered in colorful, hand-painted tile, bustling and abuzz with happy guests, the granita was dreamy — utterly refreshing and creamy, yet light, textured with tiny nutty bits, and gently sweet with the pure, subtle taste of real almonds.
When I returned home I searched for something like it, but even the most highly recommended spots disappointed with ices that were cloyingly sweet or tasting overwhelmingly of almond extract. I was finally able to come close to my Sicilian almond granita experience with this recipe. It’s not quite the traditional formula, which relies on a particular type of almond paste made with Sicilian almonds, but it totally hits the spot and is uncomplicated to make.
You steep the almonds with milk (dairy or almond milk work great) and honey in a pan, then blend and strain the mixture into a shallow pan. You then place the pan in the freezer and stir it with a fork every half-hour — the only high-maintenance step in this dish — until it is frozen. The frequent stirring helps the ice crystals to form into a soft-serve-like texture instead of a solid block.
Cold and refreshing, with a light creaminess, true almond flavor, and on the healthier side, as desserts go, it’s exactly the summer treat I crave, and one that will hold me over until I can get back to Sicily.
Storage: The granita may be covered tightly and frozen for up to 1 week.
2 1/2 cups (600 milliliters) whole milk or unsweetened almond milk
2 cups (8 ounces/227 grams) sliced almonds
1/3 cup (about 3 1/2 ounces/106 grams) honey
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, almonds and honey and heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil, about 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the solids (discard them after). You should get about 2 cups (480 milliliters).
Transfer the liquid to a medium high-sided pan, such as an 8-inch square baking dish; cover and place in the freezer for 4 hours. Every 30 minutes, stir the mixture with a fork, breaking up the ice crystals as they form, until the mixture has frozen into a soft, creamy ice.
Serve right away or keep frozen until ready to eat. (The granita will solidify somewhat with additional time in the freezer but will break up into small crystals again when softened at room temperature for a few minutes and scraped with a fork.)
Recipe from dietitian and food columnist Ellie Krieger.
Tested by Olga Massov; email questions to email@example.com.
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