DIY Frozen Coffee Treat

After yesterday's episode of "It's Really Hot Out There," I got to thinking that I had absolutely nothing in the house to slurp on. Last week's blueberry sorbet supply was looking raggedy and I was in no mood to suck on an ice cube.
Frankly, I was in the mood for one of those Arctic coffee-frappuccino thingamajigs that people queue up for at Starbucks or Cosi. The closest thing I could get to coffee-franchised bliss without leaving the house would be a granita.

Coffee granita
Coffee granita: Anyone got a straw? (Kim O'Donnel)

As many of you know, I'm from Philadelphia, where "wooder ice" is King. Granita essentially is a dressed-up wooder ice that you can make at home with a fork and a square pan. As I mentioned earlier this summer, granita of the citrus-y sort is an elegant palate cleanser, something to take the edge off after a big meal, or even between courses.

Coffee granita serves a different kind of function, as cooler-offer as well as caffeine fixer-upper. Italians are known to have a bowl of the stuff when it's just too darn hot for a late-afternoon espresso. But heed the following warning: There's something nearly addictive about a mound of slush that gives you a buzz. You may find yourself begging for more, like a desperate dog or ready to run a marathon from the caffeine that went down the hatch too easily.

At the very least, you won't have spent four bucks (or is it five?) on a 16-ounce plastic cup of frozen coffee.

A few tips to keep in mind as your get granita-tizing:

Chill pan thoroughly in advance.

Mixture should be thoroughly chilled, at least two hours, before freezing.

Mixture should come up only about 1/4 inch along the sides of your pan - or expect longer freezing time.

The hotter the day, the longer the freezing process.

Smaller than hail, bigger than snowflakes - that's the size you're looking for as you rake the ice crystals with a fork.

Coffee Granita

3 cups espresso or strong brewed coffee
¼ cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional zinger: 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (Tia Maria, Kahula) or Bailey's Irish Cream

Mix hot coffee and sugar together until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool, the refrigerate until completely cooled, at least two hours. In the meantime, freeze a square metal pan, about 8x8 (Don't worry if your pan is a slightly different size.)

Add vanilla to cooled mixture, and if using, the booze. Stir well, and pour into frozen pan. Cover with plastic or foil and place in freezer.

After 1 hour, retrieve pan and check for ice crystals developing on the edges of the pan. With a fork, stir the crystals towards the center of the pan. Cover and return to the freezer. Repeat this process every 20-30 minutes, for about 3 hours, until mixture is no longer liquidy and resembles snowflakes.

Serve immediately in glass dishes (it's prettier that way) with whipped cream or by itself. If stored in an airtight container, coffee granita will keep for about 1 week.

Makes 4-6 servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 19, 2006; 10:51 AM ET Frozen Treats
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yes! one of my favorite treats from a semester abroad in Rome where I first discovered the "granita di caffe con panne" (I think that's "coffee granita with cream). the cream was whipped and unsweetened, to balance out the sweet, frozen espresso. definitely a favorite afternoon pick-me-up on a hot, hot day.

Posted by: Rome-mama | July 19, 2006 1:51 PM

In the part of Sicily where my parents are from, people have always eaten granita in the summer, particularly for breakfast with a brioche, sometimes several times a day. Lemon and coffee are the classic flavors. No matter how small the town, there is a bar that serves granita. The province of Messina has the best granita, IMHO--in other parts of Italy/Sicily, I've found the granita to be too icy, sweet, and/or grainy. For perfect granita, it certainly helps to have wonderful Sicilian lemon trees at every turn--they don't use syrup or anything unnatural, especially in the smaller towns.

Posted by: Elizabeth | July 19, 2006 2:01 PM

Can you make a batch of granita and save it, or will it just continue to freeze into a big block? I certainly don't need 4-6 servings, but it seems like an awful lot of work for just one serving at a time. Thanks!

Posted by: Madison | July 19, 2006 3:52 PM


If I do had some Baileys, will it lengthen the freezing time greatly? Or not significantly because it's so little booze?

Posted by: Cheryl | July 21, 2006 10:22 AM

Great question, Cheryl. I wondered about that, too. Two tablespoons did not seem to affect the freezing time, but a few other things did: The temperature, which was in the high 90s, as well as placement in the freezer. At first I had the tray closer to the door; after the first 45 minutes, I moved it to the back of the freezer, and it started to freeze more quickly. Enjoy!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 21, 2006 11:44 AM

I thought the granita I always enjoyed seemed more "milky". . . . .but I don't see milk here. Can you fill me in please? Thanks!

Posted by: Cyndi | August 8, 2006 7:33 AM

Hi Cyndi:
If it was whirled around in a machine in a coffee shop, there is a chance that this 'granita' contained milk. Traditionally, granita is free of milk, although I have seen the occasional addition. Tell me more -- where did you have it and what was the flavor?

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | August 8, 2006 8:15 AM

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