bitter + sweet: campari granita

I’m home in Virginia with my sister this week, for the wedding of one of our dearest friends. We were tasked with making cupcakes for the reception (best task!), and were happily invited to make them in our aunt Carolyn’s kitchen, where we could take advantage of her double ovens and awesome collection of professional baker gear. While we cupcaked, she made two frozen strawberry treats: sorbet and sherbet, to see which recipe she likes best. Both were delicious–I favoured the sherbet, which had tangy buttermilk–but both also required an ice cream maker. Not exactly a deal breaker, but also not the easiest implement to use, especially if you don’t have the freezer room to always have the base chilling away. Unlike the absolute easiest frozen dessert I’ve ever made, Campari granita.

Growing up, granita wasn’t really a dessert I was ever exposed to. I was ice cream all the way at home, with the occasional lemon milk sherbet made by my mom (also, I think, from an aunt Carolyn recipe). Granita only made it’t was into my consciousness when I started paying more attention to fancy-ish recipes and menus, and saw it pop up here and there. Most usually with coffee, citrus, or a liquor, and not ever in a way that really made me feel like I had to have it.  But as I’ve said before my tastes have shifted a bit recently, enough to make me purchase the gorgeous book Bitter, by Jennifer Mclagan. And while a ton of the recipes look worth trying, Campari granita is the one that really jumped out, especially after my success last summer with Aperol sorbet. 

Campari, for folks who haven’t yet tried it, is an apéritif flavored with orange, rhubarb and herbs. It’s red, it’s pretty bitter, and I have grown to really love it. With soda, in a Negroni, and now in this exceptionally lovely dessert. It would be the perfect refresher at the end of a summer meal, and makes a great palate cleanser. It’s definitely bitter, but not too, I don’t think. The original recipes recommends orange juice and offers grapefruit as a variation; I went with grapefruit, since I tend to prefer it in general. If you want to err on the sweeter side, I’d start with orange juice. Either way this is a fantastic and fantastically gorgeous summer dessert, perfect for the next time you want something special without the bother of breaking out the ice cream maker. A bartender friend of Hal’s I mentioned the recipe too suggested it would be great with some sparkling Lambrusco poured over. Next time, for sure.

campari granita
from Bitter by Jennifer Mclagan

1 cup grapefruit juice (or orange, if you’d like something a bit sweeter)
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (only if using grapefruit juice!)
1/cup  Campari
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Stir all three ingredients together into an 8 inch metal pan. Place in the freezer. Stir the mixture every hour or so with a spoon, to break it up into large ice crystals. If you forget and the mixture freezes solid, don’t panic: break it into chunks and pulse briefly in a food processor. To serve, spoon into chilled glasses.


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