Ice cream has many close cousins, with the biggest differences being how you freeze them. Semifreddo has air whipped into it before it’s frozen by incorporating whipped cream or meringue. Ice cream, gelato, sherbet and sorbet are lightened by the air that gets churned in by your ice cream maker. Granita was so named by the Italians for its grainy texture and tiny ice crystals that give it crunch. It’s “still frozen,” meaning that you place the base in the freezer directly after making it, without mixing. The coarse ice crystals are achieved by scraping and stirring the granita as it freezes.
To me, granitas are as close as you can get to a homemade snowball without buying a shaved-ice machine and a big block of ice. Most granita recipes call for a ratio of 4-1: For example, 4 cups of coffee to 1 cup of sugar will give you the perfect texture for a coffee granita. If you want to try making raspberry or strawberry flavors, I suggest diluting the fruit purée with a bit of water before adding sugar. I’ve found the 4-1 ratio to be too sweet when using melons, due to their naturally high sugar content. Here, I add a bit of rum to keep the texture even softer. (Remember that bottle of vodka in your freezer that is ice cold but still liquid?) Cantaloupe or honeydew melon would also work wonderfully as substitutes for watermelon in this recipe.
Christy Augustin has had a lifelong love affair with all things sweet. After working as a pastry chef in New Orleans and St. Louis, she opened Pint Size Bakery & Coffee in St. Louis’ Lindenwood Park in 2012. She calls herself the baker of all things good and evil. Learn more at pintsizebakery.com.
If you would like to omit the rum, simply increase the sugar to ½ cup. The end result will be a bit more coarse but just as refreshing. Basil can also be substituted for mint if preferred.
Serves | 8 to 10 |
- 8 cups seedless watermelon cubes (about ¼ to ₁⁄₃ of a medium melon)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 Tbsp white rum
- pinch kosher salt
- 1 sprig fresh mint
| Preparation | Using a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth. Strain to remove excess pulp and seed bits; you should have about 6½ cups total. Stir well to ensure all ingredients are evenly incorporated and sugar is dissolved. Pour into a wide, shallow pan like a glass or stainless steel baking dish. Purée should be no more than 1-inch thick. Freeze.
After 1 hour, stir and scrape with a fork or spoon, being careful to get edges and chop up any large pieces. Repeat twice at 1-hour intervals. Freeze for another 2 hours or up to 5 days covered with foil. If you find it a bit too slushy after the first 3 hours, it might need another scrape and an overnight freeze, as every freezer temperature varies. Serve in chilled glasses.