Orange creamsicle granita, a dreamy combination of flaky, citrus ice crystals and sweetened whipped cream.
Granita is a semi-frozen dessert akin to Italian ice, shaved ice and sorbet. By all accounts, granita originated in Sicily but can be found in many parts of Italy. Various regions put their own stamp on granita. Some like to eat it as dessert while others enjoy granita for breakfast or on the go, much like the American slurpee. Some people enjoy topping it with whipped cream or almonds, while others enjoy it with brioche. The texture of the ice crystals can also vary from region to region. Some serve granita as large, flaky ice crystals, while others prefer an almost sorbet like texture. I personally enjoy large, flaky crystals. If you want sorbet, have sorbet. If you want granita, have granita.
In general, granita has a coarse, crystalline texture that is lighter than other ice’s and sorbets. Granita comes in many flavors and really, the only limitation is your imagination. Some traditional flavors are lemon, strawberry, almond, chocolate and coffee.
Not only is granita versatile for it’s ability to showcase almost any flavor but it’s also super easy to make and requires no fancy equipment. All you need to make a delicious granita is a few ingredients, one small pot, one baking dish or pan, one fork, a little elbow grease and poof, you have granita.
Rise of the Orange Creamsicle Granita
I have a lot of experience serving granita to clients. It’s an unassuming dessert that always gets rave reviews. Granita’s sweetness satisfies a sweet tooth while it’s cool, crisp flavors leave you feeling refreshed. Refreshed is NOT usually an attribute associated with dessert but is a welcome conclusion to a meal.
In my years of serving granita, l’ve served sweet and savory varieties as a palate cleanser. I’ve served it as a dessert course and I’ve even served it over oysters on the half shell. All in all, my personal favorite is dessert granita. Most especially, coffee granita with a dollop of spiced whipped cream (recipe for another day). It’s tiramisu’s reduced calorie, icy cousin.
So, long story short, when I started to think about dessert posts for late winter, granita was one of the first things that popped into my head. I wanted to do something that was a nice counterpoint to the heaviness of the holidays. Granita’s fresh flavors and simplistic elegance is exactly the kind of recipe I enjoy sharing with people.
My next train of thought was that I wanted to do something in season and something that my husband would love since he’s a newbie to the granita scene. This is the perfect time of year to find a variety of interesting citrus especially all manner of oranges. Wouldn’t you know, one of my husbands favorite ice cream flavors is orange creamsicle. Epiphany…….orange creamsicle granita!
Orange Creamsicle Granita
For my granita , I used two types of citrus, Cara Cara navel oranges and Sumo citrus (a Japanese variety of mandarin). It’s not imperative that you use two types of orange citrus but I do think it contributes complexity of flavor. I employed both the juice and the zest of the citrus to get every nuanced flavor possible.
For the cream, I made a basic, lightly sweetened whipped cream with a dash of good vanilla extract. You could certainly use a vanilla bean in place of the extract. The tiny black seeds make an attractively speckled cream but in keeping with the idea of simplicity, I opted for extract.
My orange creamsicle granita came together quickly and was a joy to make. The ambrosial aroma of citrus zest permeated the kitchen and the bejeweled shades of orange were enchanting.
My husband is always supportive, nevertheless he looked on with a bit of skepticism. I don’t think he believed that some juice and a couple of pots and pans were going to yield anything impressive. Like many things in life, you don’t know until you know.
The look on my husbands face as he ate his first bite of granita was the icing on the cake or should I say…….cream on the granita. He was in bliss and ate every last bit of it.
If you’re an orange creamsicle lover, a granita lover, a citrus lover or you have a sweet tooth that needs tending to, this recipe is for you!
I hope you enjoy!!!
- 4 cups of fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (if you prefer a super sweet granita, use 1/2 cup sugar)
- 1/4 cup water
- zest of two oranges
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- WHIPPED CREAM
- 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (best quality you can find)
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
- In a small pot, combine the sugar, water, salt and zest. Set over medium-low heat. Swirling the pot occasionally, heat just until the sugar has dissolved and set aside to cool (approximately 10 minutes)
- While the simple syrup is cooling, juice your oranges.
- Combine the juice, simple syrup and vanilla in a bowl. Stir to combine and pour into a 9x13 inch (3 quart), freezer safe baking pan or dish.
- Put the granita in the freezer. It will start to freeze and crystallize within approximately 1 hour. Using a fork, scrape and break up the ice crystals, moving them to the center of the pan. Continue to do this every half hour to an hour until the entire mixture has crystallized (approximately 4 hours) then cover and continue to freeze until ready to serve.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment(or hand held mixer), add the heavy whipping cream, whip until the cream begins to thicken.
- When the cream begins to thicken, add the sugar, vanilla and salt.
- Beat until stiff peaks form.
- Put whipped cream in an airtight container, cover and leave in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve the granita.
Scoop granita into decorative serving bowls, top with a dollop of whipped cream and serve with spoons.
* The granita can be covered and stored in the freezer for up to one week, just be sure to fluff the mixture with a fork before serving. Do not make the whipped cream until the day you plan on serving the granita.
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