Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grapefruit + Campari + Your Freezer =


Hello, friends!  I know, I know.  It's been a while.  I hadn't forgotten, but it was pointed out to me (again) today, so I wanted to throw a quick post out there to let you know that I'm alive and still cooking/baking.

Actually, I've been baking more than ever these days, since I am now a bona fide professional baker.  I turned in my W4 today at the bakery (more on that later), so I'm legit.  Not that it will really change the scope of this blog, because I'm doing just as much baking at home these days, but I didn't want to keep the exciting news to myself for too long.

Now for the food part:  If where you are is half as hot as the northeast was last week, you are probably dying for something cool and refreshing.  Good news: two Sundays ago (the 16th) Mark Bittman offered a cure in the New York Times Magazine:  Grapefruit Campari Popsicles.  Amazing, friends, amazing.  So simple.  (4 ingredients!)  So delicious.  The whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.  My excitement was so great that I made them the next day.  As I tasted the unfrozen mixture I though, "this is decent," but once it was frozen my enthusiasm skyrocketed!  I can't explain it logically, because generally speaking, cold food has less flavor than warm food.  (This is why you never season a soup, for example, when it's cold, if you intend to serve it warm.  Seasoning is amplified with heat, so it will likely taste over-seasoned once warmed.  Likewise, cold foods often require more aggressive seasoning to make the flavors pop.)  In any case, my logic was that a decent tasting cocktail--which is essentially was these Popsicles are in liquid form--would lose some of its flavor in Popsicle form, but in fact the opposite was true.  The sourness of the grapefruit juice and the slight bitterness of the Campari soared to new and tangy heights, but it was neither too sweet nor too sour because of the balancing effects of the syrup (sugar and water), that serves as the third and final ingredient.

For my first go around I made Popsicles in Dixie cups (Jell-O shots, anyone?), with an assortment of butchered take out chopsticks and the handles of plastic utensils serving as Popsicle sticks.  (If anyone knows where to buy real Popsicle sticks in the city--I don't want to trek out to the 'burbs to a Michael's or something--PLEASE let me know!  I was completely stumped!)  Those were a wild success, so I decided to experiment a little, so I made a second batch and froze it like a granita.  For those that are not familiar with granita, I like to consider it a gourmet cross between Italian Ice and a SnoCone.  The process is simple: you take a liquid and pour into a freezer-proof pan so that it makes a shallow layer--half an inch or less.  As it freezes you drag the tines of a fork through it to fluff up the frozen parts (the top and edges, since those parts freeze first).  You do this several times during the freezing process, and you're left with a light, icy, flaky sorbet-like dessert that requires minimal time and equipment.  I've just been eating it out of the Pyrex pan that I froze it in (8" x 8" works very well for this recipe), but it could make a very elegant dessert served in martini glasses, garnished with a few fresh raspberries.  Alternatively, a tiny scoop in a shot glass or other small dish can make an impressive palate cleanser in between courses of an elaborate meal.  (Not that I ever entertain that way, but I recall such things occurring during fancy meals out in Spain and Portugal, for example). 


So without further ado, since the minutes are ticking by, and I am out of the house quite early these days, the recipe:

Grapefruit Campari Popsicles (or Granita) Adapted very slightly from Mark Bittman, The New York Times Magazine, July 16, 2011
Serves about 6, depending on the size of the Popsicle molds

* 1 1/2 cups grapefruit juice (if you are squeezing your own, this is 2 large and very juicy or 3 large but only adequately juicy grapefruits
* 1/2 cup of Campari
* 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
* 1/3 cup of water

1. First, make your simple syrup.  Combine the sugar and water in a microwave safe dish or measuring cup and heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute on high.  Set aside to cool

2. Combine your grapefruit juice and Campari, then stir in the simple syrup.

3. If you are using Popsicle molds, divide the liquid among the molds, or pour it into small disposable cups, such as Dixies.  (If you are using cups, I'd suggest putting them into a shallow Tupperware or cake pan to keep them upright and steady in the freezer).  Freeze partially, then stick in the Popsicle sticks, and continue freezing until solid, ideally overnight.  To unmold the pops. dip the molds into hot water for 5 or 10 seconds to loosen the cup/mold, pull off and enjoy!

3 a.  If you are making granita, pour the mixture into a freezer-safe pan, such as an 8" x 8" Pyrex pan or something comparably sized.  Freeze for about 30-45 minutes, then drag the tines of a fork through the top and sides to loosen and fluff up the parts that have already frozen.  Repeat two or three more times over the next couple of hours, so that when the mixture is completely frozen it has an evenly fluffy texture, and there are no layers or large clumps.  At this stage you can keep it in your freezer, covered, for weeks or perhaps months--mine hasn't lasted long enough to tell!  Scoop out with a spoon into a bowl or martini glass and enjoy!!

I also tried the Mojito pops, put they aren't nearly as tasty as the Campari ones