Memorial Day Dessert: Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream

Next weekend is Memorial Day weekend – it’s time to start thinking about a menu and isn’t dessert the logical place to start?  We are always full after eating the barbecued and homemade treats during the weekend so I wanted to try something light and refreshing for dessert.  Strawberry Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream is the perfect finish.  It is very simple to make with just a few steps.  Your freezer does most of the work which means you can spend more time outdoors having fun.  This is a surprisingly decadent combination.  When you add the whipped cream to the granita, the whipped cream’s texture becomes like a soft ice cream because it gets slightly frozen!  It’s almost like eating fresh strawberry ice cream but with lots more strawberry flavor.

There are only four ingredients that you’ll need for the Strawberry Mint Granita: water, sugar, strawberries and mint.  I let the strawberries soften in the warm syrup (see below) for about fifteen minutes on very low heat.  Then I puréed it in the blender and strained it through a fine sieve to remove any seeds and large pieces.  That was most of the work and the freezer did the rest.  The recipe is versatile because almost any of your favorite fruit can be used in place of strawberries.  Try experimenting with flavors, like blueberry/thyme, peach/basil or mango/orange.

Granita is just frozen flavored ice and similar to sorbet.  The fruit and simple syrup mixture is frozen in a shallow pan and scraped with a fork to form large ice crystals.  There are many recipe variations and flavors, and I decided to go with the original recipe in my head – make a simple syrup, add fresh fruit, purée, strain, freeze and scrape every few hours.  It was that easy.  I of course had to add a twist to the simple syrup and infuse it with mint.  It is super easy to make.  After lightly heating the water and sugar, I added two mint sprigs and lightly mashed them with the back of spoon to release the oils and then let it steep off the heat for about ten minutes.  The mint added another layer of flavor that was just a hint in the background, which I am so fond of. 

At first you may question whipped cream with granita.  I had seen a photo of a fruit granita with this combination and was intrigued about how it would taste.  I was so pleasantly surprised at how rich, creamy and decadent it makes every bite.  I love using fresh vanilla beans for cream dishes, not only for the authentic, fresh flavor they impart but also for the wonderful little black flecks they leave throughout.  The flecks are a wonderful visual reminder of the flavors yet to come.  I didn’t want the vanilla flavor to be too dominant in this recipe so I only used half the bean.  The fresh vanilla bean paste is perfect to use in fresh whipped cream because the pure flavor stands up to the rich, fluffy goodness. 

Here’s to many sweet treats for your Memorial Day Weekend!

Strawberry & Mint Granita with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, plus extras (makes about 3 cups granita)

Ingredients:
Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cups sugar
2 mint sprigs
1 pound strawberries, stems removed and cut into thin slices
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Half of one vanilla bean
1 tablespoon sugar
Garnish:
Strawberry slices
Fresh mint

Directions:
Mint-Infused Simple Syrup:
Add water and sugar to a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  When sugar is dissolved, turn off heat and add the whole sprigs of mint.  With the back of a spoon, lightly mash the mint leaves to release the oils.  Let steep for 10 minutes.  Return heat to medium-low and add the sliced strawberries.  Stir well and let steep for 15 minutes.

Remove the mint sprigs and transfer the mixture to a blender; purée mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Pour through a fine sieve into a 13 x 9 glass dish.  Press most of the fruit through the sieve with the back of a spoon until just solids are left (be sure to also scrape the bottom of the sieve – where all the good stuff is) and stir to combine.

Cover dish with plastic wrap and freeze mixture for 6 to 8 hours, or overnight.  Scrape with a fork every few hours to form crystals (otherwise it will be a frozen block). 

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream:
Add the whipped cream, vanilla bean paste and sugar to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low until soft peaks form, about 1 ½ minutes.  Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.  Can be made one day ahead.

Assemble:
Place some granita in the bottom of a parfait glass and add a good dollop of whipped cream.  Add another scoop of granita and finish with a small dollop of whipped cream.  Garnish with a slice of strawberry and fresh mint.

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12 responses to “Memorial Day Dessert: Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream

  1. This dessert looks so delicious.

  2. It looks yummy. Definitely a will try .

  3. That looks wonderful. My wife and I do a strawberry mint granita without whipped cream. Well not anymore!

  4. Holly Bergman

    What a great recipe. We will give it a try and hope for warm weather so we can enjoy them on the patio. I’m off to Penzey’s spices to get the vanilla bean!

  5. What a great idea. I’ve got company coming for Memorial Day. I might have to make this. I’ll let you know if I do.

  6. Cheryl Hogate Johns

    Looks great for these soon to be hot summer days. Will definitely be trying this soon!

  7. I can vouch for this dessert – it is fabulous!

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