Sweet Spoonfuls: Recipes

COLD COMFORT: Coffee Granita
 Coffee Granita with whipped cream ("granita caffe con panna") from Caffe Tazza d'Oro in Rome, Italy (in front of the Pantheon.

(My story was originally published in the Milwaukee Journal)

Italy in the summer time is hot, hot, hot. But last July when my best girlfriend, Angie, and I visited the country, we learned that Italians cope with the heat in a most delicious way.
In Rome, at Caffe Tazza d'Oro, it's printed on the glass door as you enter: "Granita Caffe con panna."
After the second visit, we had the routine down: Go to the register, pay and get your receipt for the granita, take the receipt over to the guy behind the counter, present receipt, wait, receive your coffee granita, go outside, indulge (and cool off) while people-watching in front of the Pantheon (it's right around the corner from the cafe). Repeat as necessary.
Granita, an exquisite powdery ice, is usually flavored with espresso or fresh fruit and often topped (or layered as at Caffe Tazza d'Oro) "con panna" (with whipped cream).
But you don't have to go to Italy to enjoy this icy sweet treat - it's easy enough to make at home (and just a bit more economical - although perhaps not quite as exciting). Plus it makes a great cooling and light (depending on how much whipped cream you're into) finale to a spicy barbecue or late-night porch supper, or a poolside refreshment (even if your pool happens to be the inflatable kind).
Coffee GranitaMakes about 8 ( 1/2-cup) servings
1 cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
3 cups brewed espresso coffee (or 3 cups regular coffee that has been brewed double-strength)
Kahlua whipped cream (see recipe)
In 1 ½- to 2-quart saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring only until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling 4 minutes without stirring. Remove pan from heat and let syrup cool to room temperature.
Stir in coffee and pour mixture into a 13-by-9-inch pan. Freeze granita, scraping icy crystals into center of mixture with a fork approximately every 30 minutes or until completely frozen, about 3 to 4 hours. The finished granita will have a fine and snowy texture.
Serve with a dollop of Kahlua whipped cream.
Kahlua whipped cream:
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
In bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in liqueur.
Variation: Substitute Bailey's Irish Cream for the Kahlua.
Strawberry GranitaMakes about 12 ( 1/2-cup) servings
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
2 pounds fresh strawberries (see note)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Kirsch-flavored whipped cream (see recipe)
Whole fresh strawberries for garnish
In 1 ½- to 2-quart saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring only until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling 4 minutes without stirring. Remove pan from heat and let syrup cool to room temperature.
Clean and hull strawberries. Put half in a blender and pour in half the cooled syrup plus the lemon juice. Blend. Add remaining berries and cooled syrup; puree all until smooth.
Pour mixture into 13-by-9-inch pan.
Freeze the granita, scraping ice crystals into center of mixture with a fork approximately every 30 minutes until completely frozen, about three or four hours. The finished granita will have a fine and snowy texture that is a bit more slushy than the coffee granita.
To serve: In a chilled stemmed glass (try a martini glass), layer some of the granita, then some Kirsch-flavored whipped cream, more granita and then a final layer of whipped cream. Top with a fresh whole strawberry.
Note: Instead of Kirsch-flavored whipped cream, you can use plain whipped cream, sweetened with 1 teaspoon sugar.
Note: You can use less strawberries, but this amount gives a rich strawberry essence.
Kirsch-flavored whipped cream:
½ cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons kirsch (cherry brandy)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

In bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in liqueur and sugar until stiff. This makes enough whipped cream for about four servings of strawberry granita.


When I was wondering what to bake for a dessert for my niece’s bridal shower a couple weeks ago, my sister-in-law Linda said, “oh, you should make that French apple cake of yours—the one with the caramel sauce. I love that this time of year.” To be honest, I’d almost forgotten about that recipe ---one of those you make often for a couple years, and then for whatever reason (Rosemary's newest peach and blueberry crumbles or Angie's buttermilk panna cotta with strawberries) it kind of gets pushed to the back of the recipe box.

Anyway, as I pulled out the ingredients to make it the night before the shower I couldn’t help recalling one of the first times I’d made the recipe. I was newly married and having a small group of men and women over to our house on McKinley Street for some kind of a church meeting. I was so excited because the meeting date was in September --meaning autumn and my favorite time of year -- and I’d decided to do this whole fall theme: fresh apple cake with warm butter caramel sauce, and hot spiced apple cider to drink.

Well, the evening of the meeting arrived and it was like 100 degrees with humidity to match that day—not to mention our tiny living room faced the west--and we had no air conditioning to boot. But I bravely (or cluelessly) went ahead with serving my cake and the warm butter caramel sauce, along with cups of hot spiced apple cider (with a cinnamon stick stirrer of course!) To this day, I can still "see" one of the men so politely sipping that hot cider, eating the cake—all the while with sweat beading up and pouring forth on his very pink face. He never said a word about being warm, just how delicious everything was. It was one of those moments you learn what grace is all about.

PS I did make the cake for the shower and it was a hit. The weather cooperated this time—warm but not hot. I had forgotten just how good (and easy) this cake is—and how great it is as an autumn dessert (when the temps are what they are supposed to be in the fall) so I’m sharing it here for any and all interested. Thank you Linda for suggesting it!!

French Apple Dessert with warm Caramel Sauce

The Cake:
4 cups diced, peeled apples
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 cups unsifted flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Place apples in mixing bowl. Break eggs over apples and stir well. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Add to apples with salad oil and nuts. Mix well. Sift together the flour, soda, and salt (I never sift, just put it in). Add this to the first mixture and beat well!!

Put into a Pam sprayed 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or until toothpick inserted comes out clean in middle). Cut and serve with Caramel sauce. (serves 12)

Caramel Sauce
The truth is, this is the real reason you make this cake.
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp. flour (mix with the sugars)

Mix all ingredients in saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly until somewhat thickened. Add 2 tsp. vanilla at the end. Stir. Ladle generously over the apple cake. Serve with hot apple cider. Preferably on a cool autumn evening.


I love a cookie that never lets me down. That’s my rosemary shortbread.

Last Saturday I planned to spend the day in the kitchen—and with snow falling outside, I donned my “I’d Rather Be in Paris” apron, put on my CD of French Christmas carols, and prepared to bake some of the French butter cookies known as Sables for the annual cookie exchange the following day. The recipe looked good, and my hopes were high that it would taste like one I’d had at Stohrer Patisserie (51, rue Montorgueil) in Paris last Christmas.

Alas, it turned out to be a boring little biscuit that tasted nothing like what I remembered I had tasted at Stohrer. So I abandoned the recipe--and beings it was now quite late in the afternoon, decided if I was going to get 10 ½ dozen cookies done before midnight-- I was going back to an old favorite—and one everyone seemed to like—my rosemary shortbread. I had the ingredients and went to work. This time I used a tiny tree cookie cutter and sprinkled them atop with green and white sugars mixed together. I taste tested to see that they were still delicious. (They were.) Dependability is a good thing in a cookie.

Rosemary Shortbread
(adapted from Recipes from a French Herb Garden—a lovely book I might add)
*Note: As my friend Rosemary (yes, really, her name is Rosemary and she loves these cookies) will attest, it is necessary to own a Kitchenaid mixer if you want to make this recipe and have it work.

9 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1- 2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
a little extra sugar

Cream the butter with the sugar until smooth. Work in the flour and the rosemary to make a soft dough then shape into a ball.

Roll out the dough on a floured board until ¼ inch thick and cut out stars (or hearts) using a 2 inch star cutter. Mix edible clear glitter with a little sugar and sprinkle on cookies.

Bake on parchment or silpat on a baking sheet at 325 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or until the shortbread is changing color. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. Sprinkle with a little more sugar if desired. Makes about 3 dozen “biscuits au romarin”.

Baking these cookies will also make your house smell very holiday-y. And don't forget: rosemary is the herb of remembrance-- so appropriate for the season.


Mother's Famous Father's Favorite Graham Cracker Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
about 1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tbsp. sugar

Mix together and press in pie pan (I used a 9 inch pie pan). Bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Mix 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch in a bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup milk.

Put 2 1/2 cups milk in a kettle and bring to a boil. Whisk in the sugar and cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly, as it sticks easily.

Separate 3 eggs. Whisk egg yokes together and add a little hot mixture to them, then pour all back into the kettle. Then add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tsp. vanilla. Cook, until thick, stirring constantly (I use a whisk). Pour on graham cracker crust.

Meringue: Whip 3 egg whites with 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar and whip whites until stiff peaks form. Spread on pie up to edges and bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees or until meringue is brown.


2 cups water
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup lemon juice

Bring above ingredients (except lemon juice) to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
Stir in lemon juice. Pour in 9" square pan. Cover with plastic wrap. Freeze 3 to 4 hours.
Put in blender, then put back in 9" pan again and freeze another 3 hours.

This is amazing.


**A recipe I made for my book club that I absolutely love is from Lynne Rosetto Kasper's The
Splendid Table on MPR: Green Beans with lemon, garlic, and Parmigiano Gremolata.

It's one of those vegetable dishes that can be served at room temperature. I always have trouble with getting a meal on the table with everything steaming hot that is supposed to be steaming hot. This one was perfect! I served it with Green Chile Cheeseburgers from the grill.  And Carole's Lemon Ice Cream for dessert.


It's rhubarb season! I just pulled up a bunch of fresh rhubarb from my garden patch to make rhubarb jam. I used one of my mom's old recipes--very simple and quick--and appropriate too, since the rhubarb in my garden was started with some from my mom's garden.

5 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups sugar
Mix together and let sit overnight. The next day boil/simmer for 10 or so minutes, stirring and watching carefully (no need to boil the hell out of it, you just want it to simmer and bubble gently --infusing your kitchen and your whole house with the wonderful aroma of rhubarb and sugar cooking). Mmmmmmm. I love it! The rich garnet color is as delicious as the smell--I want to paint a picture of it. After it's simmered for 10 minutes, (don't cook too long as it can get gummy) take it off the heat and add a 3 oz. box of strawberry jello (this jells it up --making it easier to slather on your toast). You wouldn't have to add the jello if you didn't want to though. Then jar it up, put in the refrigerator and enjoy on toast, ice cream, or right out of the jar.

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