In the first grade, a classmate gave me a gift for my birthday that I used all the time. It is an insulated cup which is designed for freezing drinks like smoothies. Well, I have always gone through orange juice like it is going out of style – even now, when to buy a gallon of Florida’s Natural orange juice, the only orange juice I’ve found in Shanghai that meets my standards, costs $12 – and so instead of bothering to go through the steps of making a smoothie, I started pouring orange juice into the cup.
I called it a freezie and I’d make it any time my mom would let me. It was sweet and a little crunchy, and had neat crystals in it so it shone when the light hit it. It was easily my favorite dessert, and I could never figure out why the orange juice froze so differently from water.
Two years ago, I had a miserable flu, and I begged Walker to make me a freezie. He thought I was crazy, but he humored me. He poured the orange juice into a tea cup, because it was all we had on hand, and I waited impatiently for my treat. I let him take the first bite so he could try it without getting sick himself, and he agreed that it was really tasty.
When I saw a recipe for granita I realized why the orange juice must have frozen that way. There is so much natural sugar in the orange juice, and I never had the patience to let it sit without agitating, so the crystals formed in the same way I imagined a granita would.
I just had to try the grown up version of a freezie, and I had a beautiful pack of strawberries and a small Buddha’s Hand which seemed perfect for the project.
A Buddha’s Hand is a fruit in the member of the citrus family which is seen most often in Asia. They are grown in China for their perfume and I have read elsewhere that they originated in India. There is no juice to be had inside it unlike other citrus fruits. When you cut into a Buddha’s Hand, you see a white pith, which is less bitter than the pith of other citrus, and more fragrant. It tastes to me like a lemon with a hint of lavender. Oh, and it looks like a creepy hand with all its outstretched fingers.
So I candied the Buddha’s hand and then used the simple syrup which was infused with that flavor as the base for the strawberry granita instead of adding in the juice of a lemon.
Adapted from Strawberry Granita on Epicurious
1 small Buddha’s Hand Citron
1 cup hot water
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups sliced hulled strawberries (1 pound whole berries) plus additional berries for garnish
1. Wash and dry Buddha’s hand. Separate “fingers” and divide fingers in half. Grate one half of the fingers using a microplane or a cheese grater to get a fine zest and set aside. Using a vegetable peeler, cut off thin slivers of the other fingers.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring together one cup water and one cup sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Add in the slivers of Buddha’s hand and let boil in the simple syrup until the white pith is translucent. Remove translucent slivers to a sheet of wax paper and toss with more granulated sugar.
3. In the same syrup, coat the zest for about 2 minutes. It will look impossible to remove, but never fear. Place a double layer of kitchen towel over the top of a measuring cup, letting the kitchen towel dip into the cup slightly. Slowly pour the syrup and the zest into the kitchen towel over the measuring cup. The cup will collect the syrup and the towel will collect the zest. Toss the zest with granulated sugar, spread out in a single layer, and let harden. Make sure to save the syrup.
4. Blend 3 cups strawberries in processor until smooth. Add sugar syrup and blend until combined.
5. Pour mixture into 13x9x2-inch nonstick metal baking pan. Freeze until icy around edges, about 25 minutes. Using fork, stir icy portions into middle of pan. Freeze until mixture is frozen, stirring edges into center every 20 to 30 minutes, about 1 1/2 hours. Using fork, scrape granita into flaky crystals. Cover tightly and freeze. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep frozen.) Scrape granita into bowls.
6. Garnish with extra berries and zest, or some Chantilly cream. I layered the granita with Chantilly cream, topped with a sprinkling of the zest, and garnished with three slivers of candied Buddha’s hand.
My college roommate licked the inside of her granita glass. I think that’s a rave review. More from her later.