We’ve officially entered the dog days of summer. The time of year when days are best spent lazily bobbing around in the pool, enjoying the occasional umbrella-garnished cocktail, but more importantly, hydrating like it’s your job. Being from Texas, it’s the time of year I start daydreaming about getting away — jet setting to a faraway and exotic locale where the sites, smells, tastes and hopefully the occasional breeze are enough to distract from any triple digit temperatures in the forecast. Unfortunately, there are no exotic getaways in view. Between weddings, weddings and more weddings, my vacation pot is dwindling (I have a feeling some of you can relate) so I’m firmly planted here in Austin for the foreseeable future. But you know what? It’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay. Because a little cabin fever gives me time to focus on finding inspiration in the everyday, not to mention spend some quality time at all of my favorite local spots.
Recently, I was brunching at one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants and, on a slightly indulgent whim, decided to treat myself to a Vietnamese iced coffee. It hit the spot. The rich, dark coffee played perfectly with the cloyingly sweet (in a good way) condensed milk to create a cold and refreshing brunch treat that was exactly what I needed on a warm summer morning. I’ve been craving another one ever since. But since super dark coffee spiked with sugar-packed condensed milk feels a little too indulgent for the everyday — and my mornings are without a doubt more productive sans sugar rush — I decided to turn my new obsession into a dessert. After all, desserts are expected to be sweet, and I love to treat this granita as a special addition to my often more thoughtful and elaborate weekend meals.
While most of us love it, the reality of the situation is that store-bought condensed milk is packed with sugar. Too much sugar. To lighten things up, for this recipe, I made my own version of condensed milk at home using coconut milk and far less sugar than commercial versions. I have to say, I think it’s even better than the traditional stuff. The coconut milk lends a lovely tropical flavor and by pulling back on the sugar content the final product is light and refreshingly sweet. It’s neither heavy nor shockingly sweet. I promise you, you’ll want to drizzle it on everything.
The granita is super simple (only three ingredients!) and while it takes a little time and love in the freezer, the result is the perfect dessert for triple digit weather. Every time I make granita I’m shocked by the transformation that takes place. With a pan and a dinner fork, the ingredients are magically changed from liquid, to light, fluffy ice crystals. It’s the kind of dessert that tastes and feels like it requires fancy equipment but comes together in the simplest of ways.
This version’s base is cold brew concentrate (caffeine sensitive folks, be warned!) because you need a good, strong coffee in order for the flavor to come through once frozen. Just like in the classic Vietnamese recipe, the crunchy, bitter ice crystals are complimented by a generous glug of homemade condensed coconut milk. It’s the ultimate summer staycation dessert. Enjoy!
For the condensed coconut milk:
1 13.5 can full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or sweetener of your choice)
For the coffee granita:
2 cups plain cold brew concentrate (or chilled strong coffee)
1 cup water
3/4 cups granulated sugar
To prepare the condensed coconut milk:
- Bring the coconut milk to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. It will bubble when it boils so keep a close eye on it.
- Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about an hour. The mixture will reduce by about half and will start to thicken.
- Transfer to a heat-proof container and chill in the refrigerator. The condensed milk will continue to thicken as it cools.
To prepare the granita:
- Add the cold brew concentrate to a medium bowl.
- In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and heat over low only until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the sugar syrup to the cold brew concentrate and mix well. Refrigerate for about an hour, until cool.
- Pour the mixture into a 13x9 inch baking pan (metal will promote faster freezing than glass) and place in the freezer. After an hour, run a dinner fork through the mixture to break up any ice crystals that have started to form. Repeat every 30 minutes for the next 2-4 hours, until granita is fully frozen into fluffy crystals. You can keep it in the freezer until you're ready to serve and fluff again with a fork just before serving.
- Portion granita between the serving vessels of you choice (fancy cocktail or wine glasses work great here).
- Drizzle with condensed coconut milk.