It was hot, muggy and steamy all over Europe, especially in Northern-Europe where temperatures raised to unusual tropical levels this memorable August 19/20, 2012 weekend.
How did I keep myself cool and enjoy a treat without suffering a chocolate meltdown? Well, I just indulged in a refreshing chocolate Italian ice.
Italian ices are well known all over the western hemisphere. They are smoother than granitas, softer than sorbets and just generally different. They are also incredibly refreshing.
Although I love Italian ices, I really didn’t know much about them and not at all about the difference between an Italian ice and an Italian water ice. Some sources use both terms interchangeably, others say there is a difference.
An Italian ice is flavored, then frozen and shaved for serving. An Italian water ice is plain ice that is flavored after it has been shaved into soft, snowy mounds, except when it is not and then it is the same as an Italian ice.
Regional differences among Italian immigrants and European cities probably account for the differences in technique and nomenclature. Italian immigrants to our country brought with them a long tradition of frozen desserts including granita (made by freezing water, fruit juices or other flavoring ingredients and sugar in a pan and periodically flaking and scraping the ice as it forms to break up the ice crystals) and sorbet (made by freezing similar ingredients in a ice cream freezer).
Commercial Italian ice makers proudly list their flavors made from natural fruit and other flavors. Lemon and cherry are traditional flavors but modern tastes range from melon to mango, chocolate to green tea, FROM REAL DUTCH HERRING (Haring) WITH CHOPPED ONIONS AND PICKLES, MUSTARD (mosterd), CIGAR (sigaren-ijs), TOMATO (tomatenijs) AND BEER (bier-ijs).
What they mostly don’t list is how they make their treat. Food historians say it started as frozen blocks of sweetened fruit flavors shaved into wafer cones, small white pleated paper cups or sturdier disposable bowls with spoons.
My chocolate ice was delicious, with a clean, dark chocolate taste. Although it was made without any milk products it was incredibly rich but without being heavy. It was the perfect summertime treat.
Here is a recipe for a chocolate ice, it isn’t an "authentic" chocolate Italian ice recipe, but it is close, especially if you serve it before hardening it in the freezer.
Chocolate Ice yields
1/2 gallon (1.9 litre)
2 cups sugar
5 cups water
1 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Boil the sugar and water together for five minutes and then remove from heat. Immediately add the cocoa and cinnamon. Mix well. Let it cool a bit and then refrigerate until cold.
Freeze in an ice cream freezer as per manufacturer’s instructions. Serve straight from the ice cream maker container for a softer ice or place in the freezer for a few hours to harden the ice. Another option is to pour the chilled chocolate ice mixture into ice cube trays and freeze. Before serving, process ice cubes in small batches in a blender or food processor until chocolate ice mixture is thoroughly broken up but not yet slushy.
To make the best iced coffee ever, add a few of the Chocolate Ice ice cubes to your favorite cold java. Add in milk and sugar to taste and top with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.