This Sunday May 11 it’s Mother’s Day. Last year my family cooked up a storm in the kitchen serving up breakfast panini filled with Bill Granger’s decadently creamy scrambled eggs, crispy prosciutto and peppery rocket. I’m not sure what is planned for this weekend but knowing their penchant for last minute, seat of the pants preparation I thought I’d provide a hint. Something sweet and light. Brioscia con limone granita, perhaps? Which quite simply translates from Italian as brioche with lemon granita. La dolce vita. A delicious but simple Sicilian breakfast tradition. To be totally honest I’m not entirely convinced that any of them actually read any of my posts. Time will tell.
This brunch idea was serendipitously inspired by Serena from The Rustic Plate’s sweet musings in her post desserts aren’t just for dessert anymore. take this ricotta cake… Having polished off the leftover dregs of ricotta cake for breakfast more often than I would care to admit, I’m not entirely averse to eating something sweet for breakfast. Curiously her post came hot on the heels of my very recent visit to Little Italy’s Haberfield Bakery last Saturday morning. Standing proud amongst the usual offerings of wood-fired bread and pizza bases were a weekend speciality, rich, buttery Brioscie cu’ tuppu. Sweet brioche rolls traditionally shaped with a small ball or bun on top. Of course I had to try them. Before long the conversation turned to the joys of a Sicilian breakfast brioche eaten in the traditional way with icy tangy lemon granita.
Sadly I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo of our gorgeous brioscie before we devoured them. Not with the suggested granita but generous smears of another Italian favourite – Nutella, a rich and creamy chocolate hazelnut spread. Needless to say they were incredibly moreish and delicious.
Since reading Serena’s post I haven’t stopped thinking about the intriguing combination of brioche and lemon granita. Returning from the markets yesterday afternoon with a big bag of juicy in season lemons provided the perfect excuse to make up a big batch of granita. Fortunately, it’s surprisingly easy to make. In essence it’s just a simple sugar syrup generously flavoured with lemon juice and zest. In the interests of authenticity I made it the old-fashioned way. Poured into a wide, shallow baking tin, placed into the freezer and intermittently scraped with a fork to form grainy but fine icy crystals.
Of course the syrup can be churned to a slushy consistency in a modern ice cream maker, but that’s not how an Italian nonna would traditionally have made it. Our inaugural brioche with lemon granita tasting was a resounding success. Not for breakfast but for afternoon tea. There was no chance that we were going to wait until the morning to try it. This unusual combination really does work. Light and refreshing, the granita cuts through the buttery richness of the brioche.
I have absolutely no idea how my Mothers Day will unfold but I can’t think of a sweeter start to the day than a brioche served with a lemon granita. So simple and elegant. There’s a recipe for the granita at the bottom of this post. So easy a child could make it. Perfect to prepare ahead. As for brioche it can be easily purchased from an obliging French or Italian bakery. Wishing you all la dolce vita and a wonderful day.
2 cups water
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons), strained
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
COMBINE the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon zest and strained juice. Allow to cool slightly.
POUR the cooled lemon syrup mixture into a wide, shallow ceramic baking tin and place in the freezer.
AFTER half an hour, remove the tin from the freezer. Scrape the ice crystals from the sides and bottom of the tin, breaking up any frozen chunks on the edges, moving and mixing them towards the centre.
RETURN the tin to the freezer and repeat the procedure another three or four times until all the liquid has solidified into loose ice crystals. The whole process should take will take anywhere between three and four hours depending upon the size of your tin. If the granita freezes too hard between scrapings simply leave the tin out on the kitchen bench for a few minutes to soften a little.
ALTERNATIVELY, the cooled lemon syrup mixture can be placed in an ice-cream maker and churned until it is slushy but not completely frozen.
STORE in the freezer until ready to use. Serve in glass tumblers.