- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006

This time last year, I was putting finishing touches on a collection of recipes for my just-released book “Coffee” (Chronicle Books). For days on end, I tested coffee drinks as well as sweets to go along.

The days turned into weeks, then intomonths. Espressos, lattes and espresso martinis. Cappuccino cookies and mocha cheesecake bars. It was a coffee orgy.

I love all the entries, but I have to confess to a particular fondness for several of the chilled desserts, especially at this time of the year when temperatures are soaring. Not only that, they’re easy on the cook.

Ice creams and ices are at the top of my list of cooling summer sweets, and two of the three recipes featured here fall into that category. Store-bought will suffice, but when you want something special for your guests, homemade ice creams and ices are the perfect answer.

One scoop of best-ever coffee ice cream with or without coffee-caramel sauce, and you’ll be happy you invested the time to make them.

To the usual combo of eggs, cream, milk and sugar, a hefty accent of instant powdered coffee is added, along with a dash of vanilla. The mixture is ready to be churned.

If you don’t own an ice cream machine, this recipe might just be the inspiration you need for buying one. Ice cream machines are sold in cookware shops all over the country, as well as on the Web. Like the one in my cupboard, most of them are simple to operate and moderately priced.

Granita is the Italian term for water ice, and the Italians definitely excel at making this type of cold dessert. The recipe for granita di caffe I’ve included was shared with me by my friend Corby Kummer, noted food writer and author of “The Joy of Coffee” (Houghton Mifflin). Of all the coffee-flavored ices I’ve sampled, his is the most authentic and the one that reminds me most of those I’ve eaten in Italy.

That’s probably because his rendition is based on the shaved coffee ice served at the Tazza d’Oro, the most famous espresso bar in Rome. In his version, you freeze sweetened coffee in a shallow pan, and as the mixture starts to set, you make frequent trips to the freezer to scrape the icy mixture with a fork. Not rocket science. The granita is served in chilled glasses and topped with whipped cream. Consider it dessert and coffee all in one.

Speaking of chilled Italian desserts, tiramisu, the Venetian specialty, is another one of my favorites. Translated from the Italian, tiramisu means “pick me up,” and this dessert will certainly lift your caffeine-sparked spirits.

Traditionally, a tiramisu is made in a large pan by layering coffee-soaked lady fingers or sliced sponge cake with sweetened mascarpone. For the following variation, however, I prepare individual portions, assembling the same mixture in half-cup ramekins, a practical alternative to the original.

All three of these coffee desserts can be made well in advance, and all are quite versatile. You could use any of them to end a special summer supper. Or make the coffee ice cream the star of a backyard ice cream social and serve it with a drizzle of your favorite chocolate sauce or my coffee-caramel sauce, along with a pitcher of iced coffee.

Glasses filled with crunchy granita topped with mounds of softly whipped cream would make a welcome treat for friends after a tennis match or a round of golf. The little tiramisus could be packed into a cooler and taken to the beach, the mountains or another favorite spot for a sweet picnic ending.

Whenever and wherever you serve these confections, count on them to cool you down with their chilly temperatures, to rev you up with a hint of caffeine and to get you out of the kitchen quickly — definitely a winning strategy for dealing with the hot days of summer.

The following recipes are from my book, “Coffee.”

Best-ever coffee ice cream

2/3 cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

Pinch of salt

11/3 cups heavy or whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoon powdered instant coffee

½ teaspoon vanilla

Coffee-caramel sauce (recipe follows)

Whisk together sugar, egg yolks and salt in a medium heat-proof bowl until they are blended. Set aside.

Combine cream and milk in a medium, heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat. Heat until small bubbles form around edges of pan. Add instant coffee and whisk until it is completely dissolved.

Remove pan from heat. Gradually whisk the warm cream mixture into egg yolks. Return mixture to saucepan, set it over medium low heat and stir constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.

Stir in vanilla. Pour custard mixture back into bowl and put in a larger bowl filled with ice. Refrigerate until cold, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Place chilled mixture in an ice cream machine and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Pack ice cream into a container and freeze until ready to serve.

If ice cream is frozen solid, transfer it from freezer to refrigerator for 15 minutes to soften slightly before serving. Serve scoops of ice cream in bowls or wineglasses drizzled with coffee-caramel sauce, if desired. Makes about 1½ pints.


1½ tablespoons powdered instant coffee

Hot water

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

3/4 cup light corn syrup

½ cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Dissolve coffee in a small bowl with 1/4 cup hot water. Stir in vanilla. Put cream, corn syrup and both sugars in a 3-quart heavy saucepan set over medium-low heat. Stir until sugars dissolve and mixture starts to boil.

Continue to boil until mixture is quite thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in coffee, vanilla mixture and butter.

Cool sauce to room temperature, stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming over top. (Sauce can be prepared 3 days ahead; when cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over low heat, stirring, until just barely warm.) Makes 2 cups.

Corby Kummer’s granita di caffe

Granita is best served the day it is made, but it can be made a day ahead and kept covered in the freezer. Stir it with a fork to loosen before serving.


½ cup sugar

6 tablespoons ground coffee such as Colombian or a house blend

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup heavy or whipping cream, lightly whipped

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water and sugar over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour sugar syrup into a small heat-proof bowl and refrigerate until cold.

Brew the coffee, preferably in an automatic drip coffee maker, using 21/4 cups of water. Combine cooled sugar syrup and coffee in a medium bowl and stir in vanilla. Pour mixture into a freezer-safe pan, such as a 9-by-13-inch metal pan.

Freeze, stirring mixture with a rubber spatula after 30 minutes. Then stir every 30 minutes with the tines of a fork until mixture is completely frozen and of a grainy consistency, about 3 to 4 hours.

To serve, spoon a cup of granita into each of 6 chilled martini, wineglasses or other decorative glasses, and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Makes 6 servings.

Individual tiramisus

1 cup brewed espresso, cooled

1/4 cup Kahlua or other coffee liqueur

3 large egg yolks (see note)

5 tablespoons sugar, divided

1½ cups mascarpone cheese

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 large egg whites

12 soft lady fingers (about 1 by 3½ inches)

1 tablespoon shaved bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Pour espresso into a small shallow bowl and Kahlua or other liqueur into a separate small bowl. Have ready 6 ½-cup ramekins. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat egg yolks with 4 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl, until mixture is thick and pale yellow, 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and beat in mascarpone and vanilla until well combined. With an electric mixer on high speed and clean beaters, beat egg whites with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Lightly fold egg whites into mascarpone mixture.

Split lady fingers, lengthwise, and cut them to fit the ramekins. Dip sliced lady fingers, 1 at a time, into espresso. Line bottom of the ramekins with enough lady fingers to make a single layer.

Drizzle 1 teaspoon Kahlua over lady fingers in each ramekin, then cover with 1/4 cup of the mascarpone mixture. Repeat, making another lady finger and another mascarpone layer in each ramekin.

Sprinkle ½ teaspoon shaved chocolate on top of each tiramisu. Cover ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours. Serve cold. Makes 6 servings.

Note: The egg yolks and whites in this recipe are uncooked. Food safety experts caution that consuming raw eggs can expose you to salmonella contamination.

Immuno-compromised patients, the very young and the elderly should not eat raw eggs.

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