A recipe inspired by food writer Jeffrey Steingarten’s travels in Italy, from The Man Who Ate Everything (Random House, 1998)
1-1/2 ounces Dutch-process cocoa, densely packed
2-3/4 cup water
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
Sift the cocoa into the water in a pan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, lower the heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Pour and scrap into a 2-quart bowl and let cool for 30 minutes.
Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the milk and stir well. Add the cinnamon, if that taste pleases you. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Pour the mixture into a shallow container (9 x 13 works well) and place in freezer. After about 30 minutes, and every half hour thereafter, scrape the iced rim around the inside of the container with a fork; beat, mash, and fluff the ice to achieve a uniform texture. After three to five hours the ice crystals will become separate and somewhat dry in appearance.
Granita can be eaten immediately or stored in the freezer for up to three days. To revive the granita, place the container in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to defrost slightly, then beat and fluff with a fork, and finally refreeze it for another 30 minutes.
And if you would like to convert your granite into a famed 18th-century treat known as chocolate in garapegra, a “holy and noble elixir of fresh life,” add vanilla, orange zest, and a few drops of distilled jasmine.