Part XLI: Sweetness and Light
Sometimes it becomes too much.
I like sweets. I like offensively tall cakes, syrup-laced cinnamon rolls that have no business being considered breakfast, and fudge with bacon in it.
I love all these things, so much so that I’ve even convinced some people to pay me to make them, even though I secretly think it’s all a lie, and I’m going to be told as much through a pecan pie with a note at the bottom reading “you’re an idiot”. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet.
Despite the love, all those beautiful baked and cooked and chocolated goods (and I mean goods in the most literal way I can muster) are heavy. They can and occasionally do overwhelm, and not just in the “oh god I ate too much I’m gonna lie down” way.
You pay a toll to yourself after these things, and the toll is convincing yourself that what you just did, what you just ate, isn’t that bad. Maybe you pay it before you do the baking, and you run a bit on a treadmill or lift something heavy or some such thing. Maybe you pay it by having a truly, decisively shitty day, and that’s why you’ve earned that extra cupcake. Or maybe you wait till after and do the old “it wasn’t that bad” dance like always.
Either way, the toll is the toll. And it’s a good thing and a bad thing. I don’t believe in guilt, and I don’t think it has any place in enjoying good food, but it also is quite possibly the sole thing that keeps us from brownie-ing ourselves to death.
The toll caught up with me this week, but as I said, I get paid for this, so I gotta make a living. So I made Lemon-Thyme Granita with Blackberry Balsamic Syrup so I could get my paycheck and not viciously assault my BMI at the same time.
And so I can pay the toll.
Here’s what you need:
-3 cups water
– 1 1/4 cups sugar
– 3/4 cup fresh thyme (use the whole stems, don’t chop it)
– 3/4 cup lemon juice (it should be about 4 lemons)
– 2 cups blackberries
– 1 cup balsamic vinegar (I used fig balsamic, if you can find it…use it. It’s amazing.)
– 1/2 cup sugar
Here’s how you do it:
Get yourself a small saucepan and pour your water and sugar into it.
Turn the burner to medium, and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the thyme, bring it back down to a simmer, and put a lid on it. That lid’s important, by the way. I’ve seen plenty of ignorant recipes forget the lid part, which means they’re also forgetting that all that steam that’s rising out of the pot is carrying your hard-earned flavor along with it. Shut it tight, people.
Take your pot off heat, and let it cool to room temperature.
Once the liquid’s cooled off, pour it through a strainer to get any of those thyme leaves out of there. We’re making a granita, not a salad.
Pour your lemon juice in, stir, and pour the whole thing into a large, wide dish. You want something close to 9 x 13 on this, otherwise you’re gonna need an ice pick to get through it once it freezes.
Check the mixture every 45 minutes until it’s started to freeze. Once that happens, start scraping it up with a fork every 45 minutes. You want the consistency to be the same as shaved ice, so keep at it with the fork until it looks like that.
Next, the syrup.
Like I said in the last recipe, making jam or any jam-related things pretty much just involves dumping fruit and sugar into a pot and putting fire underneath it until it becomes jam. Luckily for those of you who can grasp that basic concept, syrup works in the exact same way.
All you need to do is dump all the syrup ingredients in a small pot, turn it to medium-high, and stir. That’s it. You want the syrup to be just above a simmer, so adjust accordingly.
While you’re stirring, make sure you crush the berries against the side of the pan occasionally. This’ll make the whole thing go quicker. Not that it really matters since the granita has to freeze for a lot of hours, but hey, it’ll let you get back to whatever it was you were doing that much quicker. Like watching Friends on DVD or something. You uncultured swine.
Once it starts to look noticeably thicker, get some on the back of a spoon and run a finger across it. If it leaves a trail, you’re good to go. If not, keep it cooking for a little longer.
Take the syrup off heat, and pour it through a strainer. Make sure you press the berries into the strainer with the back of a spoon; that’ll ensure that you get every last bit of that tasty juice in the syrup.
Pour the syrup in a jar, stick it in the fridge, and keep it there until the granita is ready. A note: the first time I attempted this I ended up with a jelly instead of a syrup. If that happens to you, just pretend it’s your fault and not mine. Also heat it up for 30 seconds or so in the microwave and stir it up with a spoon, and it should turn back into syrup.
All that’s left is to put some granita in a bowl and pour some syrup over the top. Oh, and stick a thyme sprig on top too. That way you’ll look like a better cook than you really are.
For this week’s beat we’ve got a super special guest: the excellent people at North Lime Donuts. They’re super special because they not only sent me a sweet track to go with this granita; they sent me a box of DONUTS. IN THE MAIL. TO MY DOORSTEP. Honest to god, I feel like this might be the crowning achievement of my life so far.
Anyway, this week’s beat is Classy Penguin by The Books, and here’s the folks at North Lime to tell you why they chose it:
It has a super laid back feeling (I imagine eating this in a hammock somewhere), but the song also has a bright and refreshing side! And I like that granita is kind of a quick frozen dessert, but you’ve totally dressed it up with the addition of thyme and that blackberry/fig drizz, much like a penguin in a tuxedo!
Pretty sure that’s the first time someone’s described one of my recipes as a penguin, and I hope it isn’t the last.
Despite those amazing donuts going against my entire opening rant, I still stand by my point up there: sometimes the sugar just catches up with you. It might seem obvious (because it is), but I’m a big believer in moderating things, and not because it’ll help you live out your last days in a nursing home for a couple more years. It’s because tasty things get less tasty when you make them a habit; simple as that. The minute you start thinking you “have to have” whatever fudge-coated monstrosity you’re eyeing that week, you might as well throw it in the trash, because you’re not really enjoying it anymore. Once you “need” it, it’s not your choice; you belong to the dessert. It’s the choice that brings the flavor, people. And as much as I wouldn’t mind belonging to a plate of coconut macaroons…that ain’t no way to live. I’ll see you next time.
Check out North Lime Donuts at 575 N Limestone St Lexington, KY 40508, or just visit their website at http://www.northlimelex.com/. And for the love of god, get one of their key lime donuts. Or several. They’re so good they nearly made me give up on baking things ever again.
Oh, and go Wildcats.