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Sicilian Almond Sorbet

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The most delicate sorbet of them all, and you don't even need an ice-cream machine!

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You can prepare one of the most delicate sorbets in Italy in no time and without an ice-cream machine. This gorgeous almond sorbet is one of Sicily's most famed dishes.

Sicilian Almond Sorbet
Granita di mandorle [grahneetah dee mandawrlay]
200gr almonds, shelled and skinned
1 liter mineral water
300gr sugar
Bitter almond extract

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Start by grinding the almonds to a powder. You can use a mortar and pestle like I do or do it in the mixer, but please don't use ground almonds bought from the store, much of the delicate almond taste will be gone before you even start.

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Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

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Add the ground almonds and leave to rest overnight. You can use a mixer to further grind the almonds in the liquid if you want. The point of the overnight infusion is to draw as much of the almonds' flavor as possible.

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The next day, taste and add a little sugar or bitter almond extract if needed. Some Sicilians will not filter their granita but I find the bland almond powder distasteful. I recommend you use a cloth or find sieve to filter them out. You will end up with almond milk, a whitish liquid reminiscent of cow milk but with a delicious barley water flavor. Amazing for breakfast!

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If you have an ice cream machine, just churn it until frozen. Most Sicilians don't have an ice-cream machine and just place the almond milk in the freezer, removing it every 30 minutes or so for a quick mixing with an electric mixer. You could even do it with a fork, the point being to avoid the formation of large water crystals and go for a snow-like consistency.

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It is traditionally eaten over brioche, the French butter-and-egg Sunday bread, a testimonial of 19th century French influences over upper-class Sicilian cuisine. Although the association of ice cream and pastry seems odd and of the I-love-to-mix-ketchup-with-mustard kind, the combination is a real winner. 

I recently served this with brioche for tea to a British Sir and Lady - the real deal -  ending up with 'FX, we don't know how we dare invite you again, nothing we can serve you will stand up to this!'. They sure were nice, but since they finished the whole batch I think they were sincere! 

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In luxury hotels in Sicily you would always find in the breakfast table both almond milk and its frozen brother granita di mandorle. Above is a picture I took of a white breakfast in Sicily, with a glass of almond milk, almond granita just behind in the glass with the spoon and a choice of fresh cheeses and bread. For all its troubles, this island sure has much to offer!

Published 26/10/2007
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19 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by agatha
  • on: 26/10/2007
Oh my God, this looks so delicious (and easy to do)! I have been following your website for a while and I am in love with all your recipes, specially the Italian ones... this one would make my grandmother proud!!!
  • #2
  • Comment by jo jo
  • on: 27/10/2007
Wow this gave me a flashback ! to when I was a teenager, my dad used to make a chinese bitter almond gel. He used these tiny bitter almonds that he crushed in a blender, and he used agar agar sheets as the gelling agent. I was blown away by the amazing aroma and delicate taste of it. Seeing the fabulous things you make with your mortar & pestle is inspiring me to get a nice big one for crushing nuts. As with antiques, sometimes the low tech made by hand things are the  best! Love your dedication to quality & le raffinement.
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 29/10/2007
Thanks! It is just as good as you think. Jo jo, do you know what sort of almonds your father used? You could do this with apricot pits, but the potassium cyanide concentration is rather high and you can eat only a few before they make you sick.
  • #4
  • Comment by sandra avital
  • on: 02/12/2007
J'adore les amandes et je suis sûre que ce granita ne ferait pas long feu chez moi! Que fais-tu de tes amandes pilées après filtration? Il y a quelques mois, j'ai préparé une panna cotta aux amandes torréfiées et je n'avais pas du tout envie de jeter mon filtrat d'amandes. Je l'ai laissé sécher 1 nuit et le lendemain, je l'ai utilisé pour un gâteau Reine de Saba. C'était fantastique! Tou comme l'est ton blog que j'ai découvert il y a quelque temps.. Par contre, je viens de découvrir qui se cache derrière "fx". bravo!
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 13/12/2007
Merci Sandra, oui en effet cela fait mal au coeur de jeter le filtrat, mais bon, la majeure partie du goût passe dans le liquide qui devient une sorte d'esprit d'amandes. Au plaisir de te revoir sur mon blog!
  • #6
  • Comment by christian
  • on: 15/12/2007
Wonderful recipe!At what hotel in Sicily did you get that breakfast?  It's gorgeous!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/12/2007
You can get this at many of the finer hotels on the island. Almond milk is very common, and the granita can be bought all over the island. But do try to make it at home, you don't even need an ice cream machine, just a freezer and a fork to scrape it.
I love that. It is my favourite sherbet. It matches great with Sicilian Brioche.
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 02/03/2008
Ermanno, thanks for visiting! I love your blog, the timballo di maccheroni alla norma looks terrific and the cocoa pasta very intriguing.
  • #10
  • Comment by Jill
  • on: 19/11/2008
This looks great and I want to try it for a party; I'm wondering, though, why mineral water?  Is it necessary or recommended? Can I go with tap water or should I stick with mineral water?
  • FX's answer→ Jill, indeed it is great for a party and I do it quite often when I entertain. Make sure you do it the same day though, they tend to go rock-hard when left overnight in the freezer. Why mineral water? Well, if your local tap water tastes fine, use that. But if it is chlorinated or has other undesirable features that makes you not drink it, then go for your favorite kind of drinkable water. Chemical-tasting water will disappear in the sorbet but its taste will remain.

  • #12
  • Comment by Jill
  • on: 30/11/2008
Thank you for your help - I used tap water (tap water in NYC is actually really good!) and the sorbet was delicious.  Removing the skins from the almonds was surprisingly easy, and the rest of the recipe was so simple.  I told my guests about your website (especially since I served 3 of your recipes!), everyone loved it!  Thank you for all of your fabulous recipes, ideas and information.
  • FX's answer→ Wow Jill, a three-course FXcuisine dinner, you have indeed spared no effort to provide your guests with a memorable evening!

  • #14
  • Comment by LB
  • on: 30/03/2009
I made this, with accompanying brioche for my uncles birthday yesterday. It was a resounding success, so thank you FX!. I possibly added a bit too much flour to the brioche, but given it was the first time I had ever baked anything like that it worked out well.
  • FX's answer→ Well done LB! Making your own brioche is no mean feat, it does take quite a bit of work. The almond sorbet must have been a breeze to make in comparison...

  • #16
  • Comment by susan galea
  • on: 12/09/2009
Delighted to try your recipe this evening. My daughter was over in Sicily last week and brought back some almond paste for her dad and various other goodies for me. Unfortunately, I am separated so will not be tasting the shop-bought almond milk. Ahem, just bought 1 kilo of ground almonds from the supermarket with a view to making my own almond milk. Now, will use for almond cake and breakfast cereal addition instead, and go forth once more for the  real thing- just have to follow the recipe to the letter for the first shot; who knows what experimentation may ensue on a lazier day..... Thanks for your recipes and exquisite photographs.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Susan, I wish you lots of fun with your almond milk! You can do the sorbet just with a freezer and a fork, freeze some sweetened almond milk, then when it starts to harden, chip it with the fork, freeze again, chip again, until you have a rustic sorbet. Delicious!

  • #18
  • Comment by Agatha Gimeli
  • on: 02/08/2010
I have been dreaming about almond milk since we came to America in 1973. Every time I went back to Sicily all I did is drink Latte di Mandorla, eat the granita di mandorla, along with other granita flavors and eat the pasta di mandorla. Obviously I love almonds. I have purchased so many different types of almonds milk they sell, but nothing absolutely nothing I've tried tastes like the milk from this recipe. I thought I was truly in Sicily again. I made the milk as well as the granita. Thank you, Thank you. I have one of my dreams come true without having to go to Sicily to get it. I make this recipe quite often and have bookmarked your site never to lose you.

Thank You,
Agatha Gimeli
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for these nice comments.


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