Let's start with the difference between a sorbet and a granita. Both are purées of fruit and sugar, with or without water. A sorbet however has a smooth texture. A granita has an icy texture, more like shaved ice.
This recipe originally calls for canned lychees in syrup. I chose to substitute fresh lychees instead as they have a delicate flavor that is not overwhelmed by the sticky sugar syrup. This granita turns out lighter and more delicate because of the fresh fruit. In addition, I chose to make this in an ice cream maker and then freeze it for a few hours to allow the small ice crystals to form larger pieces. I find this technique just as good as making it the traditional way, which is to freeze it in the freezer and continuously break up with a fork over time.
This granite is elegant and delicate. It is all about light flavors, first the lychee followed by the hits of tart and bitter from the lime juice and zest and finally the essences of kaffir limes. Subtle tones make this granita a delight for a hot day.
You can serve this as a dessert, though it will aslo work beautifully as a palate cleanser.
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2 lbs lychees, peeled and seeded
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
2-3 kaffir lime leaves, halved
Lime juice, as needed
Puree the lychees and sugar in a blender till very smooth. At this point, I like to pass the puree through a metal fine sieve strainer to remove any small bits and brown coloration. You are looking for a very smooth purée.
Add the lime zest and mix in. taste and adjust sugar as per your taste. Please note, you are looking for a light granita, not one that is sugary sweet and the taste of the delicate lychees are drowned out by the sugars.
Heat the mix in a saucepan till just warm. You do not want to cook the lychee purée, just warm it up. Add the kaffir lime leaves in and allow to steep for an hour till cool. Taste again and adjust tartness with some lime juice. You should be able to taste all the components, lychee, lime zest, a hint of sour and a hint of kaffir lime essence.
Churn in your ice cream machine as per the manufacturer's instructions for a granita or sorbet. Freeze in the freezer for 2-3 hours. Serve by breaking up the small ice crystals.