Pastry chefs are persnickety people. They like to work early in the morning, toying with formulas and temperatures and textures. Andrea Litvin is no exception. Her laboratory is the kitchen at the Spence, the Atlanta restaurant started by Richard Blais, a student of molecular gastronomy whose star rose on Top Chef. And though she concocts intellectual assemblies of desserts made from sweet potato chips, marshmallows, and white chocolate, Litvin also has simpler loves, such as sweet tea. “I grew up drinking sweet tea by the gallon,” she says. “I was usually the one who made it, solely because I had it down to a science.”
At her family’s house in Athens, Georgia, Litvin learned early that even something as simple as steeping tea and stirring in sugar could be enhanced with a bit of experimentation. Early batches were bitter from leaving in the tea bags too long—“My family wasn’t very happy about it,” she says—so she tried using the sun to steep the tea, and played with the addition of fruits and different kinds of sugar. She finally landed on a decadent brew her family calls “glucose tea.”
In the summer, she adapts her recipe to make a sweet frozen granita. Like your tea with lemonade? Mix in the juice and zest from a couple of lemons for an icy Arnold Palmer. Either way, the recipe is ridiculously easy. The only challenge is tending to it while it’s in the freezer. Once it just starts to harden, you need to run a fork through the ice crystals every fifteen or twenty minutes. After an hour or two, you’ve got a fluffy cooler that Litvin likes to pair with shortbread made from cornmeal or cookies sweetened with white chocolate.
But, like a glass of good sweet tea, the granita is also perfectly refreshing all by itself.