Summer magic – leche preparada

Note: I recently came across a draft of this unpublished post from FIVE summers ago! Although the toddler meltdowns have thankfully subsided, the superhero antics have not. We can still use a bit of summer magic.

¡Que calor!, ¡Vaya noche! This time of year in Murcia, small talk at the market, butcher shop and bakery revolves around the heat, as if we’d somehow forgotten the intensity of it. Yet this annual invader never fails us, as the rain predictions often do. It seizes the Segura River valley in June, intensifies in July and August, and doesn’t fully release its grip until October.

Kiosks and cafés selling ice cream and granizados (Spanish granitas) offer oases from the pounding sun, whose force radiates off streets and building walls long after nightfall.

More thirst-quenching than ice cream, granizados come fruity, tart, caffeinated or creamy. Leche preparada is my favorite.

Literally “prepared milk,” leche preparada is, more specifically, sweetened icy milk infused with cinnamon and lemona classic flavor pairing in Spanish desserts that enlivens and refreshes the palate. This version is an eggless spin-off of leche merengada, a Spanish café favorite from centuries past with the same base, but with whipped egg whites blended in.

Flashback: I appreciate summer treats like this now more than ever. Cooped up inside with a two-year-old, I find the heat particularly stifling—especially between nap and dinner time, when the hottest hours of the day coincide with the peak of toddler angst. We read books, we paint, we watch cartoons, and then Mateo starts to jump on the furniture, and then on me, testing his superhero powers. The mood swings wildly between elation and tears. I’m sure this sounds familiar to parents across the globe.

Cold treats like leche preparada add a touch of magic to these never-ending summer afternoons. As we sip, the superheroes are at peace, and the heat no longer holds sway.

Leche preparada

This recipe serves two, but it doubles (or triples, etc.) easily, depending on the space in your freezer.
In my freezer, I obtained my ideal level of slushiness (with lots of flaky ice crystals, but still drinkable through a straw) after about 3½ hours. If the mixture freezes solid, place it in a blender to break it up before serving.
You can also serve leche preparada well chilled, without freezing it.
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk see Notes
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) sugar, or more (or less) to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Peel of 1 lemon, yellow part only
  • Ground cinnamon for serving

Instructions

  • Combine the milk, sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon peel in a medium saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves and the milk begins to boil, stirring frequently.
  • Remove from the heat and let infuse for 15 minutes. When the mixture is still warm, taste it for sugar and add more if desired.
  • Strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve into a shallow freezer-safe container with a lid and let cool, uncovered, to room temperature.
  • Put the lid on the container and place in the freezer. After about 2 hours, stir the mixture with a fork to break up the ice crystals. Repeat every 30 minutes until you obtain your preferred level of slushiness.
  • Pour into two glasses, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and serve right away.

Notes

I’ve yet to experiment with alternative milks and sweeteners, but imagine this recipe is easily adaptable.

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