Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fresh Fig Swirl Ice Cream

Autumn is fast approaching and figs are available in abundance, finally.

After they sold out every other day at my local grocery store, I finally wised up and bought two baskets of figs instead of just one -- half the figs are eaten raw for breakfast, the other half for dessert!

And one of my favorite recipes I've made recently is fig swirl ice cream.
The fig swirl retains that marvelous pop of fig seeds and winey, plush figgy flavor, which works so well against the backdrop of sweet, cold ice cream.

Inspired by the fig ice creams made by both the Bojon Gourmet and Pastry Studio, I decided to combine both ideas and run with it a little further.

The figs only need a touch of sugar, some cognac to add a complex fruitiness, and spices to give some fall warmth.

For the ice cream base, I used a slightly modified base from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. There's no need for tempering yolks, the base has a higher ratio of milk to heavy cream but still feels rich and smooth, with no iciness at all, and still has the delightful chewiness classic to American custard-based ice cream. I added some vanilla and more port to deepen the figgy fragrance and warmth.

Fig Swirl 

I used black mission figs because of their beautiful purple color, but I think any variety of fig will do. You can substitute the cognac for bourbon, as originally done by The Bojon Gourmet. The alcohol will cook out, leaving a lingering warm aroma. But if you don't want any alcohol, you can substitute the cognac for orange juice and decrease the sugar to 2 tablespoons (25 grams).

Makes about 1 cup

1 1/2 cups (225 grams) chopped fresh figs
1/4 cup (50 grams) organic granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (90 ml) cognac
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 inch piece of orange peel
1 teaspoon lemon juice
a pinch (1/8 teaspoon for you technical folk!) of fine sea salt
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the figs, sugar, cognac, cinnamon stick, orange peel, and salt.
  2. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer. Then lower the heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes or until thick and jammy. The mixture is done when the figs have broken down slightly and the cognac has reduced into a syrup. Stir the mixture occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
  3. Let the mixture cool slightly and remove the peel and cinnamon stick. 
  4. Spoon out the mixture into a food processor or blender and process until the mixture (the figs and port syrup jam) is combined. It's fine if there are some chunks of fig.


Fresh Fig Swirl Ice Cream

I use 2% milk instead of whole milk but that's what I have in the fridge, and I don't want to buy whole milk only to have leftovers go to waste. But I promise - I actually think the 2% milk is better than whole milk because it lightens the ice cream a bit to let the fruit flavors shine through all the cream, without sacrificing any richness or adding any iciness. And there's less of a danger of any greasy mouthfeel that I think some homemade ice creams have.
There are two times in the recipe where lumps could possibly form: First, when you whisk in the cornstarch slurry into the hot ice cream base. If the cornstarch is not fully incorporated into the milk in the first step, it'll form into tiny lumps so make sure to give it another good whisking right before you pour it in! Second, when you whisk in the hot base into the cream cheese. So make sure the cream cheese is at room temperature and slowly whisk in a small amount of the hot milk into the cheese. 
Still got lumps? Just strain the mixture when you're done chilling it! 
When churning the ice cream, aim for a soft-serve consistency. Churn any more, and you might start churning the cream in the base into butter, which would lead to a oily aftertaste!
Makes about 1 quart
2 cups 2% milk
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (7 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons (43 grams) cream cheese, softened at room temperature.
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup (95 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (40 grams) light corn syrup
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped lengthwise (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla paste or extract)
2 tablespoons cognac (30 ml), optional
1 recipe Fig Swirl

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together around 2 tablespoons of the milk and cornstarch together with a fork. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and salt until thoroughly combined. 
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the remaining milk along with the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla bean seeds. 
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes.
  5. Take the mixture off heat briefly, and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. 
  6. Return the pot to a boil and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened, about 1-2 minutes. You can tell if the mixture is done by carefully running your finger (it's really hot!) on the custard coated on the back of the spoon. If there's a track left by your finger, the mixture is done cooking. Take off heat.
  7. Pour in around 1/4 cup of the hot cream mixture into the bowl with cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining cream mixture. 
  8. Cool until room temperature, and then chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours until very cold, preferably overnight. Alternatively, you can pour the mixture into a large plastic bag, and submerge the bag in an ice bath for quicker chilling.
  9. The next day, or whenever the base is cold, you can pour it through a strainer for a perfectly smooth ice cream, but it's not necessary. Stir in the cognac.
  10. Place a large glass storage container in the freezer to chill.
  11. Churn the base with your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. 
  12. When done churning, spread approximately 1/3 of the ice cream into the container. 
  13. Spoon 1/3 of the fig swirl puree all over the surface. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and fig puree. Swirl the top layer with a knife. 
  14. Freeze until the ice cream is set, approximately 4-6 hours depending on how cold your freezer it. The ice cream will keep for several weeks...if you can wait that long!

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