Silky fig preserves kissed with whiskey join an earthy ice cream base for scoops of late-summer bliss.
A few quick things before we get down to ice cream bidness:
2) We’re hosting a giveaway over at WindyChien.com! Click over for a chance to win one of Windy’s gorgeous hand-carved spoons (pictured below). To enter, scroll to the bottom of her home page and sign up for the newsletter.
Figs seem to be a sort of feast or famine fruit. The ones at our co-op are spectacular in quality, but also in price (famine). But the other day, my dear friend Amelia called to ask whether she could bring over some figs from her grandmother’s tree. Fresh figs are one of my very favorite fruits, so the answer was an emphatic yes. In Amelia waltzed with an entire flat of figs. (Feast!)
Similarly, last year Phi and I went fig picking on a friend’s land and hosted a fig feast with Nik where every course featured tons and tons of figs. Shortly after, I spoke with another friend who had searched high and low during the same time and couldn’t find fresh figs anywhere.
Figs are somewhat elusive in that they have two seasons – a first, tiny crop in early summer, and then a full harvest in the late summer and early fall. They boast hundreds of varieties (over 700!) but here in the states you’ll be lucky to find one or two fresh ones in the market.
I love figs for their sweet flavor, vibrant hue and juicy texture, and they shine when paired with contrasting flavors such as salty cheese, savory herbs or warming spices. When I was through making tarts, cakes, pies, breakfast pastries, pizza and smoothies, I still had enough figs left for a pot of fig butter which I swirled into this ice cream.
Figs need little more than a touch of sugar, heat, and a bit of acidity to be transformed into a thick, smooth puree ideal to spread on toast with almond butter, goat cheese crostini, or stirred into yogurt for breakfast. The alcohol in the bourbon cooks off but it leaves behind a deep complexity that adds dimension to the sweet figs. Putting the cooked figs through a food mill makes quick work of removing the skins; alternatively, pulse the cooled fig mixture in a food processor.
For the ice cream, I finally made use of the bourbon smoked sugar that’s been sitting on a shelf in my kitchen for the past year. I snapped it up after I tried it at a different Feastly meal hosted by Phi where she sprinkled it over pan-fried tomatoes for a savory-sweet appetizer. (Heaven.)
Apparently I’m not the only one who likes smoked sugar…
The large, coarse sugar crystals smell toasty and warm like a campfire, and while the smoke doesn’t translate strongly in the custard, it lends a deep, earthy flavor to the finished product. The ice cream is delicious on its own, and it pairs beautifully with a swirl of bourbon fig butter and a sprinkle of extra smoked sugar for a bit of crunch.
When the ice cream had set, my friend Windy (whose amazing home was recently featured on SF Girl by Bay) came by to share some scoops and show me her impressive collection of wooden spoons that she lovingly carves by hand. Each spoon takes several hours to make, and each comes from beautiful wood ranging from walnut to cherry. She gives them a wide handle which feels good in one’s hands, hence her cheeky name for them: Fat Bottomed Girls. Each comes wrapped in a hand-painted cotton cloth along with a pot of spoon butter for oiling the wood and keeping it supple.
You can read more about Windy, see her studio, and learn a thing or two about San Francisco on Spotted SF. Head over to Windy’s site for a chance to win one of these beautiful creations (just scroll to the bottom and sign up for her newsletter to enter) and check out all the other lovely things she makes at her San Francisco studio.
Wishing you all a feast of figs this summer.
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Bourbon Fig Butter
Black missions make a pretty purple fig butter with a rich texture, but any variety of fig should work. If you don’t have a food mill, you can pulse the cooked figs in a food processor; it will have a slightly coarser texture.
Makes about 1 cup
1 1/2 cups (225 g) packed chopped fresh figs
1/4 cup (50 g) organic granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (90 ml) bourbon whiskey
pinch fine sea salt
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the chopped figs, sugar, whiskey, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is thick and jammy, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool slightly, then run the fig mixture through a food mill to remove the skins. Chill airtight until needed, up to 1 week.
Bourbon Smoked Sugar Ice Cream with a Fig Swirl
If you don’t have smoked sugar on hand, feel free to make this with a raw sugar such as demerara or turbinado. (Brown sugar may be too acidic and could make the ice cream base curdle, so I don’t recommend it here.)
Makes about 1 quart
1/2 cup (95 g) lightly packed bourbon smoked sugar (or raw sugar such as demerara or turbinado)
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 recipe Bourbon Fig Butter (above)
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla pod and scrapings, salt and milk. Heat over a medium flame, stirring frequently, until the milk is steamy-hot. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a large, heat-proof bowl and place a strainer over the top. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and place the bowl on a damp towel.
When the milk is hot, whisk it slowly into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so as not to curdle the eggs. Return the mixture to the pot and cook over a low flame, stirring constantly with a flexible heat-proof spatula, until the custard begins to “stick” (form a film on) the bottom of the pot and/or registers 170ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately pour the custard through the sieve and into the cold cream to stop the cooking. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill until very cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. (Alternatively, chill the mixture over an ice bath for quicker cooling.)
When the base is cold, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place a large loaf pan in the freezer to chill. When the ice cream has churned, scrape 1/3 of the ice cream into the pan. Dot with 1/3 of the fig puree. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and fig butter, working quickly so the ice cream doesn’t melt, then use a chopstick or knife to swirl the top layer. Freeze until hard, 2 hours and up to several weeks. For longer storage, press a piece of parchment paper to the surface of the ice cream to discourage ice crystals from forming and wrap tightly.