Happy Independence Day, America! There is no better way to celebrate the 4th of July than eating an cold, sweet scoop of ice cream! I don't have an Independence Day-themed scoop for you today, but if you are looking for something red, white, or blue there are plenty of scoop recipes from which to chose. Rather, today's ice cream recipe is brought to by the Fig - colorful, sweet, subtle and versatile.
As you may have read in my Fig Ice Cream post, I am fortunate to have a HUGE fig tree in my backyard. I believe I am growing the Brown Turkey variety. The tree was here when I moved into my home three years ago and it gets bigger every year. Half of the tree is hanging over my pond at this point, so I can't reach all of the figs, but it is fun to watch the squirrels hunt for the ripe fruit and enjoy a treat on the branches above.
I had heard rumors about restaurants serving balsamic fig ice cream but never had the guts to try it. Vinegar in ice cream? Doesn't sound so appealing. But when I took some time to think about the flavor, it started to make sense. Good quality balsamic vinegar is actually kind of sweet. I did a little research and read a post about balsamic fig ice cream written by Tami at Running with Tweezers, in which she exclaimed that it was best ice cream she ever made! Now I had to try it. Below is my rendition of a weird but really tasty ice cream. You can definitely taste the vinegar up front but it is mellowed by the sweet vanilla. Enjoy!
I took a few notes from Tami's recipe, including her use of Alton Brown's Serious Vanilla Ice Cream base. I liked how she added the balsamic vinegar as the ice cream was churning. I decided that I did not want to throw pieces of figs directly into the ice cream during churning because I don't like frozen chunks in my ice cream. Instead I made a fig compote swirl with a little brandy and sugar to reduce the freezing point.
3 cups chopped fresh Brown Turkey or Black Mission figs
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon brandy
Ice Cream base:
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon apricot preserves (not jelly)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine figs and sugar. Stir occasionally, careful to keep figs pieces relatively intact. As soon as sugar begins to melt, stir in vinegar and brandy. Heat through (about 30 seconds), remove from heat and set aside. Cool completely.
In a large saucepan, combine first 5 ingredients of ice cream base (half-and-half through vanilla bean, including hull) and place over medium-low heat. Bring mixture to just barely a simmer – as soon as you see a bubble reach the top, remove the pan from heat – do not let this boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the hull of the vanilla bean, pour mixture into a container and chill the mixture thoroughly (at least 4 hours or overnight).
Once chilled, pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After about 10 minutes of churning, slowly pour balsamic vinegar through the top of the machine (keep machine running). Place a small layer of fig compote on the bottom of a plastic ice cream container. Lightly spoon a layer of churned ice cream on top. Continue to alternate layers of fig compote and ice cream until the container is full. Place remaining fig compote on top (or save for later as additional topping).
Place plastic or parchment over ice cream (to prevent ice crystals) and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.