Figs in Port ice cream
Remember the proverbial fig leaves worn by the biblical Adam and Eve? Too delicate to only serve as symbols for loss of innocence and fall from grace, figs can also be used to make ice cream! Pairing them with the famous Portuguese fortified sweet wine from Porto creates an alluring ice cream for adults.
The present recipe is based on vanilla ice cream. The vanilla recipe I chose is a rich version that mainly falls within the French tradition, but with a certain Scandinavian twist. It is the (somewhat adapted) favourite vanilla recipe of Swedish Master confectioner Jan Hedh. Read more about it here.
Fig confit (candied figs preserved in sugar) can be done from the scratch – there are many recipes out there. I must confess, however, that I was a bit too pressed for time to actually prepare my own. Luckily, a small jar of high-quality Figs au Porto confit was found in a local shop!
If you do have the time, making the fig confit yourself basically comes down to boiling together (preferably macerated) figs with a lot of sugar, some lemon juice and Port wine, plus a pinch of salt, for 20 minutes or so. To aid, here is one link to a base recipe (remember to add some Port, though!). The recipe is in French but the preparations are simple and since Google always stands ready to help out with translations, I dare non-French speakers to check it out anyway;-).
If you prefer to take a similar short cut like myself, I suggest that you try to find a ready-made confit with a fruit-content of at least 50 % or more, and as few strange additives as possible – mine had basically only sugar, some Port wine, salt and black pepper (!), and a little pectin and citric acid added to the figs.
Port wine (or Porto), by the way, is a Portuguese fortified dessert wine – delicious on its own, but a perfect complement to candied figs.
On the port wine and the alcohol: Since confit is prepared by boiling the ingredients for some time, all alcohol should be long gone (having evaporated) by the time the confit enters the ice cream.
In case your confit is very sweet, you might want to reduce the “standard” amount of sugar in the base ice cream. As you probably know, too much sugar in the ice cream will not only make it very sweet. The sugar also affects the consistency, and too much will make it difficult to properly freeze the ice cream. The one I made came out a bit on the soft side, but then again – soft ice cream also has its attraction!
- About 150-200 gram good quality Figs in Port wine confit
- 2 sheets of gelatine
- 1-2 vanilla beans (cut length-wise, and with the seeds peeled and collected for use)
- 500 ml (2.1 cups) milk
- 500 ml (2.1 cups) cream
- 30 ml (about 2½ tablespoons) honey (or other inverted sugar, like corn starch)
- 8 egg yolks
- About 200 ml (0.8 cup) sugar (amount possibly to be appropriately reduced, to take account of the sweetness of the confit used! Too much overall sugar, and the ice cream will not freeze properly!)
- Start by preparing the Figs confit according to a recipe of your liking, or make sure that you have bought a good-quality jar of ready-made confit.Chill in the refrigerator, as the confit only will be added towards the very end of the ice cream-making.
- Soak the gelatine sheets in a generous amount of water for at least 10 minutes.
- Pour the milk, the cream and the honey in a sauce pan. Add the vanilla beans and the vanilla seeds.
- Whip together the egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl.
- Bring the dairy mixture close to a boil. Slowly, and while whipping constantly, pour – little by little – some of the warm liquid into the whipped egg yolks/sugar [the tempering stage!] Make sure to whip thoroughly during the process.
- Pour all the liquid back into the sauce pan. While whisking, re-heat the base on medium-low temperature until it thickens slightly and the temperature reaches 82 degrees Celsius (alternatively, if you work without a thermometer, until the base is thick enough to coat the back of a spatula). Be careful – you do not want to end up with scrambled eggs!
- Take the ice cream base off the heat. Remove the vanilla beans, possibly by using a sieve.
- Pick up the gelatine sheets (do not attempt to wipe off any water in the process), put them into the ice cream base and stir until they have dissolved completely.
- Cool the ice cream base as quickly as possible. Cover, and let the cooled ice cream base chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably longer.
- Pour the chilled ice cream base into your ice cream machine and churn according to instructions.
- When the ice cream base reaches a stage of soft serve-consistency, cover the bottom of freezing container with half of the Figs confit. On top of this layer of confit, pour the ice cream base and even it. Then pour the remaining half of the Figs confit on top of this layer of ice cream.
- Using a knife and a gentle zig-zagging movement, swirl the Figs confit together with the ice cream base.
- Even the surface of the ice cream, cover with plastic wrap and lid, and put the container in the freezer.