Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fresh Fig Gelato with Chinese Five Spice Powder

I scored a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker a couple of years ago, at a great discount, at Tuesday Morning, a favorite haunt for both useful gadgets, and apparently the graveyard of completely senseless small appliances, like the electric hard boiled egg maker and the ice tea makers. But that's a whole different post. And soon we will have our very own Tuesday Morning in the Fairlawn Town Plaza. Just down from Home Goods. Oh save me!

But I digress. The Ice Cream maker could not be easier to use. You just keep the gel filled metal bowl in the freezer until you are ready to make ice cream, plug it in, dump in your recipe, and viola, ice cream, or gelato in 20 minutes.

I checked a book out of library, from which the original version of this recipe came, but unfortunately I did not keep the title or author. It had about 50 recipes and most of them sounded fantastic,

I bought a case of fresh figs, probably 18-24, for last week's big party to use on the cheese and fruit appetizer display. In the feed 'em now frenzy, the figs never made it out, so I brought them home and took them off the client's bill. As of yesterday, the ones I hadn't already eaten with a little gorgonzola dolce (let both the cheese and the figs come to room temp, eat, then moan, repeat), had spent about 10 days loosely covered with plastic wrap in the fridge and were still looking good. You are lucky to get a few days most of the time with fresh figs, because they are so delicate to ship.

I was cleaning my desk yesterday, and came across the recipe I saved for Fresh Fig Gelato with Orange and Cinnamon. A quick trip to the store for whole milk and heavy cream, and I was on my way to breaking in that ice cream maker.

Fresh Fig Gelato with Chinese Five Spice Powder

1 # fresh figs, chopped
1/4 c fresh orange juice
1 T, plus 1/2 c light brown sugar (divide into two 1/4 c)
1/4 t Chinese Five Spice Powder, Penzey's preferred
2 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
3 large egg yolks, at room temp
1/2 t vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt

Place figs, oj, 1 T brown sugar and cinnamon in sm pan and cook over low til figs soften, 10-15 min depending on thickness of skin. Mash the mix til almost pureed but still has some texture and set aside til reaches room temp. Cover and refrigerate.

In the meantime, place milk, cream and 1/4 c brown sugar in sm pan and cook over low heat, whisking from time to time, til it is warm, about 175 degrees.

Place egg yolks, 1/4 c brown sugar, vanilla, & salt in small metal bowl and whisk til completely mixed. Add 1/4 c of the warm milk mix to the eggs, whisking all the while. Continue adding milk to the eggs, 1/4 c at a time til you have about 1 1/2 c. Slowly, whisking all the while, return the now milk and egg mix to the remaining milk mix in the pan and continue cooking til it just begins to thicken or reaches about 185 degrees. Do not allow the mix to boil. Pour thru med fine strainer into a metal bowl, discard the solids and set aside til reaches room temp.

Add the cooled fig mix, cover and refrigerate til it reaches 40 degrees, about 3 hrs. Transfer to ice cream maker and proceed according to mfg instructions.

The figs got a quick chop and were heated over low with the orange juice and a little brown sugar to soften. I searched madly for a few minutes for my Penzey's Cinnamon (the best!), but despite looking in the same place about three times (don't you hate that the missing item never turns up no matter how many times you look in the same place hoping the universe dropped there in between search rounds??), so I made an executive decision to use Chinese Five Spice Powder. Wise decision.

Meanwhile, heat the milk, cream and some more brown sugar. Recipe said 1/4 here and the other 1/4 in with the egg yolks, but I had dumped it all in the milk before I re-read the directions. Oops, no harm. I just put a spoonful in when I whisked the egg yolks.

After everything chilled down in the fridge for a few hours, I was ready to get going.

It was absolutely delicious. Not an every day treat, to be sure, but when you've got a box of fresh figs, I highly recommend this recipe. Sure you could go with the original cinnamon., but I think the Chinese Five Spice Powder added a unique depth of flavor that complemented the figs and orange. And there's a little bit leftover for tonight.

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