I try to be very selective about which gadgets make it into my tiny kitchen. Ideally, every last one, from the little toys in the utensil drawer to the substantial appliances hogging the cupboard space, would be something that I use to death. If I ever meet a cook who manages to truly conform to this rule, it will probably be in my dreams.
Even though I only use my mini loaf pans once a year to make pumpkin bread for Christmas, they are perfect for baking adorable gift-size loaves. I may only pull out my utterly space-sucking glass cake dome a couple times a year for birthdays, but nothing else would do justice to a lovingly homemade layer cake. I have faced the fact that there is a slew of kitchen stuff that, though seldom used, is essential nonetheless.
One kitchen gadget that I never thought I would succumb to is the ice cream maker. I have entertained the notion of buying one many times as I flipped through a glossy food magazine and saw mouthwatering desserts involving pomegranate ice cream or pistachio gelato. The problem is that I have never been… how do I say it? An ice cream person. I like ice cream. In fact, give me a scoop of cookies and cream on a sugar cone and I like it a lot. I can even say that I love to eat those esoterically flavored ice creams created by amazing pastry chefs in great restaurants. Green tea sorbet and black pepper ice cream are always welcome on my plate. Still, if I ever have to choose between cake/cookies/tarts and ice cream, the ice cream rarely stands a chance.
There is only one thing that could make a non-ice cream person like me add a bulky (yet sleekly designed) Cuisinart ice cream maker to her bursting-at-the-seams cabinet. That thing is glorious, in-season, fresh figs. Did you read last week’s article in the Los Angeles Times by Russ Parsons titled, Seduction by Fig? Seduction, indeed, my friends. Go read it now, then come back and read my blog some more. If you do, you’ll learn some fascinating things. For example, did you realize that when you eat a fig, you are eating a cluster of inside-out flowers? This fascinating and ancient fruit is slowly becoming more widely available, as growers realize greater profits from the sale of fresh figs than from the same amount of dried fig paste that they could sell to certain cookie manufacturers.
Yet another gratuitous fig shot on this blog...gorgeous!
Accompanying the article are three very tempting fig recipes, but the one that caught my eye and sent me off to purchase my new gadget was Fig-Honey Gelato. Actually, it was the picture that did it: A beautiful pinky-purple colored frozen concoction, bespeckled with fig seeds and laden with chunks of frozen fruit. I had to have it.
It turned out that the ice cream maker was a fantastic purchase. Making the gelato couldn’t have been easier, and it was so much fun to watch the machine turn our liquid, fig-y brew into something that would delight any gelato lover. The difference between gelato and ice cream is that gelato does not contain cream. This recipe calls for milk (I assumed whole milk was the way to go) and mascarpone cheese, but no cream. I have fond memories of eating gelato in Rome and Venice, but I never go for it here in the states. I imagine it could never be the same. Our fig gelato was thick and creamy, had just the right level of sweetness and was full of the lush flavor of fresh figs. I would recommend cutting the figs into smaller chunks than the recipe suggests, as the larger pieces stay extremely cold, and have to be eaten very slowly, warming up in your mouth. It has been so long since I ate gelato in Italy that I can’t make a true comparison, but this gelato is a treat.
Mike has dictated that our next project will be peanut butter ice cream. I have a feeling the new machine will be getting more attention than I thought.
Stirring the mascarpone cheese into the fig-sugar-honey mixture. Just pour the milky fig liquid into your machine, and 25 minutes later you'll have absolutely dreamy fig gelato.