Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fig Gelato

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.


Julie said...

I have always felt pretty much the way you do about ice cream -- I like it but it would never be at the top of my list. This summer however I saw great ice creams and gelatos and sorbets everywhere and I too have been tempted by an ice cream maker.

I've restrained myself so far because of limitations of space and questions about how much I'd use it, but, damn! I want one! And your happiness with yours is one more arguement for getting one.

Enjoy it. The fig gelato sounds fabulous.

chrispy said...

I am with you about having only useful gadgets in the kitchen. I got an ice cream maker since I knew we would use it regularly.

The thing I have not gotten because of space is a Kitchen Aid Mixer. I would love one but it has to live in a closed cabinet.

It's also great to make sorbet by opening a container of fruit nector and pouring it in. Such nice smooth sweet dessert with little effort.

Ivonne said...


Those figs are unreal!

sher said...

Heavenly!!! You were so wise to buy the ice cream maker. It reminds me that I have a lovely ice cream maker stashed in my pantry that has sat there feeling lonely for several years. Your pictures made me so hungry!

christine said...

That fig gelato is worth the purchase of your ice cream maker all by itself! It's beautiful and just the thought of tasting it is driving me wild. Lucky for me, I have one of those great little machines myself. Now what you need to do is buy the 'The Ultimate Ice Cream Book' by Bruce Weinstein. It has over 500 recipes for ice creams, gelatos, sorbets, drinks and on and on.

Lis said...

I'm dyin' over here.. lurve figs but never ever would have thought to use them as an ice cream (gelato) flavor! Yum! I've got my Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker on my wish list at Amazon.. just waiting on knowing if I'll really use it enough to rationalize buying it.. yeah I'm thinking this has helped my cause :D

Emma said...

Thanks for your entry to DMBLGIT - have a look at all the entries here.

I also feel the same about ice-cream, like it but don't love it. But I would still like to have an ice-cream maker! The gelato is an amazing colour.

Anonymous said...

Quick question! have a maker and am having a lovely time making sorbets and ice creams, but have had some batches get far too hard in the freezer. I've heard a bit of vodka added to the mixture just before freezing keeps it from getting too hard -- any other insights on this phenomenon?

many thanks!

Julie said...

Clayton: I don't know if that's what the vodka does...sorry. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to try it and see if it helps. I wonder if maybe you're churning the ice cream mixture too long, or perhaps your freezer is exceptionally cold. I'm not an expert on ice-cream making though. Good luck!