Fig Leaf Ice Cream

Fall is here.  Officially.  As if the soft change in the air was not hint enough.  The mornings and evenings are crisp.  Comforting.  Yet the days still remain warm.  Warm enough to jump screaming into the pool like little girls.  Trying to squeeze the last bits of summer from the day before it is too late.  Even though, excitement pulses through me at the change around me.  I feel as if I never loved a season as much as when it begins.  By the next season, I will feel the same sense of welcome and excitement.  And the lingering doubt if all that I longed for from the passing season was satisfied.  So with that in mind, I have made the final batch of ice cream for the year (…maybe).

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Our fig tree was hit hard over the winter, as was everyone’s in the area.  It seemed to bound back beautifully.  Seemed.  Although the figs are stunted in their growth, at least the bounty of leaves can be made use of.

My first encounter with fig leaves and the amazing taste was in a panna cotta at a farm dinner in Maryland years ago.  Soft and gentle.  Yet surprisingly like coconut.  There was a scientist sitting at the table that evening who tried to explain to me why it was so.  I don’t remember his explanation.  Only that I was thrilled.  For me, the excitement and surprise of food, is what I long for, what I look forward to.

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Fig Leaf Ice Cream:

Makes 1 quart roughly

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 8 freshly picked fig leaves, rinsed, dried, and chopped
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Put the chopped (or julienned) fig leaves in a saucepan with the milk and 1/2 cup of the cream.  Heat gently over medium low heat, just to a simmer.  Turn off heat, cover, and let steep for an hour.   Strain the mixture, removing the fig leaves, and gently squeeze.

Return the cream mixture to the heat over medium low to warm.  While it is heating, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl and whisk until the yolks begin to thicken.  Once the cream mixture is warm, slowly pour into the egg bowl mixture while whisking constantly, but while trying not to create too many bubbles.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over low heat, again stirring constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan, until the custard thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon.  Only a couple of minutes.  Do not let boil or it may cause it to curdle.  As soon as it is thick enough to coat the spoon, remove from heat and pour through a strainer into a clean, freezer safe bowl.

Add the remaining cream, stirring to combine.  Allow to cool completely, either over ice or in the refrigerator.  (You can make the custard mixture up to a day ahead and store in the refrigerator.  If you would prefer to use an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturers directions rather than the rest the recipe here.)  Once the custard mixture has cooled, put into freezer.  After 30-45 minutes remove from freezer and stir vigorously, making sure to use a spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl.  Return to the freezer.  The beauty and the curse of making ice cream.  You need it to begin to freeze, however, you do not want large ice crystals to form.  The more you blend the mixture and beat it to break up the ice crystals, the smaller they will stay, and the smoother the ice cream in the end.  And really beat it…work those muscles.  The more shallow the vessel you are using, the quicker it will freeze.

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Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously and scraping sides of the bowl, then returning the mixture to the freezer.  Continue to check and stir until ready (2-3 hours).  Once set, transfer the custard ice cream to a proper storage container until ready to serve.  (Just before frozen, otherwise it will be too difficult to transfer containers.)

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*As always, try to use local and organic ingredients when possible.



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