Monday, September 17, 2007

A Provençal Sundae

While we’re still in the fleeting moments of fig season, I have another figgy thought and it comes from Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts. Provençal Sundae is an ethereal dessert of coffee ice cream that beams with the crowning touch of a very unusual fig compote. Blending the spellbinding ingredients of honey, lavender and red wine, Provençal Sundae transports us to the flirty shores of the Mediterranean at first bite.

What is it about ice cream? Each cool spoonful floods your mouth with the most incredible sensation, tremendously satisfying yet we desire just one more, one more, one more. If you don’t have time to make the coffee ice cream, please, please don’t let that stop you. By all means, buy your favorite commercial brand and drift into one of the most hauntingly delicious sundaes imaginable. A real daydream Sunday Sundae.

Bench notes:
- Lindsey took her inspiration for this recipe from Richard Olney, an ex-patriate in Provence.
- Lindsey’s recipe calls for dried Calimyrna figs, but since figs are still plentiful right now, I must go with fresh. For fresh figs, I double the amount of honey to 6 T to compensate for substituting the dried figs, which have a higher concentration of sugar.
- Since lavender is also a common ingredient in bath and beauty products, make sure you purchase lavender that has been grown specifically for cooking. It may be labeled "culinary lavender" or "food grade."
- As for the red wine, I use a good Carménère with great results. Not exactly Provence, but why not invite Chile to the party?
- The fig/wine sauce reduction should simmer on low heat to gently concentrate the flavors. Once it’s been reduced by half, the sauce takes on the consistency of syrup and is ready to serve once it's cooled.
- When making the crème anglaise base for the ice cream, watch it closely. If you have an instant read thermometer, this would be a good time to use it. I tend to cook it to about 165 degrees, pull it off and keep stirring. Residual heat will usually take it to 170, which is about right. But you have to watch it very, very closely because at that point the temperature rises very quickly and when it's at 170 you have to cool it immediately on an ice bath. It's trashed at 180.

A Provençal Sundae
Adapted from Lindsey Shere, Chez Panisse Desserts

1 lb dried Calimyrna figs, stem ends removed and halved
1 C fruity red wine, such as zinfandel
1/2 C water
3 T honey
1-inch sprig of fresh or dried lavender

Coffee Ice Cream
1 C half-and-half
2 C heavy cream
3/4 C sugar
6 T whole coffee beans
6 egg yolks
1 – 2 t vanilla extract

Combine the half-and-half, cream, sugar and coffee beans in a saucepan over low heat. Let the mixture get fairly hot, but do not let it boil. Heat the mixture slowly and steadily to extract the full flavor of the coffee beans. Steep for about 30 to 45 minutes until the flavor suits you, then strain out the coffee beans.

Set up an ice bath by filling a bowl full of ice. Place it in your freezer until you are about to start tempering the hot milk into the egg yolks. When you're ready to begin cooking the cream/egg mixture, nestle a clean bowl on top of the bowl of ice and set on a counter near your stove. Place a strainer in the bowl.

Whisk egg yolks in a separate bowl. Temper a bit of the warm milk into the eggs in a slow steady stream, whisking continuously to blend the ingredients. When the egg mixture is warmed up, pour it into the saucepan, return it back to the stove and cook over medium low heat. Keep stirring constantly until it coats the back of a spoon and when you run your finger through it, the line holds. Do not let the mixture boil or you will have a scream-inducing mess of sweet coffee flavored scrambled eggs. Once it coats the back of a spoon, strain immediately into the bowl set over the ice bath. Once it has cooled down, chill the mixture thoroughly.

When ready to spin in your ice cream maker, add vanilla to taste and freeze according to your machine’s instructions.

For the figs
Bring the wine, water, honey, lavender and figs to a simmer. If you’re using dried figs, cover and cook slowly until the figs are soft. This could take 30 minutes or more. If you’re using fresh figs – and I implore you to do just that! - cook for about 15 minutes until the figs have warmed and absorbed some of the wine sauce.

Remove the figs and simmer the sauce on low heat until it is reduced by half to a syrup. Pour over figs.

To serve, place a scoop or two of coffee ice cream in your favorite dish and top with a few fig halves. Drizzle with syrup. Proceed to be whisked away to the villages of Provence.

A bientôt.


Anonymous said...

It really is a good thing I can't eat these right off the screen, much as I'd like to.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing combination! I love love love figs, obviously (, but I would never have thought to pair them with coffee ice cream. With the fresh figs, should you still use about a pound proportionally to the other ingredients? I soooooo have to make this. I'll let ya know if I do. Thanks for the inspiration!

pastry studio said...

bri, thanks for the link to your lovely blog.

If you love figs, you have to try this. It's one of my favorite desserts. I used about a pound of fresh figs - a dozen or so. Would love to hear your feedback!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the compliment on my blog and the tip about the fresh figs. I will truly have to make it.

Anonymous said...

You know I'm a huge fan of Lindsay Shere's and I have yet to try any of her desserts. But you're inspiring as is this gorgeous sundae!

Thanks so much for taking part in SHF 335!

Mercedes said...

This is beautiful, I love the idea of a provencal sundae! I bet it would be delicious made with an almond flavored ice cream!