Portuguese desserts tend towards the egg and milk heavy- custards, cremes, pastries, etc. Egg desserts may very well be the hallmark of Portuguese desserts. While I appreciate these very much, I wanted to make something somewhat different from the crème brûleé, cream puffs, almond cakes that I have already made. I’ve been craving something rich all week, and I know that moving forward, it’s going to be a while before I come to some chocolate- from what I’ve seen so far (and I could very well be wrong), sweet treats in Africa tend to be lighter, fruitier (gasp!) and nuttier, so I’m taking this last chance to get something really dark and rich before switching it up and in fashioning this recipe, went more for a flavor rather than a specific dish. Another item that I found myself surprisingly taken to in my travels in Portugal was port liquor. Surprising for me because I’m usually not one to swoon over The Drink. When it comes to booze, while I do enjoy it on occasion, I’m not that into it and am not so much a connoisseur of any one particular type of alcohol. I know what I like, and to that I stick.
What I’ve decided to make is Port-Fig-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. I was shocked to not actually find a port ice cream recipe on the interwebs, so I’ve fashioned one myself taking a few hints out of Jeni’s Splended Ice Cream book, which I referenced way back in week 1. A few questions that I’m sure you’re asking, so I will go ahead and answer them.
Q: It’s January, the high in Chicago tomorrow will be 20 degrees. Why are you making ice cream?
A: Ice cream is not seasonal. Ice cream flavors are. I enjoy ice cream all year. Can’t you?
Q: Given your past declaration that “fruit does not belong in dessert,” what gives? Aren’t figs fruit?
A: Yes, I consider figs fruit. Yes, I broke my own “rule.” I’m already being crucified by my friends for my blanket “no fruit in dessert” statement, so I may as well actually break the rule I am being called guilty of breaking.
Q. Did it come out as fabulous tasting as it sounds?
A. Yes, yes it did. Which means you need to make it.
I was so excited to make this, and therefore so disappointed when I went to start and realized the canister of my ice cream maker had not frozen all the way. Big boo. A few hours later, I was ready to go.
For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 TB plus 1 tsp cornstarch
2 ounces cream cheese
1/4 tsp sea salt
1- 1/4 cup half and half (or heavy cream, depending on how rich you want to make it)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB light corn syrup
1/4 cup Port
1 regular size chocolate bar of your choice (I used dark), chopped into whatever size chunks you want
For the Port-Fig sauce
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup water
3 TB honey
1/4 cup Port
For the rest:
1. Cook the ice cream:
Mix the cornstarch with about 2 TB of milk to create a slurry. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth and set aside.
Combine the remaining milk, 1/2 and 1/2, sugar and corn syrup in a 4 qt. saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in cornstarch slurry.
Return the mixture to a boil and cook about 1 minute until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Whisk the milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture and add ¼ cup Port. Refrigerate overnight or until completely cool.
2. Make the Port Sauce
Combine the honey, water and figs in a saucepan. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove the figs, add the port and reduce sauce until volume is about half.
Add half of the figs back to the sauce and puree until smooth. Add the rest of the figs, and chill.
3. Churn the Ice Cream:
Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Fold in the port-fig sauce and the chocolate chunks by hand when it has finished. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze. Note: it’s very important to add the fig sauce at the end. Adding it before the ice cream is completely frozen alters the freezing temperature (because of the alcohol. It may even be better to just add it as a topping, but I thought of that too late).