Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lemon Shortbread Cookies with Fig Ice Cream

Yes, you read correctly! Fig ICE CREAM! Figs are perfectly in season right now and they are SO good, so I decided to make them into an ice cream and then sandwich it between a complimentary cookie. Even though the summer season is winding down, it's still upper 80s here in NC, so I'm makin' ice cream!

I bought about 20 Black Mission Figs, as ripe as I could find. A ripe fig feels like it just might burst if you squeezed it. I chopped up the figs and put them in a saucepan along with some water and some sugar and then cooked it down until it was all a sticky, gooey, mess, kinda like jelly with chunks of figs in it. I pureed this in the food processor and added some cream, some milk and a little lemon juice to temper the sweetness. Once the mixture was chilled, the whole thing got spun in my trusty ice cream machine. Voila, Fig Ice Cream!

Fig Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz


about 20 fresh figs
1/2 c water
zest of one lemon
2/3 c sugar
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp lemon juice


Cut the stems from the figs, chop them roughly, and place them in a medium saucepan along with water, sugar and lemon zest. Cook over medium until the figs are tender and the mixture becomes thick and sticky, with the consistency of jelly. Cool, then blend in food processor with cream, milk and lemon juice. Chill and then spin in ice cream maker.

Moving on to the cookie. I think fig goes well with a number of other flavors. Nuts, for one, particularly I think of almonds. Figs also go well with citrus, orange or lemon. I had a beautiful large lemon at home, so I decided to go with lemon shortbread. Shortbread cookies are so named because the amount of butter in the cookie serves to "shorten" the dough. (This is also how shortening got its name.) When making baked goods, any liquid added to flour allows for the development of gluten, which is a protein that toughens the structure and adds elasticity and stretch (think of bread dough being worked, that's got a lot of gluten). But, with these cookies, you don't want stretch, you want crumb, so butter is added to essentially "shorten" the strands of gluten produced and limit the elasticity of the dough. If you want to see how elastic shortbread dough is, blend it really well, then pull the ends apart. You will not see any stretch, it will just break apart. So, there's a quickie on shortening, and shortbread cookies. Now, let's bake!

Lemon Shortbread Cookies
adapted from The Joy of Cooking


8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp lemon zest
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c flour

Cream butter, with lemon zest, sugar and salt, then add egg and yolk until combined. Add in vanilla, then reduce the speed and add in flour until just combined. Smush down the dough some, divide it in half and wrap it in plastic wrap. Allow to cool in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F, and separate your two oven racks. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out shapes using cutters. Unused dough may be re-rolled one time.

Bake until the cookies are slightly golden brown at the edges (about 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookies). Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature.

All in all, I found the flavor of the lemon shortbread to be quite complimentary to the fig ice cream. The first time I made it, the shortbread cookie was fragile (the nature of shortbread) and got a little too hard in the freezer, making it difficult to bite down into the sandwich. I made the second batch a little bigger and a little thicker, so it stayed softer, even when frozen with the ice cream.

I think putting stuff into a sandwich makes it even more delicious! Consider this a work-in-progress.

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