I have a recurring daydream: I leave my house, close the red door behind me and I step in a green scenery crammed with earthenware pots and old repainted wooden boxes, where flowers, herbs and berries grow luxuriantly. Then I walk along a tiny path and I reach my well-cultivated vegetable garden, where I put nice wooden tag next to every plant, with their names neatly written with white paint. Next to the garden, the orchard, with olive trees and fruit trees. In a corner I can see a wicker basket with my gloves, a pair of wellington boots and a girly straw hat. I dream of bringing home boxes of soil covered vegetables, picked up a few minutes before in the early morning, then wash them and store them in my pantry, where you can see my preserve jars neatly arranged with labels for the winter.
There is only one obstacle that stands between me and the realization of my dream: time. I’d have the space to do this, the desire, but I am already playing with the delivery times for larger and smaller projects, markedly reducing my sleep hours. So I keep telling me that autumn is the perfect time to start working seriously on my daydream.
Then I remember that this autumn I’ll be eventually moving in my small apartment across the yard, and I realize that maybe I should wait a little longer for this green dream to become real…
To cheer me up and make me feel a little closer to my daydream, there’s my growing rhubarb, which is almost ready to be finally used – though I still have to decide what to to with the small amount I’ll get, but it will definitely be a party! – and two apricot trees.
From what I hear, the 2012 will be remembered as the year of the apricots: they tell tales of bent branches, overwhelmed by the ripe fruit, of neighbours lurking outside your house with wicker baskets crammed with juicy apricot, of jars of jam that will be enough for many a winter… Here, we collect every day a small box of apricots, tiny as walnuts and deep flavoured, we bake cakes and churn sorbets when we do not boil massive pots of jam, my mother’s favorite summer activity.
Take a Sunday like any other, sultry though spent in the kitchen among stews and fresh pasta. This apricot ice cream was the most pleasant moment of the day: it was refreshing, creamy and tangy. What made it even more special is the fact that I have not lifted a finger to do it, it was my sister Claudia’s idea, she’s fond of ice creams and sorbets! We always joke that if we will ever open a café or a bakery, I would deal with cakes and cookies, she would take care of tea, coffee and ice cream… So we kept our roles and she made the apricot ice cream, while I baked the soft spongy biscuit and whipped up the Italian meringue.
If you do not have much time, the apricot ice cream is perfect on its own, put some scoops in a chilled glass and your summer dessert is ready. Though, if you have some play time and no fear of turning on the oven during summer, I would recommend this ice-cream bombe that reminds me of a Baked Alaska of a few years ago.
Do not be scared by the length of the recipe. It can be broken down and made in several times, keeping the various components of the ice cream in the refrigerator and freezer. You can also make only a section of it: the Italian meringue, for example, is a basic pastry element that can be used in many a summer recipe, such as frozen desserts. The ice cream, as we have said, has a reason on its own, while the soft biscuit is nothing more than a thin sponge cake that can be rolled up and stuffed with chocolate, custard, jam or… ice cream, again! But if you combine all the ingredients, magic happens!
Apricot ice cream with Italian meringue
For the apricot ice cream
- 500 g of pitted apricots
- 125 ml of water
- 100 g of sugar
- 125 g of plain whole yogurt
- 125 ml of whole milk
- few drops of lemon juice
- few drops of bitter almond essence
For the sponge biscuit base
- 100 g of egg whites
- 85 g of sugar, 50 g + 35 g
- 70 g of egg yolks
- 70 g of flour
- 15 g of potato starch
For the Italian meringue
- 250 g of sugar, 200 g + 50 g
- 50 g of water
- 125 g egg whites
For the decoration
- apricot jam
Apricot Ice cream
- Cook the halved apricot in a thick-bottomed saucepan with 125 ml of water for about 10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the sugar, stir and let it cool down.
- When the fruit is cold, blend the apricots with an immersion blender, add milk, yogurt, a few drops of lemon juice and a few drops of bitter almond essence.
- Transfer the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to the instructions.
- When the ice cream is ready, line with plastic wrap 20 mini muffin moulds and fill them up with the ice cream.
- Cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer.
Sponge biscuit base
- In the meantime make the biscuit base and preheats the oven to 250°C (yes, 250°C, but the baking will be extremely fast).
- Whip the egg whites with 50 g of sugar until they are glossy and firm.
- In another bowl beat the yolks with the remaining 35 g of sugar, then combine them folding gently the egg whites into the egg yolks.
- Sift together the flour and the potato starch, then fold them into the batter with a spatula.
- Take a shallow baking tin and secure a sheet of baking paper on the tin with a few drops of batter.
- Pour the batter into the pan and level it gently with a spatula, about 5 mm thick.
- Bake for 5 minutes, checking it constantly because it tends to burn quickly.
- When golden, remove it from the oven, turn it onto a moistened kitchen towel and peel off the baking paper. This may also be the basis for a sweet roll, just be quick to stuff it and roll it up!
- In our case, cut out the base of the ice cream with a cookie cutter of the same size as the mini muffin moulds we used, then put them aside.
- Beat egg whites with 50 g of sugar in a stand mixer bowl at low speed.
- While the whites are being beaten, pour the water and 200 g of sugar in a smal thick-bottomed pot and let the sugar melt. It will start slowly to make bubbles.
- The syrup should reach 121°C, but as soon as it gets to 118°C, remove it from the heat, because it will still increase in temperature before you pour it into the egg whites.
- Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream, taking care not to let it run onto the whisk, but letting it slide along the bowl sides, as to be conveyed into the centre by the mixer movements.
- Beat at high speed until it is cold, glossy white and airy, you’ll need about 10 minutes: don’t overbeat. Put in the fridge covered with cling film.
Ice cream bombs
- You need to be quick, so prepare all the ingredients on the table before you: the round biscuits, the apricot jam and the ice cream. Spread each base with jam, cover them with the ice cream, flat side down, then wrap them in cling film and put them back in the freezer for about ten minutes to allow them time to set.
- Now prepare the Italian meringue in a sac-a-poche with a star nozzle and decorate each ice cream, covering them completely.
- If you want to eat them now, quickly burn the meringue with a torch and serve within 5 to 10 minutes, so that the ice cream soften a bit.
- If instead you want to prepare them in advance, arrange the ice cream in a tray and put them back into the freezer. Shortly before eating remove them from the freezer, burn the meringue here and there with the cooking torch and serve at table.
Since this will be remembered as the apricot year, my link love is fully dedicated to one of my favourite summer fruit:
- Apricot Tarte Tatin has been in my wish list for ages, now I want to try it before summer ends, and I might follow Bron Marshall‘s recipe, extremely tempting,
- after the French inspired Tarte Tatin, a classic American tart, Joyofbaking’s luscious Apricot Tart,
- from Meeta, What’s for lunch honey, an apricot and pistachio frangipane tart. As she said, apricots baked in a nutty, creamy frangipane and the crunch of a crumbly pastry can’t be beaten. Enough to send me into a whirlwind of dreams
- and my favourite one, Sarka’s Apricot Galette, from Cook your dream. Simple and summery.
And now, just to show you where and why I disappeared for so long, these are a few recipes from the July issue of Dolci Tentazioni magazine. I’ve been working on the September issue in the last few weeks, but I wanted to give you a preview of what you can find in the summer edition! I know, it is just in Italian, but I was too proud not to share it with you!
My last addiction
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you might already have noticed that I have a new addiction, Instagram! If the other social media are not enough, you can follow me on Instagram as JulsKitchen and you can find here a stream of my pictures. There are lots of previews on my ongoing projects there!