I sit in my office doing the internet version of twiddling my thumbs; bouncing from Facebook to Instagram scrolling through the feeds until my thumb aches and my mind is overwhelmed with images and updates that leave me feeling depleted. I have only a couple more hours to work and yet I can’t focus and am losing motivation in the midst of the scrolling.
“That’s it.” I say to myself. “I need to get out of here.”
So I jump in the car with a simple plan of going to the market and seeing where that leads me. Once there I see crate after crate overflowing with stone fruit. Nearly black plums with a hint of red underneath which tells me they are perfect; mostly sweet with a good sour bite. Next to them, small Italian plums covered in a soft dust that wipes off easily to reveal a deep purple skin. And apricots the color of a late evening sun and the star of so many of my favorite summer recipes.
Immediately I grab several pounds of plums because two days before I heard a lovely story on NPR about a pastry chef who stood at her stove sobbing at the site of this German Plum Cake. It was the first time she had made it since her mom died and just the site of it; familiar like a dear friend, made her lose it in her kitchen leaving her staff a little clueless as to why chef was looking at the stove dripping tears into a plum studded cake (that’s actually a bit more tart than cake). I needed to make this.
Then I grab the Italian plums and my mind turns to stewed prunes. The resulting dish is actually much more appetizing than the name suggests. They are so good in fact that I keep my oven on for an entire day in the midst of a crazy heat wave just to dry out the plums so I can make the very best version of stewed prunes when a winter’s evening demands a taste of summer.
Finally I reach for apricots. My usual response to apricots is pie or jam but today I dust off the ice cream maker and decide to roast a batch for ice cream. I need something cold to counter the temperature in the house after the oven has been on all day.
I roast the apricots with a bit of sugar because it’s only after roasting that apricots reveal their magic. They succumb easily to a gentle pressing with my spatula to turn into a sort of puree, intentionally left a bit rustic as I imagine the pleasure of biting into a piece of apricot on top of an ice cream cone. The puree turns the creamy base into a pinkish orange hue, enough to catch the attention of Ivy who is immediately drawn to anything pink. While it churns I melt a bit of chocolate and drizzle that in to the ice cream just as it looks like soft serve. Ivy licks the chocolate bowl clean.
The result is a sweet ice cream, softly tart and rich with speckles of bittersweet chocolate and more importantly for me, an end to my twiddling of thumbs and an awakening to the day in front of me with all its possibilities.
Roasted Apricot Stracciatella
base recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
1 pound apricots, halved and pitted
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 + 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped)
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Place the apricots in a cast iron skillet or small baking dish along with 1/3 cup sugar. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Remove the apricots from the oven and gently smash them with a rubber spatula to make a craggy and rough puree.
Set aside while you prepare the base. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside.
In a 4-qt. saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream, sugar, syrup, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes; stir in slurry. Return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Place cream cheese in a bowl and pour in 1/4 cup hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk mixture.
Fold in the apricot puree and lemon juice. Set a bowl inside of another bowl that is filled with ice water. Pour the base into the top bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very cold.
Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions.
While the ice cream is churning, melt the chocolate with the coconut oil (quick 15 second bursts in a microwave, stirring in between heatings, until melted) until smooth.
When the ice cream looks like soft serve, slowly drizzle in the chocolate and let the process of the churning break up the chocolate into small bits.
Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set.