I'm a fool for many things: puppies with floppy ears. Rainstorms. Desserts of all shapes and sizes. Cookbooks with pretty pictures. Blog events that motivate me to bake things I wouldn't otherwise. My life is tragically low on both puppies and rain right now, but I did have the good fortune to buy three great new dessert cookbooks last week, and I've been dying to dive in and make some new sweets. So imagine my delight when I found that Meeta from What's for Lunch Honey was hosting a monthly mingle with a "Fruit & Chocolate" theme.
Perfect! One of the books I recently bought was David Lebovitz's Ripe for Dessert, a cookbook full of delicious fruity dessert recipes. I browsed through it, looking for those that combined fruit with chocolate. (Answer: almost all of them! I knew I liked this book.) Finally I settled on a recipe for Apricot Ice Cream Tartufi, because I knew I had several pounds of dried apricots languishing in the back of my cupboard.
...well, maybe calling them "apricots" is being too generous. By the time I pulled their blackened, shriveled forms from the back of the cupboard, the only clue that they were apricots came from the label on the bag. I took my life in my hands and tasted one, and it actually wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great, either. I would describe it as "highly fermented with a dash of decay."
Actually, this entire post is brought to you by the letter F, for Food Poisoning. Shortly after discovering my apricots were way, waaay past their prime, I opened a new jar of homemade apricot jam, only to find sketchy growths on the lid and in the jam itself. And the seal wasn't even broken! So my brilliant plan to create a dessert out of ingredients I had readily available backfired most horribly, and I made a last-minute trip to the store. At least it beat the projectile vomiting that would have resulted from using the suspect fruit and jam.
But enough about vomit, let's talk about my Apricot Ice Cream Tartufi! Tartu-what, you ask? Apparently "tartufi" is Italian for truffle, as these chocolate-dipped ice creams are mean to resemble truffles. They're simply balls of homemade apricot-orange ice cream, dipped in bittersweet chocolate and served with toasted hazelnuts and an apricot-orange sauce.
I was surprised at how good these are. I like apricots but I don't love them (for evidence, refer again to the neglected wizened apricot corpses in my kitchen) and I wasn't expecting too much from a dessert made from dried fruit. However, the apricot flavor really popped! They were vibrant and fruity, and although the ice cream had plenty of cream, it wasn't too heavy. The fruit flavor (and accompanying sauce) really helped to cut the richness.
I also liked that this dessert is a great hybrid of down-home cooking (simple ice cream made from dried fruit) and gourmet tastes and presentation. It can be made ahead of time and then brought out of the freezer to wow your dinner guests with fancy-pantsiness. It's also a nice amount of dessert--enough to satisfy you, not enough to have you moaning in a sticky pile of melted ice cream, cursing your lack of restraint. The chocolate shell is a pretty effective binge-preventing force field!
I realize the concept of dipping balls of ice cream in chocolate isn't novel, but for some reason it really hadn't occurred to me that I could easily do it at home. I'm excited to try this technique with other types of ice cream--I imagine it would be amazing with chocolate-raspberry, or mint chip.
I had a great time making these, and I also experimented with leftover ice cream and made some killer ice cream sandwiches--recipe to be later revealed this week. Recipe after the cut!
Apricot Ice Cream Tartufi
adapted from Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz
For the Ice Cream:
3/4 cup orange juice (or dry white wine)
1.5 tbsp plus 3/4 cup sugar
6 ounces dried California apricots*, cut into small pieces
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
5 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 lbs bittersweet chocolate
For the Apricot Sauce:
2.25 cups orange juice
2 tbsp sugar
3 ounces dried California apricots*
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts, DL recommends pistachios)
For the ice cream:
Bring the orange juice and 1.5 tbsp granulated sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once it boils, remove it from the heat and add the apricots. Allow them to sit for 20 minutes until they are very soft. Once softened, puree them in a food processor or blender and set aside.
Combine the milk, 1 cup of cream, and remaining 3/4 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl nearby and whisk them. Place the remaining 1 cup of cream in a large bowl with a strainer over it.
Bring the milk/cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat, but do not let it boil. Slowly pour one cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks, whisking the entire time. Now begin whisking the milk in the saucepan, and slowly stream the egg yolks back into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Stir and cook until the custard coats the back of a spoon. (I usually use a thermometer and cook it to 175.) Pour the hot custard through the strainer into the remaining cup of cream. Whisk in the vanilla extract and the pureed apricots. Cover the top of the custard with cling wrap and chill it until it is very cold.
Freeze the ice cream according to the manufacturer's instructions. At this point you can chill it overnight, until very firm (DL recommends) or do my shortcut method: cover a baking sheet with cling wrap or foil. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop balls of ice cream and place them on the baking sheet. Freeze for one hour, then use the scoop and your hands to re-shape them until they're nice and round. Freeze them for another hour, until they are very firm.
Carefully melt the chocolate over a double-boiler or in the microwave, stirring until it's very fluid but not too hot. (I added a few spoonfuls of oil to thin it out.) At this point you can dip them by submerging them entirely in the chocolate, being careful not to let the ice cream melt into the chocolate, or it will seize. Instead of this (potentially risky) method, I did a two-part dip: first I skewered the balls with toothpicks on either side, and dipped the bottoms in the chocolate, just about 1/4 inch up. Returned them to the baking sheet, and froze them briefly. Then I balanced them on their chocolate bottom on a spatula and spooned the chocolate over the top, so that there was less risk of the ice cream getting into the chocolate. They were pretty well frozen, so maybe it was a moot point--but my method worked fine, and didn't take too long. While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the top with some chopped nuts. Return to the freezer to set the chocolate for about 20 minutes.
To make the sauce:
Bring the orange juice and the sugar to a boil, then remove it from the heat and add the apricot pieces. Let them soak for 20 minutes, or until very tender. Puree in a blender with the vanilla extract.
*David Lebovitz recommends using California apricots, as the imported varieties are overly sweetened. I found California apricots in a one-pound bag at Trader Joe's.
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