No-Churn Fig and Amaretto Gelato
There always seemed to be a bottle of Amaretto tucked away in my parents’ liquor cabinet when I was growing up. The sweet almond liqueur wasn’t something they drank often ~ my mother wasn’t especially fond of strong liquors and my dad preferred the more bitter and medicinal digestivi like Strega, or a glass of grappa. No doubt the Amaretto had been a gift from a well-meaning friend, and it hung around for years.
When it comes to after-dinner drinks I am my father’s daughter, preferring the more herbal liqueurs like Strega, Meletti, or even Abruzzo’s Centerba. But I still keep a bottle of Amaretto in my liquor cabinet. Why? It’s a great baking ingredient. A splash or two in almond cake batter or in biscotti dough adds a welcome sweet, toasty note. On a hunch, I added some to my favorite fresh fig gelato recipe and this delicious spiked variation was born.
I'm a latecomer to the no-churn method of making ice cream or gelato, but a quick convert. Condensed milk makes this frozen treat creamy, while whipped heavy cream adds just the right amount of airiness.
As for the figs? My tree produces brown turkey figs, which are small and thin-skinned, with ruby-red flesh that is already a little jammy even before being cooked. They turn the ice cream a beautiful dusky rose, with streaks and spots of pink, purple, and brown. Any fresh fig should work, though, whether brown or purple or green, small or large. The Amaretto complements the fruit’s mild floral flavor, and since figs and almonds grow together, it makes sense that they also go together.
Place a metal loaf pan into the freezer to chill.
Combine the figs, brown sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set the saucepan over medium heat and use a potato masher to mash up the fruit a bit as it starts to heat up. Bring to a simmer and cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes, just to slightly soften the figs.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cinnamon and Amaretto (start with 2 tablespoons and add more to taste). Let cool for 30 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature, then whisk in the condensed milk.
Whip the chilled cream with the confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract to stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the fig and condensed milk mixture.
Scrape the mixture into the chilled loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap (I secure the wrap onto the pan with a rubber band). Freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.
To serve, remove the gelato from the freezer 10 to 15 minutes ahead of time to let it soften a bit before scooping. Garnish each serving with fresh fig halves. (This gelato is also delicious drizzled with bittersweet chocolate sauce.)