The blackberries were on sale. Big boxes of them, full of ripe fruit- a sure sign of the advent of summer. They were calling to us, singing a song of green fields and sun, and their dark, midnight sheen was bewitching. We bought two cartons.
“I bet we finish one box on the way home,” my mom said. I agreed. I wanted to savor them, prized as they were, being the first fruit of the season, but something told me would have a blackberry fest- impromptu and messy- on the car ride home.
In the car, I edged open a corner of the box. The berries were fat and I held one up to the sun, wondering if eating them unwashed was the best idea. Probably not, but the berries won out- they always do- and I popped one in my mouth. It was sweet with exploding clusters and dusty with prickles. I picked another, and another, and soon we were driving in contented silence, popping sticky berries like candy, hot from the sun through the windshield.
By the time we got home, we’d finished the box. The second one, I knew I wanted to make something with. Something that would capture their glorious tartness, tame their vaguely bitter aftertaste, and most of all, let them shine. My new ice cream maker was sitting shiny near by, begging to be used, and while my natural instinct for berries is a pie, I knew that here, roasted and swirled into a rich ice cream, the blackberries would be perfect.
I paired the blackberries with small, marigold hued apricots. Swirled together, they tint this ice cream blush pink with dark purple and bright orange accents, a color that reminds me of a late summer sunset.
As soon as I tasted this ice cream, freshly churned, I knew it was a keeper. With hints of tartness, and with soft, fruity bites slipping through, this ice cream manages to perfectly preserve the flavor of the fruit and also adds to it: with cream for richness, cream cheese that softens, and a little sugar that enhances everything.
This is how I want to eat all my blackberries: the hot, melting ones, and the dusty, bitter ones, too. I want them swirled into an ice cream that refreshes and cools on a hot summer day, I want them paired with fragrant apricots, and honestly, the only thing I can think of that would improve this ice cream is a slice of blackberry pie to serve beneath it, preferably at the end of a lazy summer cookout.
Adapted from Jeni’s Ice Creams
Why I love this recipe: roasting the fruits first ensures that they don’t freeze into icy clumps, deepens their natural flavor and intensifies their color. Naturally tart, the blackberries and apricots are tamed with milk, cream and just enough sugar to mellow them out, and Jeni’s method of using a cornstarch slurry, as opposed to the traditional custard-route, yields an ice cream that’s as creamy as can be.
Notes: make sure your ice cream bowl is completely frozen, with no water crystals stuck to the side, as this can impede the churning process. I recommend using soft, non-whipped cream cheese for ultimate creaminess and corn syrup for smoothness; it’s an invert sugar, so it prevents sugar crystals from forming and keeps everything smooth. Using a substitute sweetener such as honey or agave nectar will affect the texture of your ice cream- you can use it, but it will be slightly less creamy.
- 1/2 pound apricots (6 fruits), halved and pitted
- 1 pound blackberries (2 cups), washed and dried
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 + 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoons coarse sea salt
- 3 tablespoons non-whipped cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the apricots and the blackberries in a small baking dish along with the 1/4 cup sugar. Roast for 40 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Remove the roasted fruit from the oven and gently smash them with a rubber spatula to make a craggy and rough puree.
- Set fruit puree aside while you prepare the ice cream base. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup milk and the cornstarch until smooth; set slurry aside.
- In a 4 quart saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and sugar, the cream, 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 the softened, room temperature cream cheese in a bowl and pour in 1/4 cup hot milk mixture; whisk until completely smooth. Then whisk in remaining milk mixture.
- Fold in the fruit apricot puree and lemon juice. Fill a bowl with ice water. Set the bowl with the ice cream inside of the bowl that is filled with ice water. Let sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very cold. Then, refrigerate for another 20 minutes.
- Pour mixture into an ice cream maker; process according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Transfer ice cream to a storage container and freeze until set.