Frozen fruit always gets touted as being a great go-to item for last minute desserts. I enjoy using frozen fruit from time to time, but don’t normally have a supply of frozen berries, peaches, and cranberries on hand. I do, though, always have dried fruit on hand and turn to this form of preservation when needing a last-minute idea.
I like the idea of reconstituting an item in water or liqueur and bringing it back to life, so to speak. When fruit is dried, its sugars are concentrated, making them seem sweeter than before. This can also be a benefit to the baker, adding a layer of flavor to a recipe. Even the health-conscious cook can find a benefit to cooking with the world’s most natural sweetener instead of processed or refined sugars.
Figs in their dried state are a great ingredient to incorporate into recipes. First off, they are available year round. Second, they contain more fiber than any other fruit. Third, they are so sweet that a little goes a long way in recipes.
There are several different varieties of dried figs available today. According to the California Fig Growers Association, all of the dried figs produced in the United States come from California’s Central Valley. Black Mission figs are probably the most popular here in California and are delicious in their dried form. Most Middle Eastern markets carry dried Brown Smyrna figs, often packaged pressed next to each other to form a circular disc. The Conadria fig is a popular backyard fig tree, and it too is available dried, though I think it is preferred as a fresh fruit. I like to see my dried figs before I buy them so I tend to steer clear of those tightly packaged imported figs. For this recipe I used dried Turkish Smyrna figs purchased at Trader Joe’s. As you can see in the photo above, they look nothing like other imported Turkish figs.
This delicious sauce takes minutes to prepare and is amazing on top of vanilla bean ice cream. I imagine it would be equally decadent on dark chocolate ice cream too.
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups dried Turkish Smyrna figs, stemmed and quartered
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
5 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Place water and figs in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until most or all water is reduced and figs are soft. Remove from heat and place figs into a bowl; set aside.
2. In same saucepan add sugar, agave syrup, and butter and heat on high, stir to dissolve sugar, and cook until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook mixture, without stirring, until it reaches soft-ball stage, around 230°. Remove pan from heat, add cream, and stir. Add figs and serve immediately or refrigerate.