Eat Dessert First Month: Roasted Fig Gelato with Balsamic Caramel

Roasted Fig Gelato
Roasted Fig Gelato

Happy Friday, and hope you’re all looking forward to the long weekend (if you’re in the US, that is). After macarons and tarts and cookies, I’m squeezing in one more dessert to celebrate the end of Dessert First month and herald the countdown to fall.

Roasted Fig Gelato Balsamic Caramel

It’s no secret that now’s that time to enjoy figs before they’re gone. I’ve written before about my introduction to figs; they’re still a fruit that isn’t my instinctual first choice, but whenever I eat one I always wonder why I haven’t eaten more of them. Especially they’re late summer-burstingly-ripe, half soft flesh, half syrup. When you pick out figs, make sure they’re very soft for the most intense flavor; firm ones will just be a disappointment. 

When I went by Whole Foods, they had several varieties, but my favorites are the popular Black Mission figs, which are deservedly beloved – petite plump teardrops, almost unbelievably jewel-colored, their sticky sweetness feels almost naughtily indulgent. Wanting to really highlight their flavor, I chose to make a simple ice cream that’s almost all fig. Know that if you use figs other than Black Mission in this recipe, you may not get this ethereal pale lavender hue in your ice cream, but a more light green shade instead. However, color aside, there shouldn’t be any other significant difference in the results.

Black Mission Figs
Black Mission Figs

This gelato is a riff off David Leibovitz‘s gorgeous fig ice cream ; I roast the figs instead to bring out their sweet lushness. Figs are not the sweetest of fruits, so the amount of sugar you add to this ice cream can be up to your taste. I personally prefer it not overly sugary, to let the figginess shine through – it’s a grown up ice cream, not a primary color-cherry bomb of a popsicle.

The cool thing about figs is that because they have less moisture than other fruits, that they puree into a thick paste on their own. So making a creme anglaise base is almost unnecessary; all you need is a little cream (or half and half) and sugar and you already have yourself a gelato base. It makes this one of the simplest ice creams I’ve ever done.

To add a bit of zing to this gelato, I also whipped up a bit a balsamic caramel sauce – your basic caramel sauce spiked with a dose of balsamic vinegar. Figs and balsamic are natural partners, and this sauce adds a tangy sweetness to the mellow subtlety of the figs. It’s lovely drizzled over the top or you can also swirl it into the gelato.

Hope you all have a wonderful long weekend!

Roasted Fig Gelato bowl

Roasted Fig Gelato with Balsamic Caramel Sauce

makes about 1 quart of ice cream

Roasted Fig Gelato

  • 1 lb ripe figs (Black Mission is best)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (230 g) half and half
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Balsamic Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

For the gelato:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Slice figs in half and arrange on baking sheet cut side up. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the figs. Roast for 15-20 minutes until figs are soft and cooked through, with some juices pooling beneath. Remove from oven and let cool.
  • Put figs in food processor and process until smooth. Add half and half, sugar, and lemon juice and process until fully combined into a smooth paste.
  • Chill mixture in refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight. Chill in ice cream maker per manufacturer's instructions.

For the caramel:

  • Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer in separate small saucepan and keep warm.
  • Continue cooking until sugar mixture is dark amber, about 6-8 minutes. Do not let the mixture burn!
  • Remove from heat and add the cream slowly; mixture will bubble up furiously and settle down. Stir to combine.
  • Add in balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Add in butter and stir until melted and incorporated.
  • Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before using.


  1. 2


    This is so beautiful. I would almost not want to eat it because of how gorgeous it is. But I’d likely give in and gobble it all up.

  2. 6


    I always forget about figs but when I do buy some always wish I had more. Roasting them really brings out the sugars and makes them so deeply flavored. Beautiful gelato!

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