Servings: Serves 4
To make ice cream: Remove tough stems from figs. Split vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape out seeds; set aside pod and seeds.
Roughly chop figs with brown sugar and kirsch in a blender or food processor. Pour into a bowl, and refrigerate.
In a small saucepan, combine 3 cups heavy cream, 2/3 cup superfine sugar, pod, and seeds. Bring to a simmer, stirring, until sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles appear on rim, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool at least 30 minutes, then stir in 2 teaspoons extract. Cover; refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 to 3 hours.
Remove pod. Place vanilla mixture in an ice cream machine; follow manufacturer's instructions. When done, fold in fig mixture, place in an airtight container, and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
To make meringue shells: Preheat oven to 325°. Draw 4 (4-inch) circles on a piece of parchment and place on a baking sheet. Add egg whites to bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment; beat on medium until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Continue mixing while adding 1 cup sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Increase speed to high, and beat until whites are stiff and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce to low and add cornstarch, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon extract, and salt; continue whisking for 30 seconds until incorporated.
Spoon meringue onto circles, making the sides slightly higher than the center. Place in oven, and reduce heat to 250°; bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until dry and hollow-sounding when lightly tapped. Turn off heat, and open oven door about 5 inches. Let sit in oven for 1/2 hour; remove and cool completely on parchment.
To make vanilla whipped cream: Beat 1 cup heavy cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl until peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; stir to combine.
To serve: Slice whole figs (if using). Add a few scoops of ice cream to center of each meringue (save leftover ice cream to enjoy later on). Arrange sliced figs on top; serve with whipped cream on the side.
From the February 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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