1. DISSOLVE the gelatin in 3 tablespoons of cold water, for about 10 minutes.
2. PLACE the cream, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, fig purée and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat. Add the gelatin to the pan, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds, or until the gelatin is well blended with the cream.
3. POUR the cream mixture into molds, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.
By the time of the Bible, figs had been cultivated for thousands of years. They may have been the first crop* cultivated—perhaps first in Egypt. From there they spread to Crete and around the 9th century B.C.E., to Greece, where they became a staple.
The ancient Greeks loved figs so much that they enacted a law forbidding the export of the best quality figs (in the ancient world, at least 29 varieties of figs were cultivated).
Figs spread throughout the Mediterranean. They arrived in the New World in the early 16th century, with Spaniards explorers. When Spanish missions were established in what is now southern California, the monks cultivated planted fig trees. Today, California is one of the largest producers of figs, along with Greece, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
*Agricultural historians believe the order of cultivation to be figs, wheat and barley, grapes, olives, sugar, tea, rice and sesame. Different historians have different orders; and archeological digs regularly reveal new information.