Madness goes something like this: It’s after seven. The thermometer in the kitchen window still hovers over a hundred degrees. I’ve been peeking through the window every few minutes, checking the sky. The sun finally begins its slow set, suddenly softer and partially obscured by the massive, billowing clouds that have triumphantly filled the sky every afternoon for as many days this month as I can remember.
I pull two pints of homemade cherry frozen yogurt from the very back of the freezer and quickly fill a waiting cone with two big scoops. I hand it to the Honey, grab my camera, and the kitchen door bangs shut behind us.
Across the patio and the frozen yogurt is already melting. We reach a small patch of decently green grass and I muster a few quick shots in the seventeen or so seconds before the whole delicious mess completely implodes, sinking into the cone and running down the edges onto the Honey’s hand. The pup lays patiently in the grass at his feet, just outside the edge of the frame, waiting for drips. This is the fourth cone I’ve shot, and he’s a quick learner.
Photographing frozen yogurt outside, in June. In the South. This is my madness.
But it is a delicious kind of crazy. And I can’t help but think that on these long, hot days when it is just about impossible to be outside (let alone shoot), frozen yogurt/ice cream/sorbet/popsicles… anything frozen and icy and prone to melting, is just about the only appropriate thing in the world to be consuming.
Or at least that’s where I find myself lately, in search of chilly antidotes to the stifling (not-quite-summer) summer heat of central North Carolina.
Through much trial and error, I’ve come across a few key elements to making creamy, indulgent (fruit-based) frozen yogurt that doesn’t make you wish you had made real ice cream instead. I find many frozen yogurt recipes to be bland and mediocre, but it doesn’t need to be a consolation prize! Great, homemade frozen yogurt can (and should be) bold, and creamy and flavorful, with a tangy finish.
Use a high-quality, whole-milk Greek yogurt. The higher fat content of whole milk, in addition to the higher protein found in Greek yogurt, provide added creaminess and a thicker, smoother bodied frozen yogurt. Even more important, straining the yogurt for a few hours prior to churning will make a world of difference. This reduces the water content, thereby reducing the potential for ice crystal formation upon freezing, and creating a smoother, creamier ice-cream-like texture.
Seasonal summer fruit and berries have wonderful flavor… and also a high water content. This translates to an icy texture when frozen. Instead of mixing fresh fruit or berries directly into the yogurt base, I find it’s best to quickly roast or cook the fruit first. These methods (I’ve used the latter in the recipe below), concentrate the natural flavor of the fruit while evaporating some of the water.
I’m in the habit of adding arrowroot starch to all of my homemade ice creams and frozen yogurts, but it is especially important to ensuring delicious results with fruit-based recipes, because the starch binds with any leftover water molecules. Just a few teaspoons of this natural, plant-based starch, and super hard, impossible to scoop, icy nightmares are a thing of the past.
- 3 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
- 24 oz whole milk Greek yogurt, strained
- 2 tsp arrowroot starch*
- 6-8 oz berry jam (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry or cherry), divided
- Prep: A few hours (up to 6) before you plan to make the frozen yogurt, place the Greek yogurt in a fine-mesh strainer lined with a piece of cheesecloth, and set over a bowl to drain. Refrigerate until ready to use. Discard the remaining liquid.
- Add the cherries, sugar, vanilla, vinegar and brandy (if using) to a medium pot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally as the sugar dissolves and the cherries begin to release their juice. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, and a syrup has developed, bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to low and let simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes, stirring a few times, until the mixture has reduced by about 25 percent. Remove from the heat, and carefully transfer the cherry sauce to a blender. Blend until very smooth. Work in batches if needed. Be careful as the mixture will still be very hot! Transfer the cherry sauce to a chilled bowl and let cool.
- When the cherry sauce has cooled to room temperature, whisk in the (strained) yogurt until smooth and completely combined. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly against the surface of the yogurt to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least an hour until thoroughly chilled. The yogurt base can be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated overnight.
- Remove the yogurt base from the fridge and whisk in the arrowroot starch. Pour the yogurt into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions, approximately 20-25 minutes. You will know the frozen yogurt is ready when it begins to pull away slightly from the edges of the container, and has the texture of soft-serve.
- Two to three minutes before the frozen yogurt is completely churned (when it looks almost ready), add 2 tablespoons of the jam to the ice cream machine, while still churning. Scoop the frozen yogurt into 2-3 paper pints or a freezer-safe container, layering the yogurt with scoops of the remaining jam throughout. Swirl the frozen yogurt and jam together as desired. Press a piece of parchment paper against the surface of the frozen yogurt, cover, and chill for 3-4 hours until completely set. Let the frozen yogurt sit out for 5-10 minutes before scooping. Homemade frozen yogurt is best the day of, but will last for up to a week in the freezer.
The arrowroot starch is optional, but highly recommended, particularly if you do not plan on eating the frozen yogurt the day of. The starch binds with the water particles naturally present in the yogurt and cherries, helping to prevent the formation of ice crystals, and as a result creating a smoother, creamier texture for your frozen yogurt. Tapioca starch or cornstarch can also be substituted if you can’t get your hands on arrowroot starch, which is my very favorite starch to use in homemade frozen yogurt and ice cream.