Summer is finally coming to Southern California. Not that it’s ever cold, but there was a stretch of about a week recently during which my east coast friends and family lamented temperatures in the 80s while I sat in my office in wool pants with a space heater on. That speaks, of course, to rampant over-air conditioning, but the greater point was that temperatures were only in the 60s, making my wool pants perfectly appropriate for the inclement weather outside as well.
Sooner or later it always warms up, though, and this year I was prepared with David Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments. If you’ve been reading food blogs at all this spring, no doubt you’ve noticed how gaga everyone seems to be about the new book, and with good reason. The ice cream flavors are creative and the photography beautiful. And there are recipes for both sophisticates who want smooth, simple, infused flavors as well as those with perhaps less refined palates (like me!) who like their ice cream chockful of mix-ins and texture. Dylan experimented a bit with some of the recipes (like oatmeal-raisin ice cream) when we found ourselves with about a gallon of ice cream base that needed to be used (don’t ask). But we hadn’t yet tried following any of the recipes to a tee and so with Dylan out of town this week, it seemed the perfect occasion to experiment.
One of my constant culinary struggles is negotiating a truce between my intensely demanding sweet tooth and my desire to eat healthily and stay fit. Mostly this gets resolved by my religious commitment to exercising five times a week, which more or less allows me to eat whatever I like and not worry about weight. At the same time, though, I’m always hoping to find something healthy that will satisfy that little gnawing post-dinner craving for something sweet. Yogurt, fruit, or cereal can always do in a pinch, but somehow they seem decidedly unfun in the context of dessert. If I lived next to a Pinkberry (and were willing to routinely spend $5 for a cup of frozen yogurt), you’d probably find me there most evenings. Alas, Pinkberry has not yet reached Pasadena, but after reading Heidi’s post about how The Perfect Scoop’s vanilla frozen yogurt recipe rivals Pinkberry’s, it seemed it was high time to give it a try.
We were lucky/extravagant enough to have snagged one of those wonderful self-refrigerating Il Gelataio gelato machines on eBay last year for around $100 plus shipping, which allows us to spontaneously make ice cream pretty much any time we’d like with minimal need for freezing afterwards. The Perfect Scoop actually offers two versions of its frozen yogurt recipe. The one posted on 101 Cookbooks is the more time consuming version, in that it requires you to strain the whole-milk yogurt that provides the base for the frozen yogurt for at least 6 hours in advance. I decided to try the speedier, no-strain version, figuring that though it wouldn’t be as rich and creamy (because of it’s higher water content), what I was really after was a dessert light enough to have it any night I wanted.
The first thing that bears mentioning is how simple the “recipe” (if you can call it that!) is- dump your container of yogurt in a bowl, stir in sugar and vanilla, and pop it in the fridge to chill. Voila! As for the results, it’s not quite Pinkberry. The yogurty flavor is close, but it’s hard to get the proper soft-serve consistency unless you eat it right out of the ice cream maker. The taste? Well, it’s decidedly yogurty. To the point that were you to eat it straight-up, with no toppings or accoutrements, it would be hard to forget that you were, in fact, just eating yogurt that had been churned and frozen. And when it starts to melt, there’s really no hiding its roots…leave it sitting in the bowl too long and PRESTO! you’re back to plain old yogurt.
I found that as long as I topped it with a little something (in my case, Trader Joe’s apricot or mango sauces, but feel free to experiment) and ate it with due haste, it felt like dessert, not just a bowl of literal frozen yogurt. It still can’t compete with a full-on fatty, indulgent dessert, in my mind, or even really great store-bought fro yo (like Sweet Scoops, a New England-area company with super low-cal frozen yogurts in all sorts of interesting flavors), but for an entirely guilt-free treat, it hits the spot.
Vanilla frozen yogurt (makes about 1 quart)
3 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Refridgerate at least one hour.
2. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.