Is it the good turtle soup? (Or merely the mock?)

Cherry Cordial Frozen Yogurt

Of course the lyric of the Cole Porter song quoted here was all about discerning true love from mere passing fancy. (For the uninitiated, Cole Porter wrote many hit songs along with film and Broadway scores. Unfortunately he passed on before getting the opportunity to write for Beyoncé.)

However, I, true to form and blog content, am writing about food, in this case, frozen confections. Last week I wrote about desserts made with fresh cherries, and mentioned in passing what a shame it was that I didn’t have an ice cream freezer handy. Happily that has now been remedied and I am ready to freeze all manner of dairy products.

This isn’t my first time at the freezer, folks. I go back to the days of bagged ice, rock salt, and hand cranks. Let me tell you: hand cranked ice cream is manual labor, a clever trade off where you burn calories and then eat them back while hopefully avoiding the dreaded “ice cream headache.” Happily I have joined the twenty-first century: my Kitchen Aid now does all the work.

I should back up here for a moment and explain that I was all ready to write about something completely different this week. But the combination of fresh cherries waiting in my refrigerator, a rueful note from a friend about a late-nineties Cherry Garcia addiction, and the stinky-hot weather got me in the mood for making ice cream. Yet, something nagged at me, and I believe it was called vanity. I was afraid that with an ice cream freezer in hand I would shortly become a candidate for “The Biggest Loser.”

Thus my new mission: lowering the guilt quotient of frozen desserts (you can tell I mean business here because I used “thus” to start this sentence.) Clearly I have my work cut out for me; Ben, Jerry, and many others have been working on this mission for a very long time.

The science of ice cream is not a straightforward one. Indeed, Penn State has a world renowned course dedicated to ice cream science, nicknamed “Cow to Cone”; this is no mere “gut” course (although if you stop by Penn State’s Berkey Creamery enough you’ll have one. (A gut, I mean. Pardon the pun.))

Big companies have long been studying ways to compensate for the thin flavor and underwhelming mouth feel of low fat ice cream. What makes me think I could do any better? I don’t. I’m not out to remake the world of ice cream, I’m just looking to have something cool and delicious waiting in the freezer after a hot, stinky day. If I can manage to keep it healthy too then I’ll consider it icing on the cake (again, you’ll please pardon the pun.)

So, with lowered expectations well in hand I got work. I happen to be a big fan of Greek Yogurt. Even the low fat versions tend to be thick, creamy, and very satisfying. What if I combined the cherries and chocolate from last week’s blog with Greek Yogurt and took them for a spin in my new ice cream freezer? Sounds promising.

I combined a 37.5 ounce container of plain 2% Fage Greek Yogurt with two teaspoons of vanilla and five packets of Stevia-based sweetener, a supposedly healthy, herb-based non-sugar sweetener. I’m not big on artificial sweeteners, but I thought this would be a good occasion to take this one for a test drive.

Following the Kitchen Aid’s directions, I let that mixture spin around in the freezer for fifteen minutes before adding a cup and a half of sliced, pitted cherries, and a half cup of milk chocolate that I had cut into chocolate chip-sized chunks. (Slicing and pitting the cherries was the most labor intense part of the project, but even that was easier than cranking an ice-locked freezer. I pitted and sliced the cherries while sitting and watching TV. No biggie.)

The result just out of the ice cream freezer was still very soft, but very tangy, and with a pronounced cherry flavor – no doubt the sliced cherries gave up some of their juice as they were knocked around by the ice cream freezer’s dasher. Pinkberry came to mind, but better due the chewy cherries and chocolate that popped up with each bite.

After finishing the frozen yogurt with an extended stay in the freezer I dug in with crazed anticipation. Or I should say I tried to dig in: the frozen yogurt was frozen solid, and required well over a half hour before being ready to scoop and serve. Once scoop-able I thought it tasted even better, the intense cold muting some of the overly bright notes of the yogurt, the stevia, and the cherries.

But it was the texture that was a bit of a letdown, too icy in spots, and too “melty” in other spots, with no compromise in sight. Clearly science caught up with me and won. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the stuff was still delicious, cool, refreshing, and all about the fresh cherries. So, yes, it is definitely the mock turtle soup, but still yummy. (I’m not publishing a formal recipe. For now let’s consider this a work in progress.)

My next attempt will find me substituting a bit of honey for the stevia. The natural glycerin in the honey may help the freezing qualities of the yogurt. We’ll see. I’ll happily trade a few carbs for a better consistency. I’ll report the results to you in this venue, but for now I’ll get to work on that second batch.

No, don’t worry about me. It’s okay: I’ll make the sacrifice.

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Read about my talented friend Fabiana Lee and her hand-crafted empanadas in The New York Times.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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