A real thrill

I’m going to tell it to you straight. When I got to the last step of this recipe and looked at the tower of dirty bowls and saucepans in the sink, I thought, This had damn well better be the best frozen yogurt the universe has ever seen.

I’m not sure I would go quite that far. But it’s a very, very, very good frozen yogurt. And I can tell you that it feels especially right when eaten from a teacup, if that doesn’t make you feel too prissy. It was a happy discovery for me, because in this house, the teacups otherwise sit in the cabinet and grow cobwebs.

In other words: I’m glad I made it.

This recipe comes from the newly released book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, by Jeni Britton Bauer, owner of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Ohio. (Don’t miss the video currently on the website. Fun stuff.) I’ve made only one recipe from the book, admittedly, but I tasted a second one that Matthew made - we ate it for dessert after our most recent podcast taping - and I think it’s fair to say that Jeni’s flavors are exceptional. But what’s even more exceptional is that, after making only one recipe, I came away feeling that I had learned a lot. I like that in a cookbook. Jeni’s approach is very scientific, which feels fitting, because ice cream is, after all, a frozen emulsion. A good homemade ice cream can be tricky to make, and the results are often icy or crumbly, or leave a slick of greasy fat on the spoon. You know what I mean. Jeni’s ice creams are made without eggs, and she explains her choice of ingredients in admirable depth, a real thrill for us aging science majors. I LOVE SCIENCE!

For instance, she uses corn syrup (not to be confused with high fructose corn syrup) because it is composed primarily of glucose, and glucose helps to prevent ice crystals and give a subtle elasticity to the ice cream. She uses cornstarch to bind up water molecules and, likewise, prevent ice crystals. And she uses a small amount of cream cheese because the proteins it contains help to bind the ingredients and give body. It sounds fiddly, and yes, it uses a lot of bowls, but it yields an ice cream that’s creamy, a little chewy, and dense but not heavy, with true, insistent flavor.

In this case of this frozen yogurt recipe, what you get is big, round lemon flavor, sweet and tart at the same time, underlined by the tang of plain yogurt. I like the idea of smashing it between two chewy ginger cookies and eating it that way, but like I said, all you really need is a teacup. The stripe of blueberry sauce is a very nice addition, although you could skip it, if you wanted one less dirty dish. But I wouldn’t.

Lemon Frozen Yogurt with a Blueberry Stripe
Adapted slightly from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Be sure to let the frozen yogurt sit and thaw slightly - for 5 or 10 minutes, say - before you scoop and serve it. The texture is best that way. Also, I use Brown Cow brand yogurt.

Blueberry sauce:
1 ½ cups blueberries
¾ cup sugar (or a bit less, if your berries are especially sweet)

Frozen yogurt base:
1 quart plain low-fat yogurt
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 ounces (4 Tbsp.) cream cheese, softened
½ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
Zest from 1 lemon (reserved from below)

Lemon syrup:
2 to 4 lemons
3 Tbsp. sugar

To make the blueberry sauce, put the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan, stir to mix, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are very tender and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool. Refrigerate until cold before using.

To begin the frozen yogurt base, place a sieve over a bowl, and line it with two layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours to drain. Discard the liquid, and measure out 1 ¼ cups drained yogurt. Set aside. [You will have some drained yogurt left over, and it’s delicious for breakfast.]

First, make the lemon syrup. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from 1 lemon in large strips; reserve for the frozen yogurt base. Then juice enough of the lemons to yield ½ cup. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Put 2 tablespoons of the milk in a small bowl, add the cornstarch, and whisk until you have a smooth slurry.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

Fill a large bowl with ice and a little bit of cold water.

Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and strips of lemon zest in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for exactly 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Return the pan to the heat, and continue to cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat, and then gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the reserved 1 ¼ cups drained yogurt and the lemon syrup. Whisk until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag, and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Remove the strips of lemon zest from the frozen yogurt base. (I did this by pouring it through a mesh strainer directly into the ice cream machine.) Pour the mixture into the canister of an ice cream machine, and spin until thick and creamy.

Pack the frozen yogurt into a storage container, alternating spoonfuls of yogurt with spoonfuls of the blueberry sauce, and do not mix them. (You’re basically creating pockets and splotches of sauce within the frozen yogurt.) Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.


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