Adventures in dairy: part three, cherry frozen yogurt

We all scream for ice cream.

After lattes and a quart of yogurt, I still had some milk to use, and because it’s summer and a friend invited us to dinner one night, I decided to drag my ice cream maker out of the basement. The thing has been sitting down there since we moved five years ago, and I cannot recall when I last used it. In need of a refresher course, I turned to one of my favorite blogs, www.davidlebovitz.com. I knew I could trust David to steer me in the right direction.

David’s ice cream was a hit, but the texture didn’t measure up to the creaminess I had hoped for. I attribute it entirely to my finicky el cheapo ice cream maker that still uses ice and salt for heaven’s sake. It made a mess, and I had to fiddle with it a lot to get ice cream out of it. The day after the ice cream maker fiasco I met a friend at a farmers’ market where a new guy in town was selling gelato (www.giovannagelto.com). Bliss. I decided then and there that the summer could not pass without homemade gelato or ice cream. My friend had the same idea. And guess what? Bloomies was having a one-day home sale the very next day. Can you believe how cooperative the universe can be? We both bought machines.

Eating the gelato at the farmers’ market reminded me of the spectacular gelato I had in Rome a few years ago at a gelateria near the Pantheon. I won’t be going to Rome for a while, so I decided to take my new macchina for a spin and try to recreate a coffee gelato. But then I was distracted by a bag of cherries and started thinking of all of the freshly made yogurt sitting in the fridge. So I made frozen yogurt and set aside the gelato project for the time being (with my new machine, there’s no end to where I’ll go with this.)

When I was ready to pit the cherries I rooted around for my cherry pitter in a drawer full of countless other useless gadgets I have purchased in weak moments. Then it came to me: Bing cherries are way too fat to fit inside the pitting end of the device. I resorted to splitting the cherries in half with my fingers, and if I held the cherries deep enough in the bowl to keep juice from splattering all over me and the surrounding walls, I found that a little squeeze (like pitting an olive, only gentler) released the pit. I have officially retired the cherry pitter and my conscience is clear. Perhaps if I had a sour cherry tree in my back yard or lived in Michigan, or maybe Poland, I would hang on to it. (Sour cherries are smaller, bright red, and very tart; they are the quintessential cherry pie cherry.) Another step accomplished in the eternal quest to simplify!

Oh, but though I have eliminated a cherry pitter, I have also acquired a yogurt maker and an ice cream machine, neither of which fit in a drawer. One step forward, two steps back.

In my first efforts at making this yogurt, I pitted the cherries and then used a blender to create a chunky puree before mixing them into the yogurt. This produced a grassy, herby, astringent dessert, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Even when I bumped up the sugar and added Amaretto, the yogurt just didn’t come up to expectations. Determined not to be defeated, I tried cooking a new batch of cherries and leaving them in pieces. Tah dah! It is really worth the extra effort to cook them BRIEFLY, until they come to a boil, no longer. The yogurt is chocablock full of juicy mouthfuls of cherry. And speaking of choc, you could add thin slabs of chocolate if you want to gild the lily.

Sweet Cherry Frozen Yogurt (Makes 1 quart)

1 pound unpitted sweet cherries (about 3 1/2 cups)

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons Amaretto (sweet Almond liqueur from Italy)

2  1/2 cups whole milk yogurt

1. With your hands deep inside a medium saucepan to catch the juices, pit the cherries with your fingers, tearing them in two or three pieces as you pit them. Discard the pits. (If using frozen, pitted cherries, cut them in half while still frozen.) Add the sugar to the saucepan and stir the mixture over medium heat until the cherries release their juice and the sugar dissolves. As soon as the syrup comes to a full boil, pour the cherries into a bowl. Stir in the Amaretto, and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until very cold, about 6 hours, or overnight.

2. Stir the cherries and their syrup into the yogurt. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

p.s. You could also fill popsicle molds with this mixture. The popsicles will be icy, not creamy, but very cooling on a hot day. (Take them out of the freezer and let them warm up for a couple of minutes, if you can stand the wait.)