Not so any more. Automatic Ice Cream Makers are a popular wedding gift. Making homemade ice cream in one of those burns significantly fewer calories than in the old days. Nowadays, you make the ice cream base--which might be as simple as heavy cream, sugar and fruit for what is known as a Philadelphia-style ice cream--chill it, turn on the machine, pour in the ice cream base and walk away. Generally, it is a soft-serve consistency after 20 or 30 minutes of churning, so I transfer mine into a 1 quart container and store it in the freezer for about 2 hours to get it a little more scoop-able.
While ice cream in the grocery store--the kinds sold in 1.75 quart containers--averages about 8 grams of fat per serving (5 of them saturated), the homemade stuff--lacking the stabilizers in the commercial varieties--is closer in fat content to premium brands (the stuff sold in pint containers). It's delicious stuff, don't get me wrong, but it's a little too rich to be a frequent player in my menus.
Also, to get a creamier consistency and a fuller flavor than Philadelphia-style ice cream, you must make a custard base. Making a custard is really not a hard thing, but it does require some constant stirring, some extra chill time and it means washing a few more dishes.
Frozen yogurt, on the other hand, doesn't always require cooking to thicken the base, so the chill time is much less than that for ice cream.
Some people might chime in that yogurt is full of probiotics and is lower in fat and make all sorts of other health claims here, but I'm not into that. If you use a full-fat strained (aka Greek-style) yogurt or one made with 2% milk, you won't end up with a low-fat product. And you're going to need to add sugar, more sugar than you would if serving the yogurt chilled, so I don't think Frozen Yogurt really qualifies as a health food. Still it's nice to make it yourself, because you have control over the quality of the ingredients and the flavor and texture of the final product.
Frozen Yogurt Tips
- Use the sweetener you prefer. I use organic cane sugar. But if you want to sub in honey or another sweetener that's fine. Know that a liquid sweetener may result in a less thick/less scoop-able-after-frozen result. And remember that some sweeteners (such as honey and blue agave and any artificial sweetener) are sweeter than standard sugar.
- Want your yogurt sweet? Add more sugar (or other sweetener).
- Want your yogurt more tart? Add less sugar.
- Want it super creamy? Use strained whole milk yogurt.
- Want it lower in fat? Use a low-fat (non-strained) yogurt. But understand that with a lower fat content it will freeze up harder when stored in the freezer.
- Want bright-fruit flavor? Increase the quantity of fruit and scale back the quantity of yogurt (so as not to overflow your machine). Use up to 2 1/2 cups fruit to 3/4 cup yogurt. Scale back the sugar a bit too, to avoid overpowering the fruit's natural sweetness. With a lower fat content, this will freeze up harder.
- Want the fruit to be more of a flavor in the background behind the yogurt? Don't add more than 1 cup of fruit to 2 1/2 cups yogurt.
- Want it smooth and creamy? Eat it immediately after churning.
- Want it scoop-able? Freeze for a few hours before serving.
- To maintain scoop-ability for longer freezes, add a little alcohol to the yogurt before churning, about 2 tablespoons per quart. Use whatever you have on hand that might augment the flavor of the fruit. I usually choose rum.
This is a go-to recipe: equal parts fruit and yogurt plus just slightly less than half a part sweetener, so that it is easy to remember. Try it, then use the tips above to customize your homemade yogurt experience. Makes enough to fill a quart container and leave a little sample for the cook.
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, cleaned with tops removed
a splash of lemon juice
2/3 to 3/4 of a cup sugar
1 1/2 cups strained or whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons rum or other liquor, optional
In medium bowl or large glass measuring cup mix together strawberries, lemon juice and sugar. Taste for sweetness. Mixture should be fairly sweet, because the sweetness in it has to compensate for the tartness in the yogurt that you will add later. Also, be aware that when the mixture is frozen the sweetness is diminished slightly. Let sit at room temperature (or if you are in a hurry in the fridge) for about a half an hour or up to 2 hours.
Add yogurt. If you prefer a chunky yogurt, stir with a whisk. If you want the mixture smoother, blend about 30 seconds in blender. Add rum or other alcohol, if using, and stir or pulse to combine. (Understand that chunks of fruit will freeze very solidly, so if you plan on storing your yogurt longer than a few hours, expend the extra effort and use a blender.)
Freeze according to ice cream maker manufacturer's directions.
Peach Frozen Yogurt on Upstate California Kitchen Adventures.
David Lebovitz, author of The Sweet Life in Paris and The Perfect Scoop (yes, a cookbook all about frozen desserts), has some wonderful recipes and tips for homemade ice cream. I've included a link to The Perfect Scoop on Amazon below. Be warned: If you click on it to preview the book, it is highly likely that you will find yourself driving to the nearest bookstore to buy it today! Mouthwatering photography and superb recipes.
Coconut Pink Cherry Yogurt was the first frozen yogurt I ever made. It's a David Lebovitz recipe, but I found it at Smitten Kitchen. I made it for a group of 3- to 6- year olds. I was a bit worried that they would find it too tart, because real frozen yogurt is much tarter than the stuff in the frozen yogurt shoppes of the 1990s, but it didn't seem to be a problem. All four of them licked their bowls clean and the three-year-old proudly reported to her mom that it was, "PINK!!"
Don't have an ice cream maker in your garage? I've been very happy with my Cuisinart.