Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tart Cherry Frozen Yogurt with Crispy Honey Cookies . . .

Summer--so they say--is briskly approaching, though I must say you'd never know it in south-eastern Michigan this week (please excuse me a minute while I stow away my soggy umbrella and put on a warm sweater). I'm giving this very rainy month of May the benefit of the doubt, though. It seems the least I can do. There are signs everywhere--unmistakable signs--that summer wants to arrive.

What kind of signs, you ask? Well, currently my favorite sign is a devoted mother robin. She built her nest in an ill-advised and completely unguarded location in a slim terracotta flower-pot, which hangs on the wooden fence that borders our driveway. After much quiet sitting on two lovely sky-blue eggs, her babies hatched a few days ago. This morning as I type, the chilly raindrops hammer her with no mercy, yet she remains huddled and completely still over her little birds. It seems she has the faith that she was born with, knowing without a doubt that warm weather is not far away. She's calm and hopeful. I choose to trust her instincts.

So, proceeding on the optimistic assumption that the days of hot sidewalks and lemonade stands aren't too distant, I've made a bright pink, tart-cherry, frozen yogurt. Yes, folks, 'tis the season to dust off your ice-cream maker and begin pondering the gorgeous possibilities for homemade summertime ice creams, sorbets, and fro-yos.

In scouting for the right recipe, I encountered several designed for use with fresh sour cherries; David Lebovitz, for example, has an easy formula in his valuable book, The Perfect Sccop. But I wanted one that called specifically for frozen cherries alone. Early in April, you may recall I mentioned having stumbled upon an extraordinary sale on frozen tart (aka sour-sour-sour!) Michigan cherries. I bought three large bags, used one of them to bake my son Charlie's 17th birthday cherry-lattice pie (which, by the way, was darn good), and stashed the rest in the freezer. Naturally, I wanted to use some of them again.

So, this week, I incorporated them into a cool, fresh, and appealing treat. The frozen yogurt recipe, which I've adapted here, was inspired by a recent post in a beautiful food blog called The Whole Kitchen.

My recipe differs from The Whole Kitchen's in that I used all frozen sour cherries, versus part sour and part sweet; I used superfine sugar instead of making a simple syrup; and I used Chambord raspberry liqueur instead of tequila as the minimal alcohol component. I also adjusted the ingredient proportions a tiny bit. The use of Greek style yogurt, which The Whole Kitchen recommends,  lends an especially pleasant creaminess that wouldn't be so evident with the use of a regular, lower-fat yogurt.

Speaking of cookies . . . 

And what goes better with a small scoop of something sweet and frosty than a charming cookie? Crunchy and wheaty without being overpowering, these lean happily toward the healthier end of the cookie spectrum.

I must admit that I love hard cookies that require a lot of chewing, something I may have divulged to you previously. I'm like a canine with a milk-bone dog biscuit that way. Can't help myself. The longer you bake these, the longer it takes to gnaw on them. (Not into gnawing? Want your cookies softer? Just take them out of the oven before they get too golden, and consider making them a little thicker to start with.)

The  recipe is one that I adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, a substantial and satisfying volume that I've mentioned before (most recently here, just a couple of weeks ago). I changed it up slightly by substituting a small amount of honey for some of the sugar, and instead of using all  whole wheat flour, which makes for a heavy duty cookie that doesn't always have broad appeal, I used about 60 percent whole wheat with white flour for the balance.

These cookies are rolled out and cut with cookie cutters, but the dough--which must be briefly chilled and is kind of sticky--is very forgiving and can accommodate a good bit of flour to make the rolling and cutting process pain-free.

Happy slurping and crunching! (And bring on summer, please!)

Tart-Cherry Frozen Yogurt

(For a printable version of this recipe, and the cookie recipe below, click here!)

1 cup fully frozen sour cherries
2 and 1/2 cups frozen sour cherries that have been mostly thawed
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups Greek style yogurt (I used Trader Joe's brand)
2 Tbsp. Chambord raspberry liqueur (or a comparable liqueur like kirsch, for eg.)
Fresh lemon juice to taste (I used at least 2 tsp., maybe more)

In the bowl of a food processor, puree all of the cherries along with the sugar; pulse a few times until well combined.

Add in the yogurt and pulse to combine. Then add in the liqueur and pulse to combine, and add the lemon juice to taste.

Pour the mixture into a container and cover it tightly. Chill it for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Prepare the frozen yogurt in your ice cream maker according to its specific directions. (In my ice cream maker, which is the Kitchen Aid attachment to my mixer, I slowly churned the chilled mixture for 30 minutes. Then I poured it into a glass container, covered it tightly with plastic wrap, and put that in the coldest part of my freezer for at least 24 hours to firm up. The yogurt was nicely scoopable and not too hard when I took it out of the freezer the next day.)

Crunchy Honey Wheat Cookies 

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup All-Purpose white flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter, sugar, honey, and salt, then add in the orange juice, vanilla extract, wheat flour, white flour, and baking powder.  Beat until well mixed.

Flatten the dough into 2 equal disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.

Taking one disk of dough from the fridge at a time, roll the dough out on a floured surface into a circle about 14" in diameter. Use cookie cutters to cut out any shapes you like. It's okay to roll and re-roll the dough scraps. Repeat with the second disk of dough, or freeze it dough for use another time.

Place the pieces on the cookie sheet; they can be fairly close together as they spread very little. Bake them for about 12 to 15 minutes or so, checking them early on. Reverse the tray from front to back in the oven after about 7 minutes for even baking. If you'd like crispier cookies, bake them longer, until they're quite golden. Let them cool on a rack.

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