Tart Wisconsin Cherry Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Chunks- and A Short History of Ice Cream.

Tart Wisconsin Cherry Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Chunks


Looking in my fridge today, I saw a bunch of fresh Wisconsin cherries and a carton of plain yogurt.  I threw in some chocolate, and this ice was born.  Best yet- no ice cream maker needed!


Cherry base

2-3 cups cherries (preferably fresh, but frozen will work, too)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Frozen yogurt base

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp cornstarch

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean, scraped)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

1 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli- something with at least 50-70% cocoa solids)


Nothing too fancy- a saucepan, metal baking sheet (preferably one with a sizeable lip), food processor and utensils.


1. Start by making the cherry base.  If using whole cherries, remove the pits.  I like to pit cherries by cutting each in half and twisting the separate halves apart (much like you do an avocado).  Discard the pit using either a small melon baller or your fingers (I use my fingers, I find it’s easier).  If you want to skip this step, you could use frozen, pre-pitted cherries.  I’d thaw them first before putting them into the syrup, just to be sure you maximize the amount of juice they release.  You don’t need to worry about slicing them thin because they will go into a food processor later.

2. Add the cherries to a non-reactive saucepan (i.e, non-copper or aluminum) with sugar, water and lemon juice.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring and mashing with a spoon periodically to extract as much juice as possible.

3. Remove from heat and pour directly onto a metal baking sheet.  Put directly in freezer. 

4. While the cherries and syrup freeze, start your yogurt base.  Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the beaten egg and corn syrup.  Simmer over low, stirring until the mixture thickens and coats a metal spoon- usually only 1-2 minutes.  Note: I once tried to do this with over low heat, rather than simmer.  I didn’t pay enough attention and my egg cooked.  I highly recommend a low simmer.

5. Remove from heat and cool.

6. While your yogurt base cools, start your double broiler, or heat some water over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Add chocolate to your broiler, or to a bowl above the hot water in the saucepan (do not let the bowl touch the water) to melt it.  Stir occasionally.

7. While the chocolate melts, add vanilla paste (or bean), vanilla extract and yogurt to your cooled yogurt base mixture.  

8. Remove the cherry base from the freezer.  It should be relatively frozen by now.  It’s okay if it’s mushy in spots- the mushiness actually lets you blend it easier.  Pour the yogurt mixture over the top of it and spread with a spatula.

9.  When your chocolate is fully melted, pour directly over the top of the yogurt base.  Don’t worry about it seizing- it is reacting with the moisture from the yogurt mixture.  Use your spatula (or your hands!) to mix the chocolate, yogurt and cherry syrup together.  You don’t have to be too precise.

10. Put in the freezer until it is solid- usually about 30 minutes.  Remove when no liquid remains in the pan.

11. Break up chunks with a spatula or wooden spoon.  If it’s too hard to break, leave it on the counter for a few minutes.  It will melt quickly.  Run chunks through a food processor, making sure it’s not too smooth.  You don’t want to lose the texture of the chocolate chunks and cherries. 

12.  Garnish with cherries, whipped cream or mint.  Serve immediately.

Shortcuts for this recipe: 

Combine the cherry base with high-quality store bought ice cream or frozen yogurt.  Add melted chocolate as above or mix in chocolate chunks (either bagged or broken off of a chocolate bar) after you run the mixture through the food processor.

A Short History of Ice Cream

Ice cream has been around for centuries.  The earliest ice creams are thought to date back to China, as early as 3000 BC- starting out as flavored ices.  These ices were made by packing a container of syrup into a combination of snow and saltpetre (potassium nitrate, a naturally occurring chemical compound that forms deposits on walls, rocks and within caves) to freeze.  This technology is rumored to have spread to Italy through Marco Polo, explorer of the Silk Road (a network of trade routes between Europe and Asia), in the 13th century, after Polo allegedly returned to his home country with a recipe closely related to what we know as sorbet.  It is also rumored this it was this recipe that evolved into ice cream as we know it today.  Many food historians debate the claim that Polo was involved in bringing sorbet to Italy, claiming instead that the Italians learned about sorbet, or sorbetto, from the Arabs (who learned from the Persians, who learned from the Chinese).  Sorbet is a frozen ice, similar in texture to ice cream, typically made from fruit purees and sweeteners that are slowly frozen while being churned. Unlike ice cream, it contains no dairy products.

It is rumored that Catherine di’Medici brought sorbet to France in the mid-16th century, where it then spread to England and elsewhere in Europe, but no evidence has been found to prove this.  The first recorded recipes for sorbet dates back to  1692, in the Treatise on Various Kinds of Sorbets, or Water Ices by Antonio Latini, a cook in the court of Philip IV at Naples, and detail how to mix sugar, salt, snow, lemon juice, fruit, chocolate, cinnamon water and other flavorings to make different sorbets.  It is in this short essay that we also see what can be regarded the first written ice cream recipe- a “milky sorbet”.  

Although the first recipe for “milky sorbet”, i.e., ice cream, can be traced back only to 1692, it is known that “one plate of ice cream” was among the dishes served at the Feast of St. George at Windsor (England) in May of 1671- supporting the theory that sorbet/ice cream making was being performed earlier in the 17th century.


The first known book dedicated to the craft of ice cream making was L’Art de Faire des Glaces (The Art of Making Ice Creams), published by an anonymous author.  Watermarks on the pages date back to circa 1700.  The book itself details how to prepare ice creams of apricot, flowers, chocolate, caramel and more.  At the time, floral ice creams (such as violet, rose, lavender and jasmine) were the most popular- most recipes started with the cook gathering fresh blooms or petals.    

The New World also embraced ice cream- the first mention of it in America is found in a letter from 1744, written by William Black, who had been served ice cream with strawberries as as dinner guest of the Maryland Governor William Bladen.  The first ice cream parlor in America opened in 1776, in New York City.  President George Washington spent nearly $200 on ice cream during the summer of 1790- an amount that would equal approximately $4,800 now.  Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for vanilla ice cream, written in his own hand, is on file in the Library of Congress (and can be viewed here).  

The Victorians were especially fond of ice cream- particularly when it came in fancy molds, known as “ice cream bombes”.  It was not uncommon for ice creams to be served in the molds of fish, ducks, turkeys, chickens, cauliflower, pineapple, and especially asparagus.  Victorians loved asparagus-shaped ice creams, and often tied bunches with ribbon:


Ice cream from an asparagus mold.
Ice cream from an asparagus mold. Typically vanilla ice cream was mixed with pistachio for green tips- although some adventurous cooks did use the juice of pureed spinach or asparagus to achieve their green coloring.

It was not until the mid-19th century that ice cream became more accessible to everyday Americans.  In 1843, Nancy Johnson, a New England housewife, was granted the first patent for a hand-cranked ice cream freezer.  Unable to produce and market the freezer herself, she sold the patent to a Philadelphia manufacturer who made enough to satisfy the growing demand. 

The first commercial ice cream plant in America was established in 1851 by Jacob Fussell, a milk dealer who wanted to prevent his product from souring.  He opened ice cream parlors all over the US, as far west as Texas.  He later sold the plant to Borden.  Other manufacturers followed, including Hood’s and Breyer’s.  

As time and technology progressed, we saw the invention of ice cream sodas, sundaes, sandwiches, cakes and more.  You can find frozen ices made from soy, cheeses such as ricotta and mascarpone, yogurt (greek and plain), and more flavors that you would really ever want to try (go here to see 101 of the worst).  

Now, horsemeat and ox tongue aside- what is the most popular flavor?  

Plain ol’ vanilla.


One Response to “Tart Wisconsin Cherry Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Chunks- and A Short History of Ice Cream.”

  1. Alberto Thebeau Says:

    Lots of Fantastic information in your blogpost, I bookmarked your blog post so I can visit again in the future, All the Best

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