Do you guys know what I miss the most about Florida besides family and friends, of course?
I miss summer afternoon storms. The whole drama of an impending weather disturbance, thunder, lightning, rain, and all.
The ominous lead-colored clouds swollen with water that roll in uninvited . . . The strong gusts of wind that sweep up the dry leaves into a rustling whirl dance . . . The air that is so heavy and tense it feels almost tangible . . . The quiet apprehension of the nature that braces itself for the impact . . .
But, above all, the fresh feeling that they leave behind. The smell of wet earth and growth. Arguably, my favorite smell ever.
It doesn’t rain in Reno. Much. Not what I was used to. Yes, we get some mist, maybe a few blobs here and there that the strong and speedy winds howling through the valley bring back from the distant Californian mountains.
Or maybe I just haven’t been at the right place and the right time yet. Renonians say high desert rains can be heavy but they are isolated. And scarce.
And so every summer afternoon as we move through one heat wave after another, with temps reaching triple digits, I gaze longingly out my kitchen window for a cluster of clouds in hues other than white to make its way down here.
But no, not today, and not today, and definitely, not today. Maybe tomorrow?
And then comes the hopeful, all-things-will-be-better, fixer-upper tomorrow. I see some clouds flock together—a palette of strong dark colors . . . An echo of thunder, a spark of lightning that I am able to catch from the corner of my eyes . . .
It’s 3 p.m., and it’s raining somewhere. In fact, it’s pouring cats and dogs in the mountains. They are getting rejuvenated in the refreshing waters of a summer afternoon storm . . . I am so jealous.
I glance at my digital thermometer that registers the outside temps. It flashes 108. I don’t think Nicole and I are venturing outside until dusk. We’ll find a way to stay cool and busy at home.
We decide to whip up a frozen treat. In fact, I’ve felt like frozen something ever since I got Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home a couple of weeks ago. Woven around a single science-backed technique outwardly into a myriad of season-inspired flavors, Jeni’s gorgeous book is a true eye-opener for anyone with a home machine.
Frozen yogurt seems like a good start to me; I am a big fan and endorser (on my daughter Nicole for the most part) of probiotics.
So mixed berry frozen yogurt it is. Cool, creamy, tangy, with swirls of lemon-kissed roasted summer berries. I have plenty of berries in my fridge from the last trip to the farmers’ market: juicy strawberries, earthy blueberries, velvet raspberries.
We are first going to roast them to bring out their natural sugars and deepen their unique flavors. About 20-25 minutes. Can’t forget to set the cream cheese out. I need it pliable. That’s like another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, let’s strain the yogurt. What? It’s gonna take 6 to 8 hours?? Didn’t see this one coming. Oh well. Thank goodness, the churning bowl is nice and frozen, sitting in the coldest part of the freezer already. I don’t think though an extra 24 hours would’ve made a big difference in this case.
Okay, we are looking at a bunch of time-consuming prep steps and a probability—as sure as me writing this post now—of not getting to eat the frozen treat until tomorrow afternoon. But it’s not like we are in any rush. Tomorrow will bring another sun-drenched, static hot summer afternoon in Reno, with not a promise in the sky.
Or will it??
Recipe for Mixed Berry Frozen Yogurt, adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
For the frozen yogurt base:
1. 1 quart plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt, strained through a cheesecloth for 2-4 hours
2. 1 ½ cups whole milk
3. 2 tablespoons cornstarch
4. 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
5. ½ cup heavy cream
6. 2/3 cup sugar
7. ¼ cup light corn syrup
For the mixed berry sauce:
1. 2 1/2 cups assorted ripe berries, washed and dried
2. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3. 4-5 tablespoons pure cane sugar, to taste
1. To make the sauce, arrange the berries on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast in a 350 oven until tender and fragrant, about 20 to 25 minutes; let cool.
2. Puree the roasted berries in a food processor with the lemon juice and sugar until smooth.
3. Force though a sieve to remove the seeds, if desired. Refrigerate until cold before using.
4. In a small bowl, mix about 3 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
6. Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling bowl over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture.
7. Return the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
8. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the 1 ¼ cups yogurt and blend well.
9. Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
10. Churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
11. As you pack the frozen yogurt into the storage container, alternate it with layers of mixed berry sauce; do not mix.
12. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
13. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.
Makes about 1 quart
1. If you decide to force the berry sauce through a sieve to remove the seeds, you’ll end up with just enough to layer through the frozen yogurt. If not, you might have some leftover. Refrigerate it for another use. Delicious over pancakes or crepes!