Ingredients for Success
When it comes to frozen desserts, what you put into it is what you get out of it. The better ingredients you use, the better your result will be, so use the best quality ingredients you can. Your efforts will be rewarded in fantastic flavor!
Fresh Fruit and Berries
If the recipe calls for fresh fruit, please think twice before substituting canned or frozen; the results will not be the same. For berries, purchase locally (or pick your own, if you can) for the most flavorful results; in season is best, and backyard is better. Shopping at a farmer's market is a wonderful way to support your local community, as well as to ensure that you get the tastiest and ripest fruit available.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder simply means that the cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali to reduce the acidity. The process makes the color a bit darker, and the flavor is more mellow than natural cocoa powder. Many brands are available, from Hershey's, found in most groceries, to Valrhona, an exceptional quality recommended by numerous chefs.
The heavier the fruit feels, the juicier it probably is. Allow citrus to come to room temperature before attempting to squeeze for fresh juice: You'll get more return on your investment. Rolling an orange or lemon on the counter with a little palm pressure will also help release juices before squeezing.
High-quality chocolate can be expensive, but once you've had it, you'll appreciate the difference. Companies such as Scharffen Berger and Ghirardelli offer excellent chocolates for the price, and they are readily available in most supermarkets.
When milk is called for in a recipe, whole milk should be used. If you must, substitute 2%, but expect possible faults. In no instance should 1% or skim milk be used. Condensed milk and half and half are also used in some recipes. These should not be substituted for other ingredients.
Heavy or double cream should be used when cream is called for. The high milk fats create a more delectable, rich, and creamy result.
Standard white granulated sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, and powdered sugar, also known as confectioner's sugar, are used throughout this book. A few recipes will call for specialty sugars, such as unrefined or super fine sugar, available at many large grocers or specialty food shops. Other than swapping out dark for light brown sugars, you should not substitute one variety for another. Measure white sugar simply by scooping, but brown sugars should be packed tightly for measuring.
Some ice cream recipes may call for the zest of citrus fruits and the sugar to be pulsed in a food processor, but a similar and effective method is to use your fingers. Simply add the zest to the sugar, and continue to knead and squeeze the mixture until the zest has released its scent and become a part of the sugar. Then continue with the recipe as directed. This method is also very useful when making baked goods, such as pie crusts, where you may like a little extra kick of flavor.
Agave, Splenda, honey, and stevia are all sweeteners used in some recipes for special diets. If you are comfortable using another artificial or natural sweetener, experiment as you see fit. While a few of the recipes included in the sugar-free chapter do not contain refined sugars, please note, agave nectar, fruits, and honey still have sugar. They make for a healthier substitute for sugar, as they are natural, but those on a restricted diet should consult with a doctor before adding such ingredients to their own diet.
Both plain yogurt and Greek yogurt are used in this book. For recipes calling for Greek yogurt, Oikos brand was used, though there are many other acceptable brands on the market. You can certainly experiment, opting to change plain for Greek and vice versa. Sour cream can also be used in a pinch, cup for cup. Greek yogurt, even nonfat or reduced fat, is thicker, making it ideal for frozen desserts. Use caution if substituting nonfat or reduced-fat regular yogurts in recipes calling for Greek yogurt, as the liquid content can result in a less-than-desirable consistency.
Flour is required for the cakes, cookies, and brownies found in this book. Most recipes will call for all-purpose flour, though whole-wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of the all-purpose if desired. To measure, sift the flour first, then scoop and level, without packing it down.
Recipes were tested using large eggs, available in all groceries. You can find cage-free, organic, white, brown—use any variety you wish.
Mint, basil, lavender, and other herbs are used throughout this collection of recipes. Unless otherwise noted, assume fresh herbs are being used, and not dried. Most, if not all, are available in most chain grocery stores in the produce section. They are also quite easy to grow in your own garden or in windowsill pots for year-round enjoyment.
Vanilla is the most common flavoring in this book. When a recipe calls for vanilla extract, use extract, not imitation flavoring. Vanilla beans are also readily available in most supermarkets, though they can be found at very good prices in many online shops.