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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Homemade Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Since we are smack-dab in the middle of summer here in Sacramento, and the temperature has started to skyrocket, I find myself craving ice cream nearly all the time.  AND I've decided not to feel guilty about it.  You see, ice cream is not meant to be just an after-dinner treat.  When Ty and I went to Peru a few years ago, I remember 10am and 2pm being appropriate times to enjoy an ice cream cone out in the plaza- not just for us, but for all the local kids...and businessmen.  It was like clockwork.  The ice cream carts were busier than I've ever seen them here in Sacramento, and no one looked like they felt guilty about indulging in an after breakfast/lunch dessert.  There is nothing quite like sitting on a park bench on a breezy midmorning watching adults walk around with ice cream cones in their hands and smiles on their faces.

So why, oh why, can't I?

Tyler brought home two bags of fresh cherries the other day, which prompted me to experiment in making my favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor and discover how it stands up to the original.  The result: very satisfied! This recipe is EASY and delicious- and not terrible for you.  If you want to go all out and experience a much richer, creamier texture, you can always sub in more cream for the half and half/milk portions- it's up to you. 

Homemade Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

3 c fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1 1/4 c sugar, divided
4-5 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 c milk
1 c heavy cream
1 3/4 c half and half
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 12 oz bar of dark chocolate (I used 70% dark, but you can use your favorite)

In a small bowl, combine the cherries with the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Stir gently and allow the cherries to macerate in the juices for at least 3 hours (overnight if you can wait that long).  Gently mash the cherries with a fork or potato masher, then strain, reserving the juices.  Take about 1/3 of the cherries and puree them with a blender.  Set juices, halved cherries, and pureed cherries aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixter on low to combine the milk and remaining sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.  Stir in heavy cream, half and half, vanilla, cherry juice, and pureed cherries.

Chop the chocolate into chocolate-chip sized chunks, no bigger or it could ruin your machine.  Set aside.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream machine* and let it do it's thing.  Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the halved cherries and chocolate chunks.  Mix-ins should be completely incorporated before stopping your machine.

*Make sure to follow your ice cream machine's directions for mix-ins and quantity.  This recipe makes about 7 cups of ice cream, so double check your machine's specs before you start!

For firmer consistency, transfer to a freezer-safe container for at least 2 hours to set.  Or enjoy right out of the machine, like I did.  Yummy!

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