I need to get something off of my chest: “I hate custards!”

Do I feel better now? No, not really since I still don’t understand them. They might as well have facial hair and the inability to read a woman’s mind.

Still, I love to daintily dip my spoon into one but can’t seem to reproduce its delicate consistency in my own kitchen. The latest failure resulted in soupy homemade ice-cream. And, while I can handle disappointments in the kitchen (I treat the yellow cake episode as an anomaly), I need to know why my dish crashed and burned so it doesn’t happen again.

In the case of my attempt at vanilla ice cream, I primarily blame the recipe and how my ingredients, stirred and heated, did not ultimately resemble custard. For 30 minutes, I hovered over my pot, whisking and waiting for the creamy liquid to reach the state where ice-cream expert David Lebovitz says it will “coat the back of the spoon.” At this point of the process I was rather unsure what his words meant. Were we talking a standstill coat or a sagging-off-of-the-spoon coat? I decided it was the latter and hoped it might set up in the fridge over night.

The next afternoon, my heart just about sank when I pulled the “custard” from its resting place to find it hadn’t coagulated into its signature gelatinous state. Bummer. I threw it in the ice-cream maker anyway – I am a glass half full kind of gal. Plus, I had baked a sheet of orange sugar cookie to pair it with for an ice-cream sandwich reminiscent of those 50-50 popsicles you bought at the snack bar behind the cafeteria at Gilbert Elementary or elsewhere.

I had just purchased a Cuisinart Classic Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker in Crush (I would argue that it’s more of a blueberry) at Sur La Table and thoroughly studied its instruction manual.  By the flimsy feel of the pamphlet, it’s clear that making ice-cream is not rocket science. The only crucial ingredient for that perfect pint is a completely frozen tumbler when ready to churn. After letting mine sit in the freezer for a day and a half, some liquid could still be heard sloshing around in its core.  I deduced that most of the container was frozen so it would probably be fine. Ha. I flipped on the switch, poured in my vanilla soup, and ate a cupcake while it spun for the prescribed 20-30 minutes.

Cupcakes from Ginger Elizabeth.

I kept a close eye on its progress and quickly concluded that it wasn’t going to swell with air. The cream just never iced. It got really really cold, and I suppose I could have slurped it up like a milkshake (it was still deliciously frothy cream!), but I had it in my head that I wanted an ice-cream sandwich.  I wanted it to turn out, dammit!

A few weeks later, my friend Rosa visited me in my new place, and we talked ice-cream while sizing up the kitchen.  We concluded, after comparing our own failures, that if there’s anything you need to get right, it’s ensuring that the machine’s container is frozen solid. No slushing allowed! And, wa’la, the second time I tried to turn out ice-cream, I got what I wanted.

But, I avoided the custard and went with a healthier frozen treat since lately I’ve been diverting time spent exercising to study for the LSAT. (That’s also why I haven’t written much here lately. But, I assure you I will be back!)

The recipe I tried and will share with you comes from Relish, which I get every first Wednesday of the month with my newspaper’s food section. It kind of reminds me of the Parade news weekly in that it is tabloid size and printed on newsprint as fragile as tissue paper, but it’s entirely devoted to food.

In one of the more recent issues, they offered some frozen yogurt recipes, including one for a mocha frozen yogurt. It really reduces ice-cream making to something that is a cinch, but that’s the beauty of it. If you are impatient, want to pretend you’re the Rachael Ray of desserts or if you’re on the outs with custards, then this is quite frankly, just an awesome recipe. You should have most of the ingredients in your cupboard already and a quick entrance and exit through your supermarket’s express lane for some vanilla yogurt and chocolate milk is all this requires.

It’s not the Haagen-Dazs of frozen yogurts, but pretty darn close if you ask my taste buds. They thought it was similar to its coffee flavored frozen yogurt. Maybe a tad more bitter than I would prefer, but that’s something you can tweak over time by experimenting with different types of instant espresso or coffee. I’m sure the Starbucks Via brand will produce something luxurious.

At any rate, I feel redeemed and can’t wait to try something more exotic once custards and I are on speaking terms again.

Café Mocha Frozen Yogurt

Adapted from Relish

The success of your frozen yogurt will greatly depend on the ice-cream maker you use. If you own a Cusinart like the one I recently purchased, I highly recommend cutting this recipe in half and making two batches. After 30 minutes, you’ll find that the mixture at the top will be soft serve and will turn to liquid as soon as you serve it into a bowl. The stuff toward the bottom is more like ice cream. Plus, depending on who you’re making this for, you or may not want 6 cups of mocha frozen yogurt. Finally, be prepared for the delicate consistency of homemade ice cream, it’s not like the stuff in your grocer’s freezer.

1 pint (2 cups) chocolate milk

2 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 tsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl, followed by the milk and yogurt. Churn frozen yogurt following manufacturers instructions. Serve immediately or transfer to a freezer container (I put mine in Tupperware and sealed it with plastic wrap to prevent any moisture from seeping in) and store in freezer.