NomNoms! How to Make Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt

What an amazing week for science! The past 5-7 days have given us a fairly epic trifecta of scientific breakthroughs; a banner week for the discipline of physics if ever there was one. Aside from confirmation that the Higgs boson was detected at a 5+ σ level of confidence, we were treated to robots that could be directed and controlled solely by the power of thought AND the first real convincing "view" of a dark matter filament. It's more than a bit mind-blowing to think that we get to see these developments unfold in the course of our lifetimes (something that even Stephen Hawking didn't think was possible). Major kudos to all those researchers out there busting their humps and brushing off inquiries as to the timetable on the release of a flying car. You almost can't help but wonder what will come next...makes my squishy scientist heart go a little arrhythmic.

Aside from these dramatic exposés, there were literal fireworks as well, this being a holiday week here in the States.  The heat and humidity have been pretty relentless thus far this summer, which is more than slightly unnerving as both my most recent beach read and the book I'm presently working through have catastrophic global warming as a major thematic element (full review on the latter in an upcoming post!). Literary apocalypses notwithstanding, I've been quick to employ these steamy conditions as an excuse to do one of possibly the greatest things you can do as an adult: have ice cream for dinner.

Were it not for the limits of the human metabolism, I'd probably eat ice cream/frozen yogurt for the majority of meals from about April to October and then at intervals for the remainder of the year (oh yeah, crazy New Englander who eats ice cream in the winter = this girl) but, since I'd prefer not to be mistaken for a Hutt, I try to exercise a modicum of restraint when making meals out of frozen treats. One of the best workarounds I've come across to date is the brilliance of homemade frozen yogurt and, specifically, the recipe I'm about to share.

I'm a huge fan of frozen yogurt and honestly like it more than ice cream about 90% of the time, particularly since I procured an ice cream maker and began to experiment with both types of frozen goodness at home. After a trip with friends to a local Pinkberry, I became convinced that I could replicate the seasonal peanut butter flavor that we'd just sampled.  A few hours and some kitchen mad science-ery later...BEHOLD; a rich, creamy, deeply satisfying flavor that adroitly walks that delicate line between savory and sweet. Bonus: it's extremely easy to create, even if you don't have an ice cream maker. The Greek yogurt base paired with the essential proteins, minerals and fatty acids in the peanut butter make for a filling, nutritious treat that is sure to cool you off from the inside out. Without further ado: peanut butter frozen yogurt.

Difficulty: Noob
Availability of Ingredients: Most Common
Gadgetry: Optional
Feeds: 1-4 nerds
Time Till Noms: About 20 minutes if using an ice cream maker, about 60-120 if using other means.

Required Equipment: A large glass or metal bowl, a large spoon, measuring spoons, a spatula (and a whisk if not using an ice cream maker), an ice cream maker.
Optional Equipment: None

4 ingredients for frozen bliss
3-4 cups of non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3-4 rounded Tablespoons of smooth peanut butter

Yep, that's really it; just 4 ingredients. The above list is what I'd consider the maximum quantities for this recipe, which will make more sense in a minute.

Step 1: Scoop 3-4 cups of the Greek yogurt into your glass bowl, depending on how many nerds you're planning on feeding. Add a third to half of the 1/4 cup of sugar and approximately half of the teaspoon of vanilla extract to the yogurt, then stir these three ingredients together until the sugar has completely dissolved.

If your base looks like this you're ready for Step 3
Step 2: Scoop out 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter and stir them into the yogurt mixture until the former is uniformly distributed into the base.

Step 3: Sample your mixture. Since this is a yogurt and not a cream or custard based dessert, you have enormous flexibility as to the degree of tartness or sweetness the fro-yo will have. Following these steps exactly will produce a nutty, but somewhat tart yogurt than can be easily manipulated.

Step 4: Adjust your inputs to taste, mixing thoroughly so the dessert is as homogenous as possible. My personal favorite ratio is 3 cups yogurt to 3.5 Tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 teaspoon of extract, and just under 1/4 cup sugar. This will give you a balance that is just sweet enough to blot out the tartness of the yogurt and simultaneously allow the peanut butter to take the center of the Flavor Stage.

**If you have an ice cream maker, continue to Step 5. If you're doing this by hand, skip ahead to Step Ǿ.
Round and round it goes...

Step 5: Add your concoction to the chilled drum of the ice cream maker. Turn it on and leave it to churn for 18-20 minutes (time will vary slightly based on the model of your maker). Remove your freshly chilled noms from the drum and BOOM, you have yourself some dinner that your parents would never have allowed for!

Step Ǿ: Using your whisk, mix the ingredients together for 20-30 seconds, then put the entire bowl in the freezer. Wait 20 minutes, remove from the freezer and whisk again. Repeat this process until the yogurt takes on a semi-frozen state (it will be physically resistant to your mixing). Once the yogurt reaches this state BOOM, you have yourself some dinner that your parents would never have allowed for!

Best summertime meal ever

Some Recipe FAQs

Do I have to use Greek yogurt for this? Can I use other types of yogurt?
You could certainly use varieties of yogurt other than Greek, but I strongly recommend sticking with Greek (for this specific recipe anyhow). Greek yogurt is less tart than standard yogurt, more structurally sound than Kefir, Australian, or other semi-liquid yogurts, and is richer and creamier than skyr  (Icelandic yogurt). As peanut butter is somewhat savory, the tang of other yogurts tend not to mesh well with it. Furthermore, the balance of high protein content blended with a proportional amount of whey makes the Greek yogurt fabulously creamy, which enhances the overall experience when eating the results of this recipe.

Does it have to be non-fat yogurt?
Nope. You can use 2% or whole fat yogurt if you wanted to. However, the higher the fat content of your creation, the longer it will take to harden to the desired consistency. Fat is, of course, an insulator, whether subcutaneous or in your dessert. Also, there's a not-insignificant amount of fat in the peanut butter, which already lends a degree of richness to the recipe. It's your call though. If you use a higher fat yogurt, start with an extra 5 minutes of churn time if you're using an ice cream maker and add additional increments if needed.

There seems to be a whole lot of stirring going on here, even if I use a machine. Wouldn't it just be easier to pop the yogurt into the freezer and let it sit until it hardens?
Well yeah, that would be easier, but you'd most likely end up with subpar results. The stirring, or churning, process is a crucial step to making most types of frozen treats (ice cream, fro-yo, gelato, or sorbet) because doing so introduces air into the mixture. Why does that matter? A certain quantity of air in your product enhances the texture by keeping the ingredients in your base looser, which creates creaminess. Soft serve ice cream gets its consistency by having large amounts of air introduced during the churning process. This portion of air is called overrun in the frozen dessert industry and is expressed as follows:

% Overrun = (Volume of Churned Base-Volume of Unchurned Mixture)/Volume of Unchurned Mixture x 100[i]

Cheaper desserts tend to have very high overrun percentages (90% or more) while so-called premium desserts have average overruns between 20-30%, as the latter tends to rely on added butterfat for texture. Bottom line: if you want to have a nice, creamy dessert not filled with icy shards then there's going to have to be some form of stirring involved.

Is the vanilla extract necessary?
The vanilla extract has a two-fold purpose: 1) to act as a flavor booster for the peanut butter and 2) to temper the freezing process. The second entry on that short list is critically important for the creation of all frozen goodies. The alcohol in the extract allows the mixture to harden, but not crystallize, as it has a lower freezing point than the water in the base. You can use any clear alcohol (I recommend rum) as a substitute if you're not a fan of vanilla.

As with all the recipes on here, I encourage experimentation to get the best possible experience tailored to your individual tastes. Best of luck with your kitchen adventures and beating the heat!

[i] From the University of Guelph Department of Dairy Science and Technology

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