Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Life is Just a Bowl of...Cherry Garcia?

Forgive the obviousness of the title. Clearly the brain freeze that comes from nearly non-stop ice cream making (and eating) is getting to me, stifling my creativity for writing perhaps, while vehemently fanning the flames of an undying obsession. Let this also serve as my excuse for not posting in over a week, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me when you taste my latest creation. Well, my homage to a classic Ben & Jerry’s creation really. One inspired by the bountiful red cherries of the summer season.

When it first occurred to me to turn those ruby colored, jewel-like fruits into ice cream I decided to take my search online to find a published recipe for Cherry Garcia. I was disappointed to find that none of the recipes started with a cooked custard base, something I’ve extolled the virtues of before and have become almost evangelical about. I’m convinced it’s the only way to get that densely rich, über-creaminess that is paramount in great ice cream. So, heaving a heavy sigh I decided the only thing to do was to write a recipe of my own.

And so the journey began. As is my creative process, my kitchen cupboards were soon plastered with post-it notes filled with my nearly indiscernible scrawl as I mixed, whisked, scalded and stirred my way to the perfect custard base. Too many egg yolks and the ice cream tastes “eggy.” Too few and it’s not dense enough. 7 egg yolks I decided were the perfect amount. Now it needed just the right hit of sugary sweetness. I added sugar starting with less, tasting and adding more as I went until I’d achieved the perfect balance of sweet but not cloying. Whenever I write a recipe the biggest challenge is remembering to scribble down each addition on those post-it notes as I go, before I forget what I’ve done. As you can surely imagine this becomes an even bigger challenge when I’m writing cocktail recipes, but I’ll get to that another day. I decided that a bit of black cherry preserves would be just the thing to give extra cherry flavor and a rosy blush to the ice cream base. When I was satisfied with the proportions of tart and sweet I whisked the cream into very soft peaks and folded it into the cooled custard. This extra step of lightly whipping the cream only adds to the dreamy, cloud-like texture that is both light and dense at the same time. A culinary contradiction of the fondest sort!

After a 25 minute whir in the Cuisinart, the ice cream was at the glorious soft serve stage. This is exactly when you want to mix in the cherries and chocolate and where I stand hovering over the ice cream maker, spoon in hand, greedily shoveling big mouthfuls of the frozen ambrosia. I heave another heavy sigh, but this time it's full of deep and utter satisfaction.

Ah yes, life is indeed a bowl of Cherry Garcia.

Homemade Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia
(With Two Flavor Variations)

Densely rich, über-creamy and studded with bits of fresh cherries and dark chocolate. Enough said.

Makes a scant 2 quarts

1½ cups whole milk

7 large eggs yolks

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons black cherry preserves

1½ cups heavy cream, lightly whipped

4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

Heat the milk in a pan, and while it’s getting warm, beat together the sugar and egg yolks and vanilla extract in the bowl of a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and falls back on itself in a ribbon, about 3 minutes. When the milk is just below the boil slowly drizzle it in a thin and continuous stream while whisking briskly so the egg is gradually warmed up. Return everything to the saucepan and cook while stirring with a wooden spoon. Make sure that you are constantly scraping the spoon across the bottom of the pan so the custard does not scorch. The custard is done when it has thickened slightly and can evenly coat the back of the spoon and when you run your finger along the back of the spoon and it holds the “line.” Don’t let the mixture come to a boil, or it may curdle.

Strain the custard into a metal bowl through a fine sieve to remove any bits of egg and stir in the black cherry preserves. Nestle the bowl of custard into a large bowl of ice water to cool more quickly. I do this because I’m incredibly impatient, but you could just put the whole thing in the fridge to cool completely. Lightly whip the cream until it holds a very soft peak and fold into the cooled custard. Continue stirring occasionally until mixture is cold, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is almost finished churning add in the chopped chocolate and the cherries to combine. Put the finished ice cream in a storage container and freeze until firm.

*Variations: This basic ice cream recipe is so versatile that you can add any flavor combinations you like to the base. Below are two of my favorites.

Toasted Coconut: Substitute 1 (15 ounce) can Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut (NOT coconut milk!) in place of the cherry preserves and 1 cup sweetened toasted coconut in place of the cherries and chocolate.

Peanut Butter Cup: Substitute 1 cup creamy peanut butter in place of the cherry preserves and 1 bag of Reese’s mini peanut butter cups, chopped, in place of the cherries and chocolate.

Print Recipe


  1. OK, you are now so my hero! I lovvvve Cherry Garcia. I'm not an ice cream maniac, but this is my Waterloo. And we just purchased the ice cream maker you recommended earlier. My hubby (who is really the ice cream freak) made the first batch on Sunday and he is smitten. Now I am going to have him make this! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Cherries and chocolate in an ice cream!!!! I love it. I love "Mon Chéri": little chocolate candy with a cheery and kirsh inside (I can eat all the box!)Do you know ?

  3. David, you mentioned adding the preserves for color. Is this why you added them before straining? I'm thinking the extra bits of cherry would be nice.
    I have the old Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream "cookbook," and I must say that your rendition looks far superior to theirs!
    I've got the base for Elise's Blueberry Frozen Yogurt ready to freeze this morning, but I just bought some cherries yesterday, so this is next!

  4. Hi P-

    Thanks for the compliment and you're right, I did write the recipe in such a way that it seems I strained the custard after I'd added the preserves. In fact, that is a mistake. Thanks for catching that. When I made the ice cream I strained the custard and THEN added the cherry preserves so there were extra bits of cherry in the ice cream. You can actually see them in the picture of the custard with the whisk in it. Let me know what you think of the recipe. Happy churning!


  5. YUM! I like the sound of this!! WOWWW Great site! and awesome photos! :)

  6. WOW that looks great. Just got the ice cream attachment for the kitchen aid and am looking forward to adding this to the list of must makes!

  7. I love your site- your photos are beautiful!

  8. Oh lawd - no you diddn't!

    This looks great. I must try. Especially considering that cherries are on sale for $1.50 at my local grocer this week.


  9. ok. you've sealed it for me. it's time to get an ice cream maker. stat.

  10. Very impressive! This makes me want to get out the ice cream maker and have at it. Your photos are lovely too.

  11. I should get an ice cream maker.This looks awesome!I found you from the foodieblogroll and I'd love to guide foodista readers to your site if you won't mind.Just add your choice of foodista widget to this post and it's all set to go, Thanks! Alisa@Foodista

  12. I have to make this! I love cherries and this sounds delicious. My favorite brand of cherry preserves is 'Favorit' from Switzerland.

  13. David, this was every bit as good as I thought it would be, and yes, it far surpassed the "original" recipe. I can't wait to try your variations, and to use your technique for other favorite recipes.

  14. I'll forgive you the title, but only if you give me a bowl of that cherry Garcia.

  15. I love cherries, have to try this one!

  16. This is a fantastic blog!! I love title of your blog, so funny : )

  17. My boyfriend would MELT in joy if I made this. I've never tried home made ice cream, but your recipe sounds divine!

  18. Congratulations on the recipe and your blog is rich in content.

  19. Oh, bloody hell...I'm in love...you're lovely n'all, but it's not with you,it's with that ice cream. I should have thought of this before; crepes, cherries and ice cream are a favourite; putting the cherries IN the ice cream makes perfect sense...hmmm...crepe flavour? Nah....hmmmm. ;O) x

  20. methinks there are some folks in vermont who're probably pretty mad at you right now for improving upon one of their money-makers. bravo, and i must say, you've won my heart with that coconut variation--fabulous! why isn't coconut ice cream more prevalent? it's a travesty.

  21. This looks amazing and I would love to have some now!

  22. i discovered your site a few months ago and have made some of your recipes (like the carbonara) but where have you gone? no new posts in a month!

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  24. I've been trying my hand at ice cream making for about a year now. I have like many of them, but my husband hasn't cared for any until I made this one. Now he keeps asking when I am going to make it again! It was fabulous!