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Caramel Apple Frozen Yogurt and a Lesson in the Art of Apple Growing from Tree Top

A few months back I had the privilege of flying west to the great state of Washington and spending a couple whirlwind days with the amazing people at Tree Top apple juice.    I have to say, I always enjoy these adventures when they’re presented to me.  The generosity of the people sponsoring the event never fails to astound and the education you come away with is something you could only garner through viewing the process straight from the source.  This trip was certainly no exception.

Upon the conclusion of the BlogHer Food conference (another great event with amazing people I might add), we were whisked away by our Tree Top hosts for a breathtakingly beautful drive through the Cascade mountain range on our way to Lake Chelan.  Never before have I seen such awe-inspiring views as I did on that ride.  I would have shot more pictures but the swirly mountain drive had more than one of it’s guests a little off kilter in the motion department.  Along the way, I had the privilege of sharing the experience with some amazing fellow bloggers and even got to pick the brain of a published writer, Kim Sunée, who joined us on the adventure.  If you haven’t checked out her memoir, Trail of Crumbs, you really need to.  She’s an incredible woman with quite a story to share.

After settling into our hotel for the evening, we began the event at one of the many orchards in the Tree Top co-op where we learned about the growing, picking, and processing of Washington state apples.

I was surprised to learn that it takes a whopping 20 apples to create one container of apple juice!  I also found it interesting that Tree Top doesn’t just harvest apples.  They also work with cherry, peach and pear growers.

Tree Top CEO Tom Stokes

And here’s a pretty cool tidbit of information:  If it rains on the cherry groves within the week of picking, the entire harvest can be ruined because the water will seep into the cherries and cause them to crack open from the pressure of all the moisture.  So how do farmers remedy this problem?  With a fleet of helicopters that are on standby of course.  In the event of rain they will actually fly helicopters out to the groves and hover them a handful of feet above the water laden trees in order to “blow” all the rain off the fruit and attempt to save them before the water can make it’s way in.  Let me just say, I’d like to see that event in action!

After our tour of the orchards we made our way to Benson vineyards for a sampling of amazing Washington state wines and a dinner worth savoring and remembering.

Just look at all those wine glasses!  There was a pairing with every course.  Being pregnant put a bit of a damper on my wine drinking, but I did manage to sneak a sip of one or two just to say I did.  Shhh… don’t tell anyone.

Upon returning East, I was provided with a generous supply of yummy Tree Top treats including of course, apple juice.  I wanted to put together a recipe that would highlight the natural flavors of the apples and do justice to the amazing generosity that was shown to us over the time spent with our gracious hosts.

In all my estimates, this frozen yogurt surely fits the bill.  Created with a healthy pour of apple juice and a dabble of caramelized sugar, it brings to fruition a delightfully sweet treat with a taste of autumn harvest Washington apples in every bite.  I hope you’ll savor it as much as I have.

To freeze up a batch for yourself, you’ll begin with a half cup of sugar tossed into a large frying pan.

Heat it up over a medium flame until it turns into a caramely delight of golden brown liquid.

Ok, here’s where it starts to get good.   Pour in a cup of heavy cream and a glug of apple juice.  Note that it will hiss and spit at you like an angry cat being threatened with an invidious teeth cleaning and the sugar will probably harden back up again as the temperature drops from the cooler liquid additions.

Have no fear.  Just let it sit on the heat for another few minutes and give that sugar a chance to warm back up.  It will melt back into the liquid and leave you with pure apple caramel gold.

Once you’ve incorporated the sugar back in, turn off the heat and drop in a little vanilla, cinnamon and salt.

Finish it off with a spill of milk and cup of plain yogurt.

Pour the ice cream base into a covered container and let it cool completely in the fridge for at least four hours. Now while you’re waiting you can grab up a fresh mug of steaming hot coffee, grab your latest good read and find a comfy chair in a quiet clean corner of your cozy abode.

Ok who am I kidding, the kitchen looks like a tornado blew through it, the laundry’s not folded and the cat is still running around hissing and spitting in protest at the apparent mention of a teeth cleaning.   Thank goodness there’s a bowl of homemade ice cream at the end of the tunnel.

One more note of mention… you’ll notice that I’ve added the optional addition of 2 tablespoons of vodka to the ingredient list below.    The reason this is listed isn’t so much for adult pleasure as it is an effective way to help keep your ice cream soft once it’s been sitting in the freezer for a day or two.  As we all know, homemade ice cream can have a tendency to become rather hard once it’s spent a bit of time in the icebox.  Adding the alcohol will aid with this issue and keep your finished product a softer, more creamy consistency.  If you’re not comfortable adding it in, that’s absolutely ok.  Simply allow a little extra time for it to soften on the counter before serving it up to family and friends.

Once you’ve hit the chilled and ready mark with your base, simply pull it out of the fridge and process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers directions.  Grab up a spoon  and bowl (or if you’re like me indulge straight from the bucket) and enjoy the simple pure pleasure of your apple inspired homespun sweet treat.

Caramel Apple Frozen Yogurt

Yield: approx. 2 Quarts of Ice Cream

Total Time: 5 hours

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Apple Juice
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Cup Plain Yogurt
4 Oz (1/2 Cup) Evaporated Milk (Can sub regular milk)
2 Tbsp Vodka (Optional to help with softness of ice cream)

Directions:

Begin by heating up the sugar in a large saucepan on medium high heat until it caramelizes and turns a dark brown liquid.

Add in the heavy cream followed by the apple juice. Note that the mixture will boil and the sugar will reharden.

Continue to cook the caramel until all the hardened sugar reheats and dissolves back into the liquid.

Remove from the heat and add in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt.

Add in the yogurt, evaporated milk and vodka if desired.

Cover and place in the fridge to cool completely; at least 4 hours.

Once chilled, add to a prepared ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers directions.