Big Little Recipes

Cookies & Cream Was Destined to Be Frozen Yogurt

August 18, 2020

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else—flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re taking a sweet trip down memory lane.

I don’t believe in picking a favorite ice cream flavor—too hard!—but, if you asked me as a kid, cookies and cream would have been up there. These days, though? It wouldn’t even make the list.

While my deep respect for ice cream has only grown over the years (especially when hot fudge is involved), my preference for flavors has pivoted—from sugar bombs like cookies and cream toward more intentionally bitter or puckery scoops such as coffee and lemon.

How could the same cookies and cream that once seemed so habit-forming, now come across as unbalanced or cloying? I did some digging. As NPR reports, “Scientific evidence shows that children...have a stronger preference for sugar than adults.” And so, for this week's Big Little Recipe, I developed a sneaky workaround.

To make something taste just as perfect as it does in memory, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you just have to appeal to your palette as it is now. In this case, that means not making cookies and cream ice cream, but cookies and cream frozen yogurt. Oh yes.

Photo by Julia Gartland. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Amanda Widis.

While custard-based ice creams tend to be on the richer end—what else do you expect from milk, cream, and sugar?—yogurt is creamy and tart and grassy. A just-right backdrop for chocolate sandwich cookies.

Even better: Frozen yogurt is easier to make. While ice cream can involve cooking an egg or cornstarch custard, frozen yogurt is as fuss-free as whisking together whole-milk yogurt, granulated sugar, and salt. I first learned this strategy from our Genius Recipes column years back, when Kristen featured a recipe from Max Falkowitz, who adapted his version from Ethan Frisch.

Once you get into this Big Little Recipe, you’ll stumble across a slightly zany method for prepping the cookies: Instead of chopping them all the same size (as many ice cream recipes with mix-ins instruct), you'll chop some in half, others in quarters, and others still in small pieces. Don’t skip this step—it’s worth it, yielding a creamy, dreamy cookies and cream broken up by big chunks, medium hunks, and lots of swirled crumbs in between.

And thanks to the textural contrast and puckery yogurt, it’s just as endorphin-inducing as I remember. Maybe even more so.

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

1 Comment

kag7235 February 23, 2022
Has anyone asked about using plain Greek yogurt? It's tangier and thicker. We usually have the non-fat variety. Maybe an issue without the fat? Also, what about using a sugar substitute? We really love Greek yogurt mixed with cubed frozen fruit and a bit of Splenda. (Frozen cubed strawberries and diced fresh banana is our current favorite. Others are frozen blueberries next, and also frozen cubed peaches with a splash of whipped cream just before eating!) The yogurt by itself with fruit usually thickens quite a bit just in the refrigerator, but looking for a way to take it up to that frozen desert level.