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Try These Can't-Top Frozen Yogurt Topping Combinations

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Juilanne Hough has an idea for you. It's not about dancing, though the young dancer helped a number of celebrities take home the famed mirror ball trophy on ABC's hit show "Dancing with the Stars." It's not about singing either, though she's gone on to become a top country crooner.

It's about frozen yogurt.

Hough says she's "addicted" to frozen yogurt, particularly the offerings at the popular Yogurtland chain. However, she's just as creative in concocting her dessert as she was choreographing her dance moves.

Her favorite "fro-yo": The flavor of yogurt doesn't matter to Hough; it's the toppings that do the trick. She puts fresh strawberries and pieces of Heath candy bar at the bottom of the cup, a layer of yogurt, and then chunks of graham crackers in the middle. Following the next layer of yogurt, she adds more of the berries and candy bar pieces.

Hough's layering technique could be an inspiration to everyone. After all, there's no doubt that many of us are as crazy about frozen yogurt as she is. Yogurtland, Pinkberry and Menchie's, which all got their start in Southern California, are currently the national leaders in a frozen yogurt craze.

Yogurtland is set to grow to about 130 stores nationally by the end of the year, Menchie's has 100, and Pinkberry currently has about 90 stores and notes they are in growth mode, too, though won't divulge exact numbers to the press.

What at times seems in even more growth mode than the number of locations is the multitude of toppings available at such chains. In addition to multiple flavors of frozen yogurt, that's the real draw.

Everything from fresh fruit, chunks of popular candy bars, to kids' sweet dry cereals, to gourmet herbs and spices (like fresh chopped mint or rosemary and ground cinnamon or nutmeg) appear on the shops' counters.

Such gourmet touches are easy. Especially in the summer heat, why not think about setting up frozen yogurt bars at home for fun and quick entertaining? Like Hough does, encourage guests to create innovative layered treats.

Menchie's has so many toppings (about 50) that they are divided into three different bars — "snackage," "chill" and "hottie" — that separate them regarding to temperature. You could consider the same.

Here are some combinations worthy of mirror ball trophies created from toppings choices at the major frozen yogurt chains. Using vanilla frozen yogurt or the flavor called "original" at the chains is best to set off these tasty treats:

— Kiwi and peanut butter cup pieces at the bottom and top with cheesecake bits and caramel sauce in the middle. Drizzle caramel sauce and chocolate sauce lightly over the top before serving.

— Graham cracker crumbs, Cocoa Pebbles cereal and raspberries on the bottom and top with strawberries and blueberries in the middle.

Top with hot fudge.

— Nestle Crunch pieces, granola and cinnamon apples at the bottom and top with chocolate chip cookie pieces in the middle. Drizzle lightly with caramel sauce before serving.

After practice like that with store-bought toppings, you may be inspired to make your own treats. Adding ones like those that follow to your frozen yogurt toppings bar will be sure to draw plenty of attention.

Fresh figs are in season through October. This caramelized fig topping — that's accented with raspberry coulis — will probably make your own stock soar even higher than that of all of the emerging yogurt chain businesses.

CARAMELIZED FIG-RASPBERRY FROZEN YOGURT TOPPING

1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed

4 fresh figs, trimmed and halved lengthwise

1/2 tablespoon sugar

4 servings (preferably nonfat or low-fat) vanilla frozen yogurt

Yields 4 servings.

Preheat broiler.

Force raspberries through a fine sieve into a bowl to remove seeds. This creates raspberry coulis.

Sprinkle cut side of figs with sugar and place, sugared sides up, in a flameproof baking dish. Broil about 4 inches from heat until tops are bubbling and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.

Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons raspberry coulis onto each of 4 dessert plates. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of yogurt in center of each, then arrange 2 fig halves on top.

BLUEBERRY CRISP WITH OATMEAL FROZEN YOGURT TOPPING

3 1/2-pint baskets fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup sliced almonds

6 servings (preferably nonfat or low-fat) vanilla frozen yogurt

Yields 6 servings.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse blueberries. Drain, allowing some water to cling to berries. Place berries in 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and cinnamon; stir to blend. Let stand until sugar dissolves and coats berries.

Stir oats, flour, salt, and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar to blend in medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips or fork until moist clumps form. Stir in almonds. Sprinkle oat mixture evenly over blueberries.

Bake crisp until berries are bubbling and topping is golden, about 35 minutes. Serve warm over frozen yogurt.

— Bon Appetit magazine

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "Cooks' Books" column. To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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