Sunday, May 17, 2009

Experiments with Yogurt

A few weeks ago this article about yogurt appeared in the New York Times. It caught my eye and reminded me of the days when we used to make yogurt. Back in the days when I actually cooked.

Back then we had a yogurt maker like this one, the purpose of which is to keep the yogurt at the right temperature for a long time. It does not, however, heat, mix or chill the yogurt making it a one trick pony with expensive jars.

After mulling it over for a few days I decided to give the method in the Times article a shot. I heated a quart of milk, cooled it back down to the right temperature for the bacteria to do their thing, and added a few tablespoons of my favorite yogurt (Greek Goddess, non-fat).

I did as instructed and swaddled it in towels and left it for about 6 hours, chilled, and tasted. Yum! A bit loose, though, so I strained it in a Melita coffee filter until it was just right. Even better!

That batch yielded about 3 cups (maybe 2.5) for the quart and I gobbled it up in less than a week.

The following weekend I tried again with a gallon of milk. This took a long time to heat and, due to a longer fermentation time (I forgot about it and it went about 12 hours), it yielded a grainy, very thick yogurt (after a very brief straining), though still tasty. I still have some at work stuck in the bottom of a mason jar.

Last weekend was the third try and you know what they say about the third time. This time I used Stonyfield yogurt as the started and only let it ferment about 4-5 hours. Must I say it? This batch was the best! I strained it a little to thicken it somewhat but the texture was pudding like and just beguiling. I used my new, huge, strainer and had a fair amount of the yogurt escape with the whey, so I restrained the whey with the gold melita filter and used the really fine yogurt for our first experiment with frozen yogurt.

Little Squid and I took the fine yogart and combined it with some maple syrup and froze it.

Wrong move! It turned into a solid slab of icey mapley yogurt. I threw it in the food processor and ate it as a granita. Yummy but not scoopable and not what we were aiming for.

Yesterday we took 3 cups of the remaining yogurt and added about a cup of maple sugar granules that we acquired during our visit to Canada last summer. I ground it up a bit to get some of it really fine and left the rest in chunk form to add some texture. Then we tossed it into the ice cream maker which I had dug out of the recesses of several cabinets. (Its parts were scattered hither and yon.) The initial result, right out of the maker, was good but a bit sweet. It had, however, that great tang of real yogurt and was definetly a Pink Berry contender. There was a bit of a panic moment when, after several hours of freezing, it looked like it was a solid brick, but a bit of power on the ice cream scoop served to extract real, almost scoop like, portions. The general consensus is that it is good, but as previously determined, a little too sweet,

Last night I finally watched the episode of Good Eats on yogurt and, following Alton's recommendation, set more yogurt up to strain for yogurt cheese with which to make frozen yogurt. I was going to use corn syrup to sweeten it but with only dark syrup in the house we decided to go for plain.

There is a reason why frozen yogurt is sweetened.

Mike had some of it for dessert and agreed that even with fresh pineapple on top it needed sweetening.

All of that said, I am now almost out of yogurt and am now in the process of making another batch. We'll experiment some more with the frozen side of it next weekend. This batch is destined for breakfast.


Kristen said...

Thanks for the additional yogurt info. In the year since I started making yogurt (with a machine) I don't think there have been 2 batches the same. I keep changing the variables and then forget what I did. I'm going to try the strainer method because I prefer it thick. Lately it has been more soupy (though good) so I've been stirring it into muesli.

knitseashore said...

It sounds like you and Little Squid are enjoying experimenting with the yogurt. I don't know very much about it, but I wish you well in your frozen yogurt experiment!

Penny said...

Hmm.. I might have to find an excuse to stop by. That sounds YUMMY!!