Best yogurt recipe so far
I've been experimenting with homemade yogurt for about a year, and today's bIatch was the best so far.
3 quarts milk
1 quart almond milk
60g unflavored, undenatured whey protein
1/3 cup live culture yogurt or powdered starter (I always use yogurt from the previous batcht or chobani or oikos, plain).
I combined the first three ingredients in the crockpot, using a whisk. Heat the milk until it's bout 185 degrees ( about 3 hours on high in my crockpot). Cool to about 110 degrees ( anywhere between 95 and 115 is fine ). Whisk in live yogurt or starter.
Wrap crockpot in a big towel, set on a heating pad set on low for 4 to 12 hours (or until desired thickness and flavor, up to 24 hours).
I have been wanting, for years, to try my hand at making my own yogurt. I swear, my family eats $20 a week in yogurt, at least! Thanks for sharing your recipe!
What kind of heating pad? That part has always messed with my head. :)
I may try without the heating pad, because I've seem several youtube videos from yogurt makers who omit that step (they say the towel alone is enough).
Some of these yogurt makers don't even use thermometers. You heat the milk until it starts to get foamy, but doesn't quite boil (if it actually boils and foams over, it doesn't ruin the yogurt, you just waste some of the milk).
You can heat the milk in a microwave or on the stove and instead of a crockpot use a large glass bowl.
Then when the milk is comfortable to the touch (warm, but not hot) you add the live culture yogurt. Exact amounts aren't really important, because for 2 quart batches, I've seen yogurt starter recommendations from 2 teaspoons to one cup.
Then you wrap the bowl in a thick towel or two, and just let it sit. Without the heating pad, the yogurt will still culture, it will just take a little longer.
The longer it cultures outside of the fridge, the tangier the yogurt, so I like to use the heating pad because it cultures faster and I can usually put the yogurt in the fridge after only a four to six hour culture (that's four to six hours after adding the starter).
Every time I make yogurt I debate whether or not to use the heating pad, but I try not to change more than one variable with each experiment. Since the almond milk was a new addition, I decided to keep everything else, including the heating pad the same.
A lot of recipes call for powdered milk to make a thicker yogurt (usually about 1/4 to 1/3 cup per half-gallon of milk), but I decided to try the undenatured whey protein, because it's higher in protein (and it's the denaturing of the milk proteins that cause the thickening - heating is what denatures the proteins and thickens the yogurt). The protein powder is higher in protein (which is good for my carb-restricted diet) than the milk powder, and it also dissolves better (but to dissolve well a whey protein has to be undenatured. Once it's denatured, it's hard to dissolve).
Instant milk does work well, but I find it's harder to get it to dissolve completely, so it sometimes leaves clumps in the yogurt (like small bits of cottage cheese - not an unpleasant taste or texture, but it doesn't look as pretty).
I get my undenatured whey protein from a local cheesemaker, but Nectar brand is made with undenatured whey (I think their unflavored variety is called Nectar Medical, though vanilla would probably work in a pinch).
The whey or milk powder really isn't necessary, it just adds thickness and some protein to the yogurt. The yogurt tastes just as good without it, but I like a thicker yogurt, and the whey protein seems to work a bit better than the milk powder. I would guess though that normal whey powders would work, but would be as likely (or more so) to clump as the instant milk powder.
Some people add gelatin as a thickener, but I've not tried that.
I've seen recipes for almond milk and coconut milk yogurt (the main difference is that these milks don't have to be heated to near-boiling, they just need to be heated to about 100 degrees), but I've been hesitant to make a completely non-dairy yogurt. Adding some almond milk to the milk seemed like a comfortable compromise.
I'm thinking of trying my next batch with a blend of milk and coconut milk. Coconut milk is very high in fat, so I think I would probably use skim milk or 1% as a base. I've made yogurt with skim milk, 1%, 2%, whole, and a mixture of whole milk and cream (after I found a low-carb website recommending making yogurt with whole milk or cream, argueing that it's more filling).
I would agree that the high-fat yogurt is more filling (with a more decadent mouth-feel) but it wasn't noticeably better tasting than whole-milk yogurt, so I haven't repeated that experiment. Now I usually use 2% or whole milk.
I believe I made my first batch of homemade yogurt in May or June of last year, and I have only bought store-bought yogurt a few times (usually to use as starter).
It took me a while to feel confident enough to use my own homemade yogurt as a starter. Now I always take at least a half cup of yogurt out of each new batch to start the next batch. It can be frozen, and thawed in the fridge before using. I was hesitant to use frozen yogurt as starter, but it works great (though for the first few times I bought a plain Chobani as a backup in case the frozen starter didn't work).
That's what's also great about making homemade yogurt. If your milk doesn't thicken at all (because you've killed your starter - usually because the milk hadn't cooled down enough before you added the starter) after about four hours, you can add more starter and give it a second chance (I've had to do this a few times).
The hardest thing to learn was that just because a yogurt batch had a somewhat different flavor or texture than the batch before (made identically) doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it.
Every yogurt bacteria strain creates a slightly different flavor and texture, and each bacteria strain grows best in slightly different conditions (temperature mostly) so if you use a multi-bacteria starter (like Chobani - or homemade yogurt made with such a multi-bacteria starter) then the batches, even made according to the same recipe, can turn out slightly different in flavor and texture.
Some recipes suggest that beginner yogurt makers start with a single strain yogurt (such as Activia, I believe), for greater consistency of results, but I've always used the Chobani - figuring if one strain didn't do well, another one would.
I've never had a completely failed batch. The closest to a fail was a batch that didn't thicken very much, It had a silky texture and the consistency of heavy cream - more like a commercial yogurt drink rather than carton-yogurt. It tasted great though.
Wow! Thank you so much for all of the information! Reading your reply, I definitely feel confident enough to give this a whirl. I am going to try it left Sunday on my day off. My crockpot is old and cantankerous and I don't own a microwave so I am going to buy a thermometer so I don't second guess myself.
Chobani is my go to yogurt, so I'm going to try that as my starter.
What do you put in your yogurt you make it, if anything? I like plain yogurt with peanut butter, but my kids insist on fruit yogurt, mostly strawberry. I'm not sure how to make it sweet enough that they will eat it.
I don't put any sweeteners or flavorings in my yogurt during the making. I store the plain yogurt either in the crockpot or in Rubbermade containers, and I add sweeteners and/or other flavorings only to what I scoop out for a single serving. Plain, it makes a great sour cream or creme freche substitute. Often I sweeten it, but don't add any other flavorings. To make fruit yogurt, I just stir in some fruit spread or jam. My favorite flavor is almond extract (just a few drops) and a bit of sweetener. I also use Davinci or Torani syrups (usually Splenda sweetened), instant coffee granules, hot cocoa powder, even jello packets (sf jello or jello pudding)
When I'm craving cheesecake, I stir sf instant pudding mix into yogurt (2 cups for a small packet).
As to the thermometer, I bought one for the same reason. I spurged on a thermometer with a long, flexible probe and an alarm. LOVE IT!
I could probably do without now, because it takes almost exactly three hours to reach the right temp, and another three to cool enough for adding starter.
The recipe I posted in this thread has a consistency closer to greek yogurt than previous batches. I just pour or ladel off the whey that rises to the top. I like that I don't have to strain the yogurt to get the thickness I like.
I also want to experiment with cheesemaking, and possibly tofu making. I love growing salad sprouts too. I love the sprout people website, and have been tempted to buy some of their exotic sprout seeds, but haven't yet made the plunge, especially since the sprout seeds are so much cheaper at our health food store, even if the variety is much more limited.
Had to stop in with an update on this batch of yogurt. As I mentioned, I like thicker yogurt, but hate strainind. Another happy surprise with this batch is that the whey seperates much more dramatically than in most previous batches/recipes. Every morning there's been a thick layer of whey on top (often there's barely a tablespoon or two). I spoon or pour off the whey - making the yogurt thicker and thicker each day.
Refrigeration doesn't stop the yogurt from culturing, it just slows it down, which means the longer you store the yogurt, the more sour it becomes. This batch is souring slower (probably because of the almond milk which doesn't culture as well as dairy milk). I did read that non-dairy yogurt will not work as a starter, the bacteria don't grow well enough. Since this is a hybrid yogurt, I don't know if it would work or not. To be safe I won't use it as starter.
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