Originally Posted by L J
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.
The kind you find in Walgreen's or Walmart near the pharmacy for muscle aches. I use the lowest setting.
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.