Sunday, April 11, 2010

Everyday Yumminess: Best Yogurt Ever

When I lived in Melbourne, I used to make my own yogurt all the time. I developed a special technique involving four hot water bottles, two towels, and a collapsible cooler. It actually worked pretty darn well, but was a bit of a hassle and I never felt 100% confident in the stability of the temperature, so it was hard to leave it unattended for too long (which is problematic since it needs to stay at that temperature for 8 hours). I hadn't made yogurt since coming back to the States, in part because I never had the energy to deal with the water bottle setup, but I figured out the world's greatest yogurt maker yesterday and I am back in my yogurt-making groove. Things started with my spiffy new food dehydrator.
This arrived on Friday, and I had been thinking from the picture that it was a square chamber that you dropped trays into... when in fact the walls of the chamber are made up by the sides of the trays. This meant that I had to break out my blade to transform this thing from dehydrator to dehydrator plus yogurt maker...
I sliced the center out of two of the trays (and ordered a replacement pair for $12 so as to maintain full functionality as a food dehydrator, thus making this a $12 conversion... not too bad...) to make a space for the yogurt containers.
While the machine was warming up, I got to work on the yogurt. I have absolutely no memory of my old recipe, so I sort of winged it. I combined 8 cups of milk with 2/3 to 1 cup of dry milk powder. Other optional add-ins are 1/4 cup of sugar (which I like in my breakfast yogurt but would obviously leave out of yogurt for savory applications) and/or a tablespoon of gelatin powder (sprinkled over the top of the milk and allowed to sit for 5 minutes or so before being whisked in, which acts as sort of a fail-safe if you're having trouble getting your yogurt to set). The milk mixture goes over a double-boiler (to reduce the risk of scalding), and is slowly brought up to 170°F while you whisk fairly frequently.
The temperature is held here for a few minutes, then the bowl is placed over an ice bath (again, whisking fairly frequently) to drop the temperature to around 115°F. A bit of the milk needs to be whisked in with your 1/2 cup of yogurt (which you're using as starter),
and then the whole shebang is whisked together and poured into the containers that you've been preheating in your yogurt maker.
As you can see, I threaded the probe to my remote digital thermometer up to yogurt level so I could monitor temperature while the yogurt stayed at 110°F for 8 to 9 hours. The dehydrator worked absolutely perfectly. The temperature didn't budge one degree in the entire 8 hours, and the result was the best batch of yogurt I've ever made.
So creamy and delicate and amazing... and so much easier now that there isn't any craziness with trying to maintain an exact temperature via hot water bottles in a cooler. The plan was for this batch to be an experiment and a starting point from which to try to get back to something that was as good as what I used to make... but it turns out this batch was even better. I'm really glad to have an easy way to make yogurt again, and am sort of proud of myself for figuring out that this would work.

1 comment:

Sis in PEI said...

Just made my first batch in a LONG while cuz was so inspired by a cold Albanian soup recipe with walnuts... Anyway, your approach is terrific!