Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The other half

Just over a week ago, I teased you guys with the story of a homemade yogurt that wasn't.

I tried this yogurt at a friend's "eat up the contents of my fridge" dinner party. The food was all deliciously spicy Indian and I was looking for water to cool my slightly burning tongue when I spotted the yogurt in a silver metal container across the counter. I grabbed it, and dolloped a few scoops onto my plate before eagerly tasting a spoonful.

It was lovely, with just the right amount of sugar and tang to counterbalance the spices of its neighbors. I quickly helped myself to more, and I have to admit hoarded the container rather greedily.

I asked for the recipe before I left, and Neel (the friend) was a bit surprised, but happy to provide it, and a starter, nonetheless.

When I fouled up the recipe the first time around, I was more than a little disheartened. Luckily, the kind soul who gave me the recipe provided me enough starter for two tries. I was confident that I wouldn't need them at the time, but am now ever so grateful that he bet on my failure.

I've successfully made this yogurt twice (I wanted to make sure that my success wasn't a fluke, but the norm), and it's as delicious as I remember.

This yogurt is not the dense stuff you'll find in grocery stores. The texture is altogether different--much closer to softly whipped cream. A bit runny, so that it pools around your slice of apple tart (that's how I first had my batch), but in a good way. It's also delicious mixed with a bit of last summer's jam and a smattering of granola. Or you could have it the way I first tasted it: alongside spicy Northern Indian food, taken in slurps to cool down your tongue.

The recipe is incredibly easy, so easy that I was kicking myself for screwing it up. In my defense, I tried to create a makeshift double boiler to keep from burning the milk and ending up with that slightly brown colored stringy milk solid at the bottom of the pan. Well, that "ingenious" idea utterly failed, as my version of the double boiler never brought the milk to a boil. If you have a proper double boiler (or a successful makeshift version), I encourage you to give it a shot. If you don't, then just do as I did--use a normal saucepan and strain out any caramel-y solids with a slotted spoon before adding your sugar and starter.

If you don't have a nice friend around the block who already makes their own yogurt and is willing to lend you a few scoops, then just turn to your grocery store. Find the best plain organic yogurt you can, and use that as your starter.

Oh, and if you're interested in a detailed breakdown of homemade yogurt, and specifically the kind that can be made with a proper yogurt maker machine, then have a look over here.

Homemade Yogurt
Adapted from Neel

4 cups lowfat, preferably organic, milk (I've used 1 and 2%)
6 tsp. sugar (more or less to taste)
2 Tbs. organic yogurt (this will be your starter)

Set the yogurt out on the counter and allow to come to room temperature.

Heat the milk in a double boiler (if you have one) over high heat just until it comes to a roiling boil, then immediately remove it from heat.

All the milk to cool to room temperature, then add the sugar and mix thoroughly.

Thoroughly mash the yogurt until smooth. (I like to put the starter in a small bowl and go at it with the back of a spoon, smashing it against the sides of the bowl.)

Add the starter to the milk and sugar mixture and combine thoroughly.

Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let sit in a non-drafty place for 6-8 hours or overnight, until thickened.

*Note: The yogurt's thickness will depend on a variety of factors, not least of which is the consistency of your starter.

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