Friday, July 10, 2009


That's how Rose says yogurt and that is just too cute.

A while back I made a lemon yogurt pound cake. Since I had to buy the large tub of Dannon plain yogurt I thought I might take the opportunity to make my own yogurt. I had just recently watched the Good Eats episode, again, on making your own yogurt and felt inspired. Rather than making a big quart of yogurt like Alton Brown did I thought I would use the opportunity to break out my yogurt maker. The yogurt maker was my Mom's which I saved from being thrown away. It was probably thirty years old and used five times.

The recipe Alton Brown has for yogurt is here. Simple enough. I left out the honey though. His method is a little odd because he only heats the milk up to 120°F rather than 190°F as so many other recipes call for. I think this is because milk today is pasteurized and homogenized and the higher temperature dates back to another time. I think.

My results were so so. The flavor and smell were correct but the consistency was thinner than Yoplait which I find to be the thinnest of yogurts. Like Yoplait is fine as Yoplait has always been my favorite but this was too thin. The yogurt was also grainy. So I decided to try again with some modifications.

I broke one of my rules of only changing only one variable at a time, however I only changed two at a time so I think I can work out what was effective and what was not with a few more trials.

My second attempt at yogurt making I swapped out the powdered milk for condensed milk. My thinking was that the powdered milk was causing the graininess and that the higher fat content from the condensed milk would thicken the yogurt up. The added sweetness would be nice too. I also used the last cup of yogurt from the last batch as the starter rather than the Dannon yogurt.

The results were the same. The yogurt was still thin and still grainy. This time I salvaged the yogurt by straining it and making Greek yogurt. That worked well and removed the graininess actually but I found the end product a little too tart. Back to the drawing board.

I did a little research on the Internet and came up with some changes for the third batch. I read at a university web site that the 190°F threshold really is important and while 120°F will work, results are more based on luck. So the third time around I heated the milk up to 190°F, left out the dry milk or the condensed milk all together and went back to the Dannon yogurt starter. I accidentally fermented this batch twelve hours instead of eight. Damn, that's three variables. Oh well.

The third batch was exactly the same as the first two. Thin and grainy. But for some reason I felt like I was making progress. I also learned that if I added one packet of True Lemon and one packet of Splenda I got a yogurt taste that I really liked.

Trial number four. This time I looked around the Internet for problems with grainy yogurt. Just about every website I found was a blog or forum with unhelpful advice. Cocky home cooks spouting their way was the best way, any other way was wrong and espousing just about every trick I had tried before. I finally stumbled on to a web page, an article from a university food science department I think, that dealt with issues facing large dairy producers. On the subject of grainy yogurt it mentioned pitching the starter at too high of a temperature or using an old starter. Another factor was poor blending of the starter in the milk. Back to the drawing board.

For the fourth batch I bought some plain Greek yogurt from Stoneybrook Farms. I used regular low fat milk bumped up with a little half and half to simulate whole milk. Again no additions of dry milk or condensed milk. I did bring the milk up to 190°F but this time I cooled the milk all the way down to about 80°F before I threw in the container of Greek yogurt (that was strictly an accident. My goal was 100°F). I whisked it all together until it was almost frothy. I filled my containers and started the maker. Since I did this in the evening I unintentionally fermented the yogurt twelve hours instead of eight.

Voila! Not only was the graininess gone but the yogurt was much thicker, more like a Dannon yogurt than a thin Yoplait. The yogurt was not overly tart for having been in the maker 12 hours. There is a little textural difference in the yogurt in the very bottom of the cup around the rim. I think this is from an unevenness in temperature profile in the yogurt maker. It probably runs hotter there. But otherwise I think I got it! I think the success came from a combination of using a fresher yogurt for a starter and pitching it at a lower temperature. I will try a few more batches to iron things out. Next batch I will try with the last cup of yogurt rather than buying some more Stoneybrook Farm's Greek yogurt. Then I will see if I cannot get the lower temperature to work instead of heating to 190°F.

I have to say there is no cost savings to making your own yogurt. The advantages are in being in control of the final product, it can be organic or any fat content you want. And it's kind of fun.

1 comment:

Brook said...

It's late but is what it's all about! Glad you are still going strong...really really!