Sunday, February 24, 2013

Homemade yogurt

I've been cooking quite a bit the last few weekends, focusing largely on vegetarian food, and tackling "homemade" things like homemade soy milk, tofu and now, homemade yogurt! Will write up my middle eastern/moroccan mezze spread and the very involved soy milk and tofu process later, but for now, here's how I tackled making homemade yogurt.

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk - make sure it's not ultra pasteurized. I used Ronnybrook creamline whole milk - so rich!
  • 3-4 tablespoons good plain thick yogurt to use as your starter
  • a candy or similar thermometer
  • Containers to hold the yogurt - I recommend glass jars or pyrex glass containers, which will help hold the temperature better
  • a few small glass jars to fill with hot water if you have them
I started the process around 10am, and the yogurt was ready about 7:30p. You may want to start in the morning so you can put it in the fridge in the evening and it's ready for breakfast the next morning. You could also start the process at night before bed, let it sit out over night, then put it away in the morning before you leave for work or head out for the day.

Heat up your milk to 180-190 degrees F, stirring regularly. Once it's reached 180 degrees F, keep stirring and maintain the temperature for 45 minutes. 

I did this by heating up the milk in a smaller pot fit inside a larger pot with enough water to come up to the milk line outside the smaller pot, bringing the water to a boil and then a simmer. You can also set up your own version of a double boiler. I'm sure you can do this by heating up milk directly in a pot but given that you'll be heating and stirring for awhile, I'd recommend some kind of double boiler situation to avoid scorching the milk on the bottom of the pot. You'll need to stir regularly so the milk doesn't form a skin on top. You're probably going to get a little warm standing over the stove stirring away - dress appropriately!

When you're getting close to the end of your 45 minutes, set up another big pot of large bowl in the sink that your smaller pot fits into and fill with cold water and ice cubes. When you're ready, carefully lift your smaller pot out of the simmering water and put into your cold water. Stir the milk until it cools down to between 115 and 110 degrees. Stir in your yogurt, mixing it in really, really well.

Pour your milk mixture into your storage containers. I used a glass canning jar and a few pyrex containers with lids. 

You now have a few options for how you want to go about leaving your milk out to turn into yogurt. Put your milk/yogurt containers, mixed with a few small jars of hot water (I poured some of the hot water used to heat up the milk in the double boiler setup into a few random jars with lids), into a a small cooler and close it up and leave it out on the counter or somewhere warm - in my case, in a insulated bag placed near the radiator. You could also place your milk into a container and place inside a dutch oven or heavy pot and you can pour hot water directly into the pot to create a hot water bath or also tuck in a few jars of hot water, cover, and place somewhere warm in your kitchen. I've also read online that some people then wrap the pot or dutch oven in towels and blankets and just let it hang out. You can also put the pot or dutch, wrapped in towels or not, into the oven and leave the light on for some heat but mostly to keep the heat in. And finally, you can also try skipping pouring your milk into separate containers and just cover your pot holding the milk with its lid and then wrap in heavy towels and blankets and either leave on the counter in a warm place in the kitchen or home, or pop into the oven. Some also use a heating pad to keep things warm. Basically, you want to try to maintain the milk/yogurt at around 110 degrees F so the bacteria can do their thing, multiply and produce lactic acid, turning your milk into yogurt. 


You'll see different thoughts on how long to leave the milk out. Basically, the longer you let it sit out, the more lactic acid is produced and the tangier the yogurt will be. I checked things around 4 hours and it was still pretty much liquid. At that point, since I had opened up the cooler/insulated bag, I replaced the hot water jars with new hotter water and let it sit for a few more hours - you can probably skip this step. I checked again at 7 hours and it was yogurt! Give it a taste with a clean spoon, and if you want it to get tangier, leave it a little longer. I decided to let it go one more hour and liked it at 8 hours total. This may differ for you depending on your method of leaving your milk out, or what kind of bacteria you have working on your milk. Give a taste at hour 6 or 7 and then go from there.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight before enjoying your yogurt. I left some of the yogurt in its jar and put it away, and then decided to strain some of it to make thicker, greek-style yogurt. Line a fine mesh strainer or colander with some cheese cloth or muslin and place into a bowl big enough to let hold the strainer a few inches from the bottom. Place your yogurt into the cloth. Gather up the cloth around the mass of yogurt and clip or tie with a twist and put in the fridge to drain for a bit - I left mine for about 1.5 hours and liked the consistency at that point. If you leave it for several more hours,  overnight or even longer, you can get to a yogurt cheese or labneh consistency.

My earlier picture is the thicker yogurt served with a drizzle of honey and chopped raw pistachios. You can serve however you like. You can also use use your homemade yogurt in baking, or try these easy whole wheat yogurt flatbreads cooked in a skillet.

Save the whey in a jar in the fridge if you want to incorporate it into baking, soups, smoothies, etc. - it's your own little probiotic shot if you want to drink it later (maybe add a little sugar, agave or honey or something to sweeten it up a little).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Watermelon and tomato gazpacho

Watermelon and tomato gazpacho

It's been a very busy summer and I haven't posted anything in ages!

It's Labor Day weekend and I finally went to the farmers market and picked up some terrific summer fruits and vegetables. Summer is ending but there are still lots of tomatoes and watermelons out there.

This dish is summertime in a bowl - a refreshing gazpacho of tomatoes, watermelon, a little dill and mint, and garnished with a bit of feta.

This is a rough guide - you can add more or less herbs, vinegar or salt to our own tastes. Also, if you have a little more watermelon or tomatoes, just throw it in. If you have some cucumber, you can add some of that too.
  • about 6 cups roughly chopped watermelon, a small amount of diced watermelon to garnish
  • about 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, more to taste
  • 1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt, more to taste
  • about 8 to 10 mint leaves roughly torn
  • roughly 2 Tbsp. chopped dill
  • dill fronds and crumbled feta to garnish
In a blender or food processor, blend garlic and red onion, watermelon and tomatoes until it is the consistency you like. I use a food processor, and start with the garlic and onion until they are broken down well, then add the watermelon and tomatoes. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend to your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning to your own tastes, keeping in mind that the flavors will develop after you let it sit a few hours.

Chill for several hours.  When you're ready to serve, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. To serve, garnish each bowl with a few dill fronds, some crumbled feta, a few pieces of diced watermelon, and a a few drops or drizzle of your best olive oil. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Almond cake

Almond cake (served here with a little rhubarb compote)
I love almond flavored desserts and baked goods - a good almond croissant is a really fantastic thing. This is a simple, not too sweet cake flavored with a little almond extract and topped with some sliced almonds for a little crunch. There's also a hint of lemon zest, which is really nice. This is also a very easy to make cake, and uses just one bowl, which I love, and doesn't require a mixer.

This cake is based on Dorie Greenspan's Swedish Visiting Cake from her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. I increased the almond extract and decreased the sugar a bit, and omitted the sugar on top. Feel free to sprinkle a little sugar on top before baking if you like. Serve as is, or you can serve it with a little rhubarb compote during rhubarb season!

Almond cake
  • 3/4 cup sugar or increase to 1 cup if you like
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 cup a.p. flour
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup or more sliced almonds
Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9" cake pan, pie pan or heavy ovenproof skillet, like a cast-iron skillet. I baked it in my Emile Henry glazed ceramic pie dish.

Mix the sugar and lemon zest together by rubbing it together with your fingers until you can really smell the lemon. One at a time, whisk in the eggs, then the salt and vanilla and almond extracts. Stir in the flour, and then gently mix in the melted butter. The batter will be fairly liquid-y and shiny.

Pour the batter into your cake/pie pan or skillet and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the sliced almonds on top and then bake in the center of the oven. If you're using a cake or pie pan, bake on top of a baking sheet or two to help keep the bottom from over browning.

Bake the cake from 25 to 30 minutes until it's golden brown and the almonds have browned a little bit. I went a little heavier on the almonds to cover the cake more with them, but you can use a little less if you prefer. Let it cool before serving.

Serve as is, with a little powdered sugar sprinkled on top, or with a little rhubarb compote if you like. I made one here flavored with a little bit of cardamom.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tuna rillettes

Tuna rillettes
I had been in a bit of a no-cooking rut, and it's amazing what inspiration you can feel after taking a little time to flip through cookbooks. Lately, I've been spending some time with Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.

This smooth, light puree of canned tuna, shallot, and a touch of cream or creme fraiche is delicious on toast, baguette or good crusty bread. It will remind you of tuna salad, in a good way. Dorie adds a bit of curry powder, which is really nice. If you're not crazy for curry flavors, use just a touch to add a little something to the flavor.

Tuna rillettes
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
  • 2 x 5 - 6 oz. cans of chunk light tuna packed in oil, drained (Dorie cautions to not use albacore, which is too firm and dry for this)
  • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
  • from 1/2 to 1 tsp. curry pouder
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice or quatre epices
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) of heavy cream, or a little less creme fraiche
  • 1/4 tsp. salt, more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper, or black pepper is fine
  • 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice, more to taste
In a mini-prep or food processor, finely chop the shallot. Add the drained tuna, spices, salt and lemon juice, and puree until smooth. It should be smooth and creamy with a light texture. Taste and adjust seasoning as you like. 

Transfer the rilletes into a bowl or container, cover and let it chill for at least an hour before serving.