Wow, I sure have been flaking on my resolution to post every day this week in honor of Earth Day (which is next Monday). It’s just been so busy! (Ok, not really, but that’s my story.
Anyway, I’m posting now–and a science experiment at that!
Now that the weather’s getting warmer, I’ve been trying my hand at making yogurt again. I made some last year with chocolate Soy Slender, but it wasn’t very yogurty so I gave up for awhile.
After doing some research on the science behind yogurt making, I learned a few things (skip this part if you don’t really care about the science and just want the directions). Yogurt’s two primary characteristics (thickness and tang) develop as a result of the natural proteins and sugars in milk.
Basically, the bacteria eat the lactose, converting it to lactic acid, which causes the proteins in the milk to coagulate (clump together) and thicken.
For anyone that skipped start reading NOW.
Unfortunately, most nondairy milks are naturally without the sugars and proteins needed unless the company adds something to the milk during processing. Unfortunately, what they add is typically processed white sugar or some other type of high glycemic carb.
Which is why I buy the unsweetened stuff. No plain sugars for me– They’re too boring and more importantly, there are so many better options! Like fruit. If I’m going to have sugar, it’s going to be in the form of fruit (or chocolate, but that doesn’t count). Luckily, yogurt bacteria aren’t picky about their sugars. In fact, they rather seem to enjoy the natural sugars found in overripe bananas.
Who would have thought you could make yogurt with unsweetened chocolate coconut milk and bananas! The only thing that makes this better is that the end product ends up tasting like chocolate and bananas would if bananas didn’t taste sweet. It’s an interesting taste that seems to pair really well with nutritional yeast and lemon. Kind of like a chocolate goat cheese–but creamier.
There’s just one caveat: it doesn’t thicken as well as dairy yogurt. If you want, you can achieve the thickness in a few ways. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. Add a thickening agent such as guar gum or xanthan gum. Or, my personal favorite, use half soymilk and add lemon juice after the yogurt is done. If you choose the soymilk method, you might still need to use one of the other ways to get it super thick.
So without further elaboration, here’s the basic process.
You will need:
- 1 quart unsweetened coconut milk (or other nondairy milk)
- 2 very overripe bananas, pureed (or mashed really well–it’s greener!)
- 1 very large spoonful of yogurt with active cultures (if you want this to be 100% vegan, use a yogurt with certified vegan cultures)
- A clean jar or bowl (preferably not plastic) and clean utensils
- A warm place (on top of the fridge/freezer/cable box would work or inside the oven with the light on)
Here’s what you do:
Heat the nondairy milk to very warm but not hot. If you’re not sure, go on the cooler side–excess heat kills the bacteria while less heat only hinders it. To save energy (and because it’s better for the planet), I just leave an unopened quart in the sunlight for a few hours or, if it’s a cloudy day, I stick it in the oven for a bit if I’m preheating for something.
Put a spoonful of yogurt in a bowl or clean jar and stir it a few times. Let it warm up a bit and then add the milk, stirring while adding. Avoid adding milk all at once because you might end up with clumps of yogurt.
Mix it really well because, once it’s mixed, you don’t want to move it until it’s done. If you’re using a clean jar, feel free to put the lid on and give it a good shake or two.
Put in the warm place for AT LEAST 8 hours. WITHOUT TOUCHING IT. I cannot stress that part enough. It can take up to 12 or 13 hours but you can start checking it after 8. (O.K. Fine. You can start checking after 6 but better safe than sorry).
You’ll know it’s done once it smells yogurty and the texture hasn’t changed for awhile.
That’s it! Congratulations. You made yogurt!
Now, comes the issue of what to do with the yogurt. There are a few options I like, other than the obvious, eat it plain, you could make some cookies or a smoothie or frozen yogurt or….
Chocolate-“Goat Cheese” Dip and Chocolate Banana Dip with Apples
- 1 batch chocolate almond yogurt (from above)
- Juice and zest of a lemon + a healthy pinch or two of nutritional yeast
- Mashed bananas + cocoa powder
Mix the yogurt with either the lemon and yeast or the bananas and cocoa powder.
I find if you refrigerate the lemon/nutritional yeast version and press is through a sieve, it’s taste and texture resemble that of creamy goat cheese. Toss in some chives, sun-dried tomatoes and/or Italian seasoning and you have yourself a homemade gourmet “cheese” dip.
If you missed the first post in the Earth Week 2012 series, check it out here. You’ll learn a little bit more about greener cooking methods plus a delicious frozen recipe!