It’s been a good-news, bad-news kind of day. The bad news is that I’m 99% certain I have developed alcohol intolerance. Stop laughing, jerk. I’m serious. It’s been getting progressively worse over the years, but after a Korean friend noted that I appear to have “Asian Flush,” I looked up the symptoms and hello, end of my coping mechanisms, nice to meet you.
I’ve always gotten rosy cheeks from alcohol, but that’s just cute, right? Right. So we’ll say it started with the nasal congestion, which I thought was weird. Want to tell when I’ve been drinking in the last 48 hours? I sound like I’ve got a cold. Then came the instant headaches and slight heart flutter. So, that’s not great.
To make myself feel better, I made the best damn yogurt in the whole world.
Dumping a tub of yogurt into paper towels does not seem like it will end well.
My mom and I were watching an episode of the Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten makes what she calls on the program I think “breakfast yogurt”. This is an excellent example of a recipe where I go “Phhht, that’s lame.” And then I can’t stop thinking about it.
Pat it down and make it tidy, my little OCD friends.
Part of the problem, I thought, was Ina’s technique for draining water from yogurt: place into paper towel-lined strainer, set said strainer over bowl, wait 3 to 24 hours. This is going to be a mess.
But there it went, immediately purging water. Eventually it would purge almost two cups of water. That’s ridiculous!
I’m a big fan of doing stuff half-assed, but I decided to wait and drain the yogurt overnight anyway. The next morning, the paper towels are totally waterlogged and the yogurt is no longer dripping.
Find yourself the best honey you can afford. This is good advice generally speaking, but also sort of moot to us poor folks: the best honey we can afford is the cheapest honey. Still, I splurge like anyone else.
And now here’s where you’re wondering what the hell is going on. The idea, see, is to replace the lost liquid in the yogurt with some better-tasting liquid. Any fruit nectar will do. Avoid fruit juices with added sugar and/or real thin ones – I like Looza and Ceres both of which are found at health food stores and have a wide variety of interesting flavors (Looza even makes banana!). I fought my passionfruit fetish and tried guava instead.
Some orange zest. Ina used like a pound of it, whereas I used just a pinch and found even that to be overly strong. In the future I might not put the zest in at all. Unless I make citrus yogurt. Mmm… citrus yogurt.
Like the honey, the best vanilla you can afford. I love Neilsen-Massey’s vanilla bean paste (which isn’t really paste at all, but gel). I only end up using it for stuff I want vanilla bean seeds in and use a cheap one for everything else.
But lets look at the yogurt. And we have cheese! I mean, it’s not like we knew this wasn’t going to happen, lots of recipes call for drained yogurt — just adding fresh chopped herbs at this stage would make an amazing spread for bread or crackers. But we’re making yogurt. From yogurt. I know, bear with me.
Ina says to start with 1/2 cup of fruit juice, but not only did she end up using a whole cup on the program, but my two batches at home have both required more than a cup. I guess if you only drained it for 3 hours it might only accept 1/2 cup of juice, but what can you do. Also! More on this later, but I’d make the yogurt a little thinner than you think you want it.
Fruit! A mixture of dried fruits and fresh for good flavor. I used raisins and sour cherries, but you can use whatever you want. Again, more on that in a bit.
Toasted almonds! Now, this is the part where I might lose some people. Nuts in the yogurt? I know, but they not only add mature, complex flavor, but they add lovely crunch that I am aware those among us with texture issues will find abhorrent. To which I say: I’m sorry that you live in such a narrow little world.
And here we have it, minus the part where I forgot to show the addition of fresh blueberries. Use your imagination. Still, perhaps you don’t understand how great this is. This is super great. This yogurt? Tastes like European yogurt. Tastes like something you’d order for breakfast at a fancy restaurant and think, “This is great! But I could make it myself.” And you’d be correct, you can make it yourself.
brought to you by Ina Garten and to a lesser extent by Sunday Williams
this recipe was originally found in Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and is called “Orange Yogurt,” a name I find to be bizarrely insufficient, in large part because it’s more of a technique than a recipe. but I think you get the idea. this recipe reflects my changes, but the original is here.
1 quart plain yogurt, any kind
1/4 C. honey
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit (cut small if needed)
1/4 – 1/2 C. nuts, toasted and chopped into smaller bits
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 – 1 1/2 C. fruit nectar, to thin as needed
1 – 2 C. fresh fruit
- The day before you want to make the yogurt, line a sieve or pasta strainer with two layers of paper towels (those of you on the eschewing paper towels bandwagon can figure it out yourself) set over a bowl to catch the fluid. Dump the yogurt in and fold over the paper towel to cover the yogurt and keep a skin from forming. It’ll stick just from wetness.
- The next morning, dump the water from the bowl and start fresh with a new bowl. In it put the honey and vanilla. With a whisk or spoon, slowly add about 1/4 C. of fruit juice and mix thoroughly with honey to thin. This’ll help the honey blend in smoother.
- Add the yogurt, which will be thick and fall cleanly from the paper towels. With the whisk, begin adding the rest of the juice, putting in just a touch more than you think you want, provided you aren’t going to eat it all right away. If you are going to eat it all right away, make it just as thin as you want.
- Add the dry fruit and nuts. Do not add the fresh fruit (blueberries are okay because they are so self-contained) until just before serving.
- I think the yogurt is best when it then sits for a few hours or even overnight again. If it sits for more than a few hours, it will thicken up a bit more again, possibly a lot. This is okay – just add more juice to thin to the right consistency.
Some notes on the recipe: like I said, this is more a technique than a real recipe, and the possibilities are painfully beguiling. Fresh figs chopped with strawberry puree added to some peach juice? With walnuts and and fresh rosemary? All-citrus with fresh plums? Peach nectar, fresh peaches, some cinnamon and granola stirred in? I mean, you can see where this is going, right?
Also, it’s remarkable how different yogurts behave. The first attempt I used Nancy’s full-fat plain, and it made a lot of fluid, stayed rather soft even after 24 hours and was eventually a bit too tart for my mom’s taste. The second batch used Stonyfield Farms low-fat, produced less fluid but set up pretty firm and was too mild for my taste.
So? Get to it, even if you start draining the yogurt right now you can’t eat it for another 24 hours! Hurry!