Search This Blog

Friday, February 10, 2012

Almond Yogurt

I am soooo excited about this recipe!  I think the thing that excites me most about a plant based diet is being dairy free.  I feel so much better (health-wise) & it's so exciting to find new alternatives to dairy.  20-30 years ago (around the time I first went veg) if it had been as easy as it is these days to be dairy free I'm positive I would've taken that leap.  But back then it wasn't this easy.  It was downright hard.  Of course there also wasn't internet back then, which is certainly very helpful.

Also the fact that my hubby has dairy issues (not to mention my toddler) makes me really excited to find alternatives.  I love to see them enjoy having alternatives like this.  I guess it's more exciting with my hubby because he's been living without for so long.  The toddler really doesn't know any difference.

And yes, you can easily go to a health food store (& even some well stocked mainstream grocery stores nowadays!) & get alternatives for any dairy desire you might have BUT it does usually come with a price.  It's usually quite pricey & it's oftentimes very processed with lots of additives.

My toddler has always LOVED yogurt & kefir.  He just seems to love that fermented taste.  I used to give him goat milk kefir (& when the prices started going up on that I started making my own) & goat milk yogurt since he couldn't tolerate cow dairy.  BUT these days I prefer to keep him totally dairy free & he seems healthier when I do so.  A couple of months before his 2nd birthday I switched him to rice milk from goat (& shortly thereafter started making that myself).  A few months back my hubby came home with rice milk yogurt for Lil J & he loooved it.  He eats it all the time.  BUT it's pretty pricey I must admit.  And personally I have an issue with it having so much sugar in it, at least the brand that our health food store carries does.  I believe it's the second or third ingredients on the ingredient list (after milk & water!)  One thing I will say about Redwood Hill Farms (the makers of the goat kefir & goat yogurt) was that their ingredients were amazing.  They only sweetened with fruit, fruit juice, honey, & real maple syrup.  That's the way I like to do things myself.

So I recently started thinking about trying an almond milk yogurt, now that I'm making my own almond milk.  In the stores I've only seen soy & rice as non-dairy yogurt options.  But I have to say that almond milk just has this creaminess to it that other non-dairy milks don't seem to have.  So that really made me want to make a yogurt with the almond milk.

I did a lot of homework.  I've made kefir before, many, many times, but I've never made yogurt before.  Kefir is quite easy to make, but yogurt seems to be very temperature sensitive.  And with kefir, you simply need kefir grains.  While with yogurt you need a yogurt culture starter.  So while they do have a similar taste, they are made quite differently.

My first attempt at making almond milk yogurt was in a crock pot.  I found lots of info online about making yogurt in a crock pot & since I love my crock pot I decided to give it a try.  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  The flavor of it was great, but it was very liquidy.  I don't think the temperature was maintained where it needed to be for the whole time.  And, to be honest, it was sort of a hassle to make it this way.  Since this is something I'm planning to do fairly regularly I decided it was best if I just invest in a yogurt maker.  They are small & easy to use & not very expensive.  (Well SOME of them are pricey, but there are plenty of affordable options out there.  I shopped amazon for mine & got one for less than $30 with good reviews.)  I have to say that I am very, very pleased with the results.  It can also easily serve as a non-dairy sour cream alternative.  (And, in all honesty, the vegan sour creams that I've tried were not good at all!!)

Ok, so you're probably anxious for me to just get to the recipe already!  Here it is:

I start by making almond milk, BUT I make it a tad thicker for this than I normally do.  So for this I do 1 cup raw almonds (which I chose to soak for 24 hours in advance & rinsed well after that), 1/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of chia seeds, & 2 cups water.  Blend that up & then strain it (I use a paint strainer bag to do this, you can also get nut milk bags online, you could also use a sieve lined with cheesecloth in a pinch).

Then you want to put your milk in a saucepan on the stove & heat it to 180 degrees F.  This is to kill off any bacteria.  When you're working with fermented foods you want to be really careful to not have any extra bacteria involved, only the beneficial bacteria.  (Make sure you wash the yogurt maker cups & lid really well)  I also chose to add 1 Tablespoon sugar to my milk during the heating.  Cow milk has lactose (milk sugar) in it naturally, which will feed the beneficial bacteria, but almond milk doesn't really have a natural occurring sugar in it, so I chose to add this.  You could use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar if you like.

Once it reaches 180 degrees F turn off the flame & remove from heat.  Let it cool for an hour or two, until it reaches 90-110 degrees F.  At this time you can add your culture starter & whisk it in gently with a fork. (You can get a yogurt culture starter online or at a health food store)  If you add the culture starter while it's hotter than 100 degrees F you risk the heat killing your starter, so be patient.  Then you want to pour your milk into the cups that came with your yogurt maker & proceed with following the yogurt maker directions. [I should add that at some point I decided to not heat it all the way to 180 degrees, concerned that the heat might kill some nutrients, but I have to say that the yogurt didn't have the same texture & was pretty watery.  So this step of heating the almond milk also helps for texture as well as killing germs it seems.]

I have only worked with this one particular yogurt maker, so I'm not sure how different they all are.  I do know that if you are using a freeze dried culture starter you should add on an extra 2 hours to the timer on your yogurt maker.  I was using a freeze dried culture starter & I set the timer on my yogurt maker for 12 hours.

After that time is over you want to put the container(s) of yogurt into the refrigerator for about 4-5 hours.

After that time you want to put the yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth & let it drain for an hour or two.  At this time you now have your yogurt.  :)  Enjoy!  You can add fruit, sweetener, use in a smoothie, or use as sour cream.  Use however your heart desires.

[On a side note: I thought I'd go ahead & leave the crock pot info just in case someone wanted to try out that method.  You want to turn the crock pot on LOW for 1-2 hours with the lid OFF.  (Do this while you're making your milk & heating & cooling your milk)  Then you put your yogurt into a container that will fit inside the crock pot (preferably a GLASS container).  You want to leave the lid on the yogurt container LOOSE & you want to wrap the container up in a towel.  Then you want to put the lid ON the crock pot & turn the crock pot OFF & unplug from wall.  Then you want to wrap the entire crock pot in a blanket & leave it overnight or about 12 hours.  Then take the yogurt out, refrigerate it, & later strain it, just as you would with a yogurt maker.]

If anyone tries to make their own yogurt please leave a comment & let me know how it goes.  I would think that you could certainly use any non-dairy milk you want to.

*And once you've made your own yogurt you should then be able to use that home-made yogurt in place of the culture starter in your future batches.  Always save a couple of Tablespoons of your yogurt for this.  Best of luck!!

PS-I plan to double this recipe for future yogurt making.  This only filled half of the containers that came with my yogurt maker.  I just wanted to make a small batch in case it didn't turn out well.  But if you want to be cautious & make a smaller amount then go with the amounts I listed here.  If you are confident it will turn out well & want to go full steam ahead then feel free to double the amounts.

EDITED ON 2/15 TO ADD: I did try making this using rice milk & it did not turn out at all.  They do sell rice milk yogurt in the store, so there must be a way to do it, but using this method outlined in this blog doesn't seem to be the way.