My family knows me well. For Christmas I was given: 1. A Fermentation Crock (olives and pickles – yummm), 2. A Jerky Gun (it makes jerky with hamburger), and 3. A Yogurt Maker. I made some yogurt right away with cow’s milk and words cannot describe how delicious it is! Fresh and creamy! I added in some fresh fruit and chopped walnuts and it makes the Best. Breakfast. Ever!
Then my mind started wandering, then wondering (stand back, this could get ugly) about making yogurt with almond milk. I argued with myself and said: “self – cow’s milk is yummy, you aren’t lactose intolerant, and almond milk can get expensive! Why bother?” Then I answered,” because I can!”
Besides, it’s not really the almond milk yogurt I’m after, it’s freezing the almond milk yogurt into almond milk frozen yogurt! Why? Because when we move up to the homestead with the nearest grocery store 30 miles down the mountain, I would prefer to travel to said store only once per month. Since fresh milk doesn’t usually last that long, I would like to develop an alternative substance – perhaps almond milk – that I can craft into a yummy frozen yogurt concoction.
That sounds reasonable………….. right?
So, I did some research on the internet and indeed I found some recipes for frozen almond milk yogurt! I read through a dozen or so recipes and decided to start out with the easiest one. I also did a bit of research trying to educate myself on how yogurt is made and what components are necessary to make “yogurt” and found out that all you need is milk of some kind that has “sugar” in it, and bacteria that “eats” the sugar and turns the sugars into acid, which is what gives you the tangy taste and a thick product!
In cow’s milk, the sugar is lactose and the bacteria turns the lactose into lactic acid. However, almond milk does not have lactose, nor does it have enough “natural” sugar, and so it is necessary to add sugar. I chose to use honey.
The bacteria is available in several different forms. The easiest to use, of course, is a couple of tablespoons of already cultured yogurt. You can also buy freeze-dried cultures or refrigerated live cultures. These can be bought through retail outlets as actual supplements or in prepared packages made just for culturing yogurt. You can choose, but I found that the supplements aren’t very expensive if you do a little shopping.
So, I decided to do my first experiments with a recipe I found here: http://afairytalecomesalive.blogspot.com/2013/04/recipe-almond-milk-yogurt.html simply because it sounded like the easiest and there was nothing that I didn’t already have in my cupboard (no guar gum, arrowroot powder, agar agar, xanthem gum, etc.).
I quickly made some almond milk (easy to do, just click here for instructions) and heated it carefully over a double boiler with the honey and cornstarch until the mixture reached 180 degrees. Getting the mixture to 180 degrees over a double boiler takes quite a while, so start this process early in the day! Then the batch needs to cool down to 100 to 110 degrees, which also takes forever! Once the batch is cooled, it is innoculated with the bacteria. For my first batch I
decided to try a freeze dried concoction sold as a dietary supplement (in capsule form) with: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidus. After innoculation, I added the mixture to my new yogurt maker and set the timer to 10 hours. After 10 hours (it was 12 o’clock at night, ugghhh!), I put the mixture into the refrigerator to cool down.
The next morning I was so excited to taste my new almond milk yogurt! I pulled it out from the refrigerator and I was a bit disappointed to see that it wasn’t very thick. I went ahead and poured off the whey and put it through the yogurt strainer to thicken it, and it did thicken a bit more. Then I tasted it.
Have you ever made chicken gravy when you know you don’t really have enough drippings but make the gravy anyway and then add in too much cornstarch or flour?
Well, that’s how it tasted. Very cornstarchy. Very bland. And not much tang – at all.
I figured there may have been a problem with the freeze dried stuff and decided to try it with a couple tablespoons of store bought plain yogurt. That’s how I made my first batch of cow’s milk yogurt and it was yummy. So, I repeated the recipe (but with the store bought yogurt) and tried it again. Hmmmmm………
This time it had a bit more tang, but still had a pretty heavy cornstarch aftertaste. I still wanted to see how it would freeze up and thought to myself, “what kind of flavoring would cut the bland taste of cornstarch?” Lemons!!! I have been making my own lemon extract (for instructions on making your own extracts, click here) for a couple of months now and so I added 1 teaspoon of lemon extract and then tasted it. Meh.
Not enough lemon. I added another teaspoon along with some lemon zest. Better!
Using my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, I froze the almond yogurt. The result? Interesting. Not bad, but not really good either. Lemony and could use a touch of sweetener, but that cornstarch flavor just seems to hang on the tongue.
So, on to batch #3. I am determined to get this right! This time I tried using the same recipe, but instead of 1/2 cup of cornstarch, I used 2 tablespoons. Instead of the freeze dried bacteria or the fresh dairy yogurt to innoculate it, I went to my local health food store and found some refrigerated live bacteria! It really wasn’t that expensive and the bottle is good for 1-1/2 years – as long as it is kept refrigerated.
The result? Well, better than experiment #2, but nothing to write home about. It still got fairly thick, even with less cornstarch, and even thicker when I drained it for a couple hours in the refrigerator. But, it was still missing that “tang” you are supposed to taste in yogurt. And I still tasted cornstarch.
So, I did some more research. Two things I think I am doing wrong. 1. I have been stirring the mixture as it is incubating in my yogurt maker. Apparently that’s a no-no. Oops. 2. I should not use honey. Natural honey carries it’s own set of bacteria that may not be such a good thing to incubate. Apparently some people have gotten very sick after eating yogurt made with raw honey.
Also, as I was re-thinking these experiments, I realized that maybe I don’t need the cornstarch at all! The only reason for the cornstarch is for thickening up the yogurt to make the texture more like cow’s milk yogurt. Cow’s milk has casein, a protein lacking in almond milk, that helps to thicken up the cow’s milk yogurt. That is why people put corn starch, gelatin, agar-agar, arrowroot powder, etc., in the nondairy milk – to thicken it up! But if I am just going to freeze the almond milk yogurt, do I really have to have it thick before I do that? Possibly not. Also, the frozen yogurt gets really hard in the freezer – hard as a rock! I wonder if using a gelatin would soften it but give it body as well? Or, could I use my mixer to beat the yogurt into a froth and forgo the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment and instead just put the mixture straight into the freezer? What do you think?
And so the experiments and the research continue! :)
Stay tuned for the next chapter of “Almond Milk Frozen Yogurt”, due next week!
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