Today's Weekly Kitchen Tip comes to us from Sonya, who shares how she makes coconut milk yogurt. Thanks, Sonya!
Following the tip on warming milk in a crock pot, I pour two cans (14 ounces each) of whole coconut milk (not lite) into a crock pot and turn the setting to high.
I stir in 2 tablespoons of agar agar. I have not been able to find the powder, so I used the flakes; the first time I made it, though, the flakes didn't dissolve completely but instead swelled and gelled, which gave the finished product a bumpy texture. The second time I made the yogurt, I ground up the agar agar flakes in my Vita-Mix into a finer flake—it never really got what I would call powdery. The result was a much smoother, creamier texture. The agar agar made the yogurt set up pretty firmly, so you could probably get away with just 1 tablespoon. I am going to try that next time.
In addition to the agar agar, I stir in 2 tablespoons agave nectar [use any sweetener you desire], and I heat the milk until it is about 150 degrees. A lot of places I visited on the Web said that it probably isn't necessary to heat the milk to that extent because, as a canned product, it has already been heated. But I did it anyway because I thought it might help the agar agar dissolve better.
While the milk is heating, I sterilize everything I will use for the rest of the process—a quart-size Mason jar, candy thermometer, whisk, tongs, 1 cup glass measuring cup, even the interior of my Vita-Mix wet container—with scalding water and set it aside on a scalded plate. So when the temperature of the milk reaches 150 degrees (as registered on a see-through candy thermometer), I turn off the crock pot and allow the milk to cool to between 105 and 110 degrees.
When the temperature is right, I remove 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the milk with the measuring cup and pour it into the wet container of my Vita-Mix so that I can grind up the probiotic capsules I initially chose to use for yogurt-making (Dr. Ohhira's Essential Formulas Inc.'s Probiotics 12 PLUS Original Formula). This probiotic is not specifically intended for yogurt-making, but it was recommended as a possible dairy-free culture (something that is really hard to find!). I would like to look into the possibility of finding a powdered culture that I could use instead, in which case I would skip this step with the Vita-Mix and simply stir the culture into a small amount of the milk before adding it back to the whole batch.
Note: The first time I made yogurt, I tried every way I could think of to break open, dissolve or otherwise eliminate the hard outer coating of the capsule to get to the probiotic inside (the actual probiotic is in a moist, fermented form—not a powder), but nothing worked effectively. So I decided to grind up the capsules (I use two in each batch of yogurt) in the Vita-Mix with a little of the milk. It worked, but I was afraid to process it too long for fear of heating it up too much and killing the good bacteria.
After the culture is incorporated, I add a teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional) and pour the entire mixture into the sterilized Mason jar. I cover the jar with plastic wrap and place it into a towel-lined insulated cooler, along with one other large jar (or two small ones) filled with boiling water (the jars with water should not touch the yogurt jar directly, but all of the jars should be insulated by wrapping them in dish towels). Then I close the cooler lid and allow the yogurt to incubate for about 5 hours.
I read about people incubating their yogurt for as long as 8 hours using this and other methods, but I was going for a more pudding-like effect without a lot of tang or tartness. Both times I have made it, the yogurt has had a nice, mild coconut flavor that has mixed well with fruit or even just stirred into oatmeal or other cereal. I'm going to try to tweak a few things until I get it down to just the right process and result. Also, I think I might try to double the batch so that it doesn't disappear so fast around our house! 🙂
I think it is great that Sonya pieced together different techniques to make a new kind of healthy yogurt for her family. Anyone game to try it? Let us know what you think!
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