As of last week, I may have single-handedly been keeping Fagein business. Over the course of the work week, I’d eat my way through at least two of the largest cartons of yogurt they sell. For every breakfast and every quick snack — it’s always plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
Last week, I decided it was time for a more cost-effective approach to my yogurt addiction. Customers have rated the Automatic Yogurt Maker we sell at Williams-Sonoma 4.8 out of 5 stars, with over 110 reviews. I knew it was time to make a move on one before the cashiers at Whole Foods began to gossip about me.
During my next trip to the store, I bought a gallon of 2% milk to use with the freeze-dried yogurt starter you buy with the machine. Those are the only ingredients you need to make yogurt. I have a cooking thermometer at home, too, and you’ll definitely want to use one.
Here’s how the process works:
In a pot or saucepan, heat milk until it starts to simmer (about 180°F). I used 2% milk because that’s my preference, but you could use whole or skim instead. The more the milk boils, the firmer the resulting yogurt will be, so to keep mine soft, I allowed the milk just to form tiny bubbles around the edges. Then, take the milk off the heat and let it cool to 111° to 113°F.
Once the milk has cooled, mix in the freeze-dried yogurt starter. You can add regular unsweetened yogurt in place of the starter if you like, either from a previous batch or store-bought. Since this was my first attempt, I chose the starter, but next time I’ll use yogurt from this batch to make the next one. Some families in Greece and Lebanon have been using the same yogurt culture for generations!
Secure the lid on the yogurt maker and plug it in. The digital screen will prompt you to set a timer, which will tell the machine how long to ferment the yogurt. I set it for nine hours, the time recommended for 2% milk. Incubation times are different for whole- or skim-milk yogurt.
Then I went to bed.
I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning, eager to see if the process had worked. Of course, it had: I could see the yogurt had solidified in the jars.
Still, the finished yogurt has to be refrigerated for three hours before you can eat it in order to stop the incubation. I dutifully screwed on the lids and stuck the jars in the fridge, looking forward to an afternoon taste.
It was worth the wait! I spooned the yogurt over a chopped peach for a refreshing snack and was surprised by the pleasant texture. Though not as thick as Greek yogurt, mine was soft and creamy — a far cry from the firm, gelatinous varieties I’ve come across in stores. And if you’re a devotee of thick, rich Greek yogurt, you can always strain it through a cheesecloth-lined colander.
This process is only the first of my yogurt-making adventures, so stay tuned. I’ll be back to experiment with flavored yogurts, savory sauces and even — my most exciting challenge — truly homemade frozen yogurt.
About the author: Olivia Terenzio grew up in Mississippi, where she cultivated a love of sweet potatoes, crawfish and cloth napkins at a young age. A passion for sharing food with friends and family led her into the kitchen and later to culinary school, where she learned how to roast a chicken and decorate a cake like a pro. As a Williams-Sonoma blog editor, she’s now lucky enough to be talking, writing and thinking about food all day.