Seeing as dairy and I don’t always get along, but given how much I love creamy concoctions, I’m always on the hunt for good substitutes. Luckily, I prefer my homemade almond milk (not pre-packaged!) to regular cow’s milk. There’s that very subtle anise flavor that makes it taste much better in my opinion, and it’s just as creamy if not creamier in texture. And I recently discovered a good cream cheese substitute. I rarely use cream cheese, but occasionally I like to spread it on a cracker with a little lox.
I’ve also tried several brands of coconut milk yogurt, but they’ve all been subpar–too watery, too sweet and/or too gelatinous in texture. I’ve tried making my own several times using agar agar, xantham gum and other (from my perspective) difficult to work with ingredients. But I finally found a recipe that is incredibly simple, and the yogurt comes out exceptionally creamy and with a perfect consistency. This recipe, like the Rosemary Raisin Crackers I posted last week, comes from Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain cookbook. The only variation I’ve made is to exclude the 2 tbsp of honey she uses in hers. I think 2 tbsp seems like a lot of sweetener for 27 oz of yogurt, and I find if you use good quality coconut milk (Native Forest is my favorite), the yogurt comes out sweet enough. I’m also wary of sweetening a pure white “plain” yogurt when I live with people that then automatically assume they need to add sweetener once the yogurt is in their bowls. Danielle insists on the honey because she believes it’s what encourages the good bacteria to culture, but I’ve heard mixed things about culturing with honey, so for now, I skip it.
I don’t have a fancy yogurt maker (see photo below). I mistakenly didn’t build enough storage space into my kitchen remodel four years ago to house a lot of large gadget items (e.g., yogurt makers, dehydrators, etc.). I also don’t care to mess around with all those individual little glass jars that most yogurt makers come with. So I bought a very simple insulated tub. It doesn’t take up much space, it’s super easy to clean, and when the yogurt is ready I simply pour it into a large glass jar (which had been a pickle jar in a previous life). I also know people who also just wrap towels around a large glass jar and leave it in a warm place for 24 hours.
2 13.5-oz cans unsweetened coconut milk, divided
3 tsp unflavored gelatin (1 packet)
1 tbsp raw, organic honey (optional)
1 50-billion IU probiotic capsule or 1 dairy-free probiotic yogurt starter packet*
Place 1/4 cup of the coconut milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and set it aside for 10 minutes so it can “bloom.”
Heat the remaining coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it reaches 150F. Stir in the gelatin/coconut milk mixture and honey if using. Stir until thoroughly dissolved.
Allow the milk to cool to 110F (you can submerge the bottom half of the saucepan in a bowl of ice water to quicken the process), then whisk in the contents of the probiotic capsule or yogurt starter.
Pour the mixture into sterilized jars (if you have a regular yogurt maker) or place in a large glass jar and screw on the lid(s). Ferment for 18-24 hours. I place my insulated tub in a sunny spot on my deck during the day and on the floor of my bathroom which has radiant heat at night. I think allowing the yogurt to ferment for 24 hours results in the best consistency.
After the fermenting period, place the jar(s)/tub in the refrigerator for 4 hours to further thicken and set. Once set, if any separation has occurred, whisk vigorously or blend the yogurt in a blender for a super-smooth consistency.
*I get my vegan yogurt starter from Cultures for Health, but I don’t see why you can’t use more than one probiotic capsule to get to the 50 billion IUs Danielle suggests in her recipe. The Nature’s Way probiotic I regularly take contains 35 billions IU per capsule.