Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Froyo-yo-yo-yo

These past few days have not been idle. My inner Igor and I have been busily toiling in our kitchen laboratory, experimenting with different methods and recipes for froyo. Or is that fro-yo? I could be wrong but I think that's California-speak for frozen yogurt. Whatever the origin of the term, froyo is surely one of the wonders of civilization as we know it. It is not only lower in calories than its ice cream cousin, it's even healthy. Not to mention, it's heaven on a spoon.

I started with a great recipe from David Lebovitz. Granted, it is for ice cream but I think using yogurt instead of milk is a reasonable substitution. David promises his Easy Chocolate ice cream is ready to wolf down in a mere 4 hours without the need of an ice cream maker or any ice and rock salt rig. He was right. It's fantastic. And it's not his fault that I almost forgot myself and spat out the only mouthful I took. See, the recipe calls for one frozen banana -- and he probably meant a newer banana rather than an overripe beast ready for bread -- and 6 tablespoons of Bailey's Irish Cream. Now, I like bananas if they're not too ripe and Bailey's isn't bad, although I prefer Carolan's. Unfortunately, there is something about the combination that simply, emphatically does not work for me. I couldn't wash that batch down the sink drain fast enough. Gadzooks!

Igor scratched that one off the list (although a future attempt will include a newer 'nanner and either Kahlua or some other coffee/choccy liqueur), noting David also has a recipe for Strawberry Frozen Yogurt that looks yummy. Currently lacking strawberries -- or any other fresh or frozen fruit -- I have to pass on that one for the moment.

Okay. On to Heidi's wonderful 101 Cookbooks web site where she has a fabulous basic froyo recipe. It is so basic that I couldn't resist messing with it a bit. Still smarting from the Bailey's and banana FUBAR, I took her recipe and added 6 tablespoons of good ol' Peach Schnapps. That was yesterday. Today it is very cold and very tasty. It is also very -- uhmm -- loose. Just won't thicken up. Probably because I used all that schnapps and no banana. Alcohol doesn't freeze, you know.

So last night I decided to go ahead and make yogurt cheese which is, I understand, the same thing as Greek-style yogurt. If you can get the Greek yogurt, go for it. Otherwise, if you want the thicker yogurt, you have to drain your supply of regular. I notice everyone else calls that process "straining" the yogurt. I call it "draining" because I say to-may-to and they say to-mah-to. What we're doing is letting all the whey fall out, leaving a nice firm mass similar to cream cheese. And it's easy.

This is what went in my refrigerator at 10 pm last night and came out at 10 pm this morning. I should have taken pictures as I put my personal Rube Goldberg yogurt cheese maker together but by then I was in no mood for playing photographer. We'll just have to deconstruct the process so you can poke around your kitchen and come up with neat stuff to make your own unit.

What you basically need is a bowl and a colander that fits inside of it. You want enough space between the bottom of the colander and the bottom of the bowl that the yogurt isn't swimming it what it's trying to drain. Otherwise, you'll want to check and empty the bowl now and then. Once you have those two pieces, grab yourself a big paper towel -- or two of them if they're small. Get the towel wet, squeeze the excess moisture out, then spread it inside the colander. You can use cheesecloth or even a clean old pillowcase (better) but you'll have to scrape the cheese off the cloth and then you'll have to carefully rinse and wash it so it can be safely used again. With the paper towel, the cheese doesn't stick and you can toss the towel when you're through with it.

Dump your yogurt into the colander. I usually do the whole quart but I was down to roughly 2 cups of yogurt by last night. Neatly fold the paper towel over the yogurt so its surface is covered. Then take a dish or, as I did, the bottom of a coffee can, and lay it over the folded towel. Put the whole thing in the fridge and, very last thing, set two cans of whatever from your pantry on top of the dish/lid. I used one can of diced 'maters and one of salmon. You may file that under Trivia. The point is, that extra weight will squeeze out more whey at a faster rate. You don't have to do that part. In any case, the longer the yogurt sits and drains, the firmer it will get.

When you remove the cans and the lid and unfold the paper towel, you'll see a lovely firm cake of nicely thickened yogurt. Notice how there are practically zero bits of stray yogurt clinging to the towel? So neat and tidy. Just makes you wiggle with joy.

Okay. Carefully grasp the paper towel -- don't worry, it'll hold -- and flip the yogurt into your working bowl. Drained yogurt ends up with about half the mass it originally had. What I had here was about a cup of yogurt and 2/3 cup of whey. Don't throw out the whey. It's good in soups or as liquid in bread dough or all kinds of things. Some folks drink it. Or feed it to their critters.

Okay. Now we're ready for the Big Dance. Using Heidi's basic recipe from the above link, adjusted for the amount of yogurt I had, I added 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Heidi used granulated sugar and said to stir until it was dissolved. The powdered sugar practically dissolves itself and its corn starch content helps with the thickening process. At this point you can add all kinds of wonderful things but I can only tell you I'm glad I took Heidi's advice and kept this batch at its simple basic minimum. (You can use artificial sweeteners, too, in whatever amount suits your taste.)

She used her ice cream maker to turn out her froyo from here. I just covered the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the freezer.

That was at 10:30 this morning. At 2:30 this afternoon, I scooped up this serving of froyo and sat down with my trusty spoon. OMG! Listen . . . this incredible delicacy is as smooth as liquid silk. There are only hints of ice crystals that dissolve almost instantly and, after all, provide the brain-freeze quality we want. The sugar softens the yogurt tang but doesn't hide it. What you experience is a very light, citrus-like flavor that makes you smile.

As you can see, all good things come to an end. But, oh my stars and garters, that was wicked good. The only problem is, I'll have to send my inner Igor to the market for more yogurt. And fruit. Because there are lots of froyo recipes with frozen fruit. That don't need an ice cream maker. That make you smile.

By the way, for those of you with food processors (you know who you are), here is what looks to be an excellent source of froyo variations at Cooks.com -- they use regular yogurt and still get almost instant serve. Wow.

5 comments:

John Bailey said...

I just added frozen yoghurt to my shopping list!

Dee said...

John, I hope you meant to say you were adding *plain* yoghurt to your shopping list and you're going to make yourself a batch of the frozen. Think of it as an adventure with a pleasant reward at the end. I'll bet you can find the Greek-style yoghurt where you are, too. That's cool!

Maggie said...

OKOK, I will break down and try this..........later. I've been a terrible failure at food lately.

Dee said...

Aw, Maggie. I'm sorry. I can only tell you it way too easy to fail. Really. And the reward is sooooo wonderful. Good luck!

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