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Kitchen Experiments (aka The Elusive Coconut Yogurt)

I have no problem sharing my accomplishments with you and thus I feel I should share my failures as well.  Though honestly, I haven’t chalked this one up to a failure just yet.  I’m obsessed with being able to make yogurt.  Why?  Because yogurt is a great source of healthy bacteria.  But it’s nut just any yogurt I’m trying to make, it’s non-dairy, non-soy yogurt.  Well… to be even more specific, it’s coconut yogurt I want!  Coconut yogurt is the perfect “brain food” and being a nerd… this is just the most appealing concept.  Not to mention that it has “good fats” and I don’t have many sources for that.  If you don’t know what “good fats” are or what they do, they are the types of fats that your body needs and processes quicker.  They also help your body shed the stored “bad” fat and can help with weight loss.  My diet has very little fat in it and even less “good fats” so I need something to balance that portion of my diet.

So far… the results haven’t been too promising.  BUT it is a great way to explain kitchen experimentation and how to work your own recipes until you find the right formula.  I start off with a recipe that’s closest to what I want to do.  Bonzai Aphrodite (one of my FAVORITE blogs to read) has a great recipe and instruction for making alt-milk yogurt.

To start off with, the tapioca starch is impossible to find around here (tiny town Santa Paula) and pulverizing the pearls in the food processor was taking ages.  A quick look-up on my favorite website Cook’s Thesaurus showed I could use my favorite arrowroot as a substitute.  Also, as many of you know, I don’t use any sugars other than raw honey, so that was another key factor changed. Lastly, the starter.  See, I’m trying to make a yogurt that I cannot find in the stores.  I can’t use anything with soy and even Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry coconut yogurt (though they have coconut flavored yogurt, it’s obviously not the same).  So I thought I would try the recipe and see if regular yogurt, or something similar, could be used as a starter.

To conduct any experiment, it’s important to first break the recipe down to it’s absolute minimum.  This helps cut down on waste but also allows you the most room for changes and understanding the results.  So to breakdown Bonzai Aphrodite‘s recipe, everything would have to be cut into a fourth (as she uses four cups of milk and a single cup is a good size to work with).  If you aren’t good with converting tablespoons into teaspoons and the like, a quick search on Google for a measurements converter will give you more than enough sites to choose from to help.

Second, you need to make notes on what you’re doing, the results and what you think went right/wrong.  For my first attempt, I jumped in and changed all the above mentioned factors.  When it failed the first time, I realized it was the tapioca.  I tried it a second time with the tapioca with the same results.  The third batch was with arrowroot as the starch and that worked much better but still was not the results I was looking for.  I couldn’t maintain the right temperature for the amount of time needed.  Some research, thinking and experimenting ended up with me using my crockpot with water and a temperature probe.  That works beautifully and allows me to completely control the temperature of my experiment for however long I wish.  The forth batch with the arrowroot and crockpot still didn’t work as well as I had hoped.  This entire time I had been using almond milk as I wanted to keep the experiment as close to the original recipe as I could.  But I was using store-bought milk that was sweetened and I thought perhaps that was the issue.  So I tried the fifth batch with unsweetened almond milk.  Still a no-go… or would that be no-gurt?  Sorry… chef humor.  Then I tried exchanging the honey for sugar in the sixth batch.  Nope.  Finally, yesterday I tried the seventh batch with unsweetened coconut milk (thinking perhaps it needed a bit more fat than the store-bought almond provided).  No.  I’ve resolved to the fact that without THE perfect starter, I cannot make yogurt.  But at least I know now that I can change quite a lot of the recipe and still have the same results.  I understand the key players of the experiment (milk, sugar and starter) and know that once I have the starter I need, it will work perfectly fine.

So all these experiments… used only seven cups of milk!  Not too bad, eh?

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