After much research, tips from in-laws, trial and error, and let's not forget the tears and frustration... at last I can make my own yoghurt! I must also give a shout-out to a certain blogger's post on homemade yoghurt that helped me along the way :) Thanks, Christine!
The first part of this post is about how to make your own yoghurt, and the second is using is to create a beautiful Indian dessert called 'Shrikhand'. This is a sweetened yoghurt infused with spices. In this case, I've used saffron and cardamom for a traditional version of the sweet.
Part 1 - Making the yoghurt
Making your own yoghurt is a bit like riding a bike.. It might take you alittle while to get the hand of it, but once you do, you'll be set for life! Hopefully the recipe and instructions I have set out below will see you on your way to making your own yoghurt and you'll never need to buy it again!
1L full cream, UHT milk*
2 tbsp natural yoghurt **
* You can use fresh milk - I just seem to have more success with UHT milk.
** Once you have made your first batch of yoghurt, you'll be able to reserve some of it to use as a starter for your next batch.
1. In a heavy based medium size saucepan, heat the milk until it's just about to boil. Then switch off the heat, and allow the milk to cool down to luke warm temperature. Once you can dip your pinky finger in the middle of the saucepan comfortably for 10 seconds, you're ready to go. This is the most important part - if it's too hot, the heat will kill the bacteria (don't worry, it's good bacteria!) that forms the yoghurt.
2. Scoop out about half a cup of the luke warm milk into a mug, and mix in the 2 tablespoons of yoghurt with a fork. Then return the milk and yoghurt mixture back to the saucepan and stir gently to combine.
3. Transfer the liquid to a clean dry, 1 litre capacity jar or container with a snug-fitting lid. I used a large coffee jar as suggested and used by Christine in her post.
4. Now for the incubation... The yoghurt needs to be cosy, warm and undisturbed so that it can ferment. I wrapped my jar in a beanie and a hand towel, and placed it next to my heater overnight for 8 hours. You can leave it for longer, but as a general rule - the longer you leave it, the tangier it will become.
5. After the yoghurt has incubated it should be set. Transfer to the fridge to cease the incubation process and to chill.
Part 2 - Making the 'Shrikhand'
Shrikhand is a popular dessert in Gujarat, which is a state in west India. A common misconception about Indian food in western countries such as Australia is that indian food is pretty much what you find in Indian restaurants. Typically, the food one comes across in indian restaurants is quite Punjabi in style (North Indian). However, in reality, there is huge variety in Indian cuisine. North and south indian cuisine are vastly different, let alone the differences in food from state to state.
1. The first step to this dessert (after making the yoghurt of course) is to 'hang the curd' as is often said in India. Essentially, this means straining the yoghurt to drain off excess fluid so that you're left with thick, creamy yoghurt. This is traditionally done by pouring the yoghurt into muslin cloth, tying it up and suspending it. However, I didn't have any muslin cloth on hand so I improvised with a sieve over a bowl, and I lined the bowl with two squares of kitchen paper towel. Then I carefully poured in the yoghurt.
Then I covered the bowl and left it in the fridge overnight (about 10 hours) to drain.
The drained fluid can be discarded and you're left with lovely, thickened yoghurt. How much? About 500 ml.
Now it's time for the fun part - flavouring the yoghurt! Here's how...
a scant 1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/4 tsp cardamom seeds, powdered with a mortar and pestle
a dash of full cream milk
approx. 4-5 tbsp pure icing sugar, sifted
chopped nuts (I used pistachios) to decorate
1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan/pan or in the microwave, then transfer 2 teaspoons of the milk into a small bowl. Crumble in the saffron and, using the back of a teaspoon, crush the saffron into the milk a little. Set aside for about 10 minutes to infuse.
2. Add the saffron and milk mixture and cardamom to the strained yoghurt, then add the icing sugar and mix through. Add more sugar to taste if you want it sweeter.
3. At this point the shrikhand is ready but I like to refrigerate it overnight if I have time to allow the flavours and colour to develop. Serve in small bowls sprinkled with nuts.
*** No saffron was harmed during this photo shoot. Trust me - every last strand was carefully returned to its box and placed back in the frige! ***