August 7, 2009

Homemade Creamy & Thick Greek Yogurt

Once I had my first Greek yogurt, there was no turning back. I am now a lifelong Greek yogurt devotee. How can one resist the luxuriously creamy and thick texture and the rich, tart taste? Well the secret is out, and many yogurt companies have met rising consumer demands with Greek yogurt options.

In my opinion, Fage, the pioneering Greek yogurt brand, is definitely the best out there. The ingredients are simple, consisting of milk and live active cultures, and the amazing texture is due to the straining process, not by stabilizers, thickeners and other preservatives. I usually opt for the low-fat version, and let me assure you, the deliciously rich consistency and taste are not compromised.

Greek yogurt is incredibly versatile and is a healthy alternative to dairy foods like cream cheese, sour cream, and ice cream. Sometimes I even put a dollop on a Mediterranean salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh herbs, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. My absolute favorite way to enjoy Greek yogurt is for breakfast, with a natural sweetener like honey or homemade jam, and toppings such as fresh and dried fruits and nuts. Over the years I have developed my absolute favorite topping and mix-in combinations (see below).

The single drawback of my obsession with Greek yogurt is that eating it on a regular basis can get pricey. This is why, I have developed my own way to make homemade Fage-style yogurt. I start with good quality, store-bought plain yogurt and strain it to remove the excess liquid whey from the yogurt. The result is a thick, rich, high-protein yogurt whose culinary uses are endless. In fact, I almost always have a batch stored in my refrigerator. At some point, I would like to make homemade plain yogurt with good-quality organic milk, and then strain the product to make thick yogurt. That could just be the ultimate Greek yogurt experience. But for now, an easy, simple Greek yogurt recipe with great, varied flavor ideas.

Home-made Greek Yogurt

1 large 32-oz carton of plain natural yogurt

Optional topping/mix-in combinations:

  • Fig jam + banana slices + chopped walnuts + wheat germ
  • Lemon marmalade + fresh blueberries + wheat germ
  • Strawberry jam + strawberry slices + chopped almonds + cinnamon
  • Honey + banana slices + chopped walnuts + chopped dates
  • Honey + chopped dried apricots + chopped unsalted pistachios
  • Honey + peach slices + chopped ginger + chopped pecans or walnuts

Place a very fine medium strainer over a large bowl. Place yogurt in strainer until full (yogurt volume will decrease as whey is strained out). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 1-3 hours (the longer it strains, the thicker the yogurt). Store thickened yogurt in an airtight container. Enjoy with recommended topping and mix-in combinations.

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