While yogurt originated in Central Asia thousands of years ago (around 5000 BCE), it has skyrocketed in popularity recently and is the focus of Janet Fletcher’s newest book, Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. The word yogurt comes from the Turkish root yog, meaning “to condense or thicken.” Man discovered that the fermentation of milk by “good” bacteria keeps out the bad bacteria and makes it last longer. The good bacteria goes on to help keep the bad bacteria in check in our digestive system. This benefit in particular has led to it becoming one of the most popular fermented foods today.
Janet Fletcher is also the author/co-author of more than two dozen other books. She has a weekly email newsletter, Planet Cheese, is a longtime contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, and has also written for numerous magazines, including Saveur, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, Culture, and Food & Wine. She has received three James Beard Awards and the IACP Bert Greene Award for newspaper journalism. She currently lives in the Napa Valley teaching cheese and cooking classes.
Yogurt is divided into the Introduction, Making Yogurt at Home, Yogurt for Breakfast, Appetizers and Salads, Soups, Mostly Meat, Vegetables and Grains, Desserts, and Beverages.
Janet begins with a history of yogurt and how it developed into the product popular today. She goes on to explain how to choose yogurt for consumption and for use in recipes. This section was particularly helpful to me. Before, I would generally grab the first tub of organic yogurt I came across while shopping. She stresses the importance of checking labels and making sure the container lists live active cultures. If the yogurt was heat treated after the bacteria was added, this would kill the probiotics and subsequent digestive benefits. She also explains the difference between the many types of yogurt available and how they work in recipes: plain, flavored, cow, goat, sheep, different fat levels, Greek, and those with added stabilizers.
She then discusses the process of making your own yogurt in depth, from choosing the milk and a starter to the incubation method and troubleshooting. There are even instructions for making drained yogurt, Greek yogurt, yogurt cheese, and how to use whey.
I particularly love the abundance of international dishes. You will find recipes inspired by the Middle East, India, Turkey, Greece, Mediterranean, Egypt, France, and Oregon. Recipes focused on fruits and vegetables are numerous.
Many of the recipes are paired with an absolutely beautiful full-page color photograph of the finished product. Measurements are provided in US customary.
I had heard of Shrikhand, but this was my first time making/trying it. It is a Western Indian dessert made from drained yogurt that is sweetened and mixed with saffron and cardamom. It has the creamy texture of pudding without the work. It does take some time to allow the yogurt to drain, but preparation is mostly hands off. It is then topped with toasted coconut, almonds, and pistachios.
Plain drained yogurt is plain whole milk yogurt that has been drained in a cheesecloth-lined fine sieve mesh for about an hour in the refrigerator. This thickens it slightly.
If you are unable to find cheesecloth (or occasionally like me forget that you have run out), a coffee filter with a flat base will also work.
You can also toast the toppings one at a time in a dry skillet over medium heat. They will toast quickly so keep an eye on them and stir constantly.
I also made Roasted Tomato Bruschetta with Yogurt Cheese; Lamb Meatballs in Warm Yogurt Sauce with Sizzling Red Pepper Butter; Fettuccine with Fried Onions, Yogurt, and Poppy Seeds; and Fresh Pineapple Lassi. I started the Roasted Tomato Bruschetta recipe by making my own yogurt cheese. It requires about a day of draining, but the result is a luscious yogurt with the consistency of cream cheese. It paired perfectly with toasted baguette slices and roasted seasoned tomatoes. I made the Lamb Meatballs for dinner one night to serve with Sri Lankan Butter Rice. It was absolutely delicious. The lamb was lightly seasoned, formed into meatballs, and pan-fried before coating in a yogurt herb sauce. The dish was finished with a sprinkling of cumin pepper butter. I generally leave leftovers for Chad to take to lunch the next day, but I called dibs on these. The Fettuccine came together quickly. After the pasta was cooked, it was tossed in a yogurt mint sauce and topped with fried onions and poppy seeds. I am a huge fan of Mango Lassi, so I was excited to try the pineapple version. The drink involved only a quick whirl in the blender and included a small piece of fresh ginger for a little kick. I did need to add a splash of milk to help my blender along.
Disclaimer: I received this cookbook from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. All comments and opinions stated are my own.
Shrikhand (Indian Yogurt Pudding with Saffron, Cardamom, and Toasted Nuts)
Adapted from Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
3 cups whole milk plain drained yogurt or greek yogurt
2 tablespoons milk
Pinch saffron (10 threads)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch ground cardamom
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
2 tablespoons pistachios
Place a large fine mesh sieve over a large bowl and line with cheesecloth. Add the yogurt, cover, and refrigerate until the yogurt has drained and thickened to 2 cups, several hours.
In a small saucepan, combine the milk and saffron over low heat just until the milk is heated. It should not come to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for an hour.
Transfer the drained and thickened yogurt to a medium bowl. Whisk in sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the saffron-steeped milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until a subtle saffron flavor has been introduced. This will only take about 1 teaspoon. The remaining saffron milk can be refrigerated and used to season rice.
Cover the yogurt and refrigerate until well chilled, up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place each of the toppings in a separate pie pan or wide oven-safe bowls in a single layer. Bake until the coconut is golden, not dark brown, stirring after a couple of minutes, about 4 minutes total. The almonds will take about 5 minutes to become golden brown. The pistachios will take 5-7 minutes. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop the pistachios.
Divide the prepared yogurt between 4 serving glasses. Top with toasted toppings. Serve immediately.