Does anyone have any tips on making homemade yogurt really creamy? I use whole milk (and even a bit of half and half), but it's still a bit lumpy.

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8 Comments

Marktheexperimenter July 28, 2016
Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking has wonderful info on milk and yogurt.

On pasteurized vs raw milk, the former may be better not just due to heating (denaturing proteins) but due to homogenization, which reduces fat globule size and increases their numbers vastly, allowing greater binding with milk proteins.

I don't want to offend traditionalists. Yogurt obviously predates modern technology. Nevertheless, it can't hurt to have a calibrated thermometer. You calibrate it by immersing the probe into boiling water (it should read 212 F/100C at sea level, less at higher altitudes, see web for altitude/temp corrections), and ice water (32 F, 0 C). "Dial" readout thermometers can be off by several degrees, digitals are suggested (especially Thermoworks Thermopens).

This is important, not because you need exact 180 and 110 temps, but because you may need to experiment, and when you get a great batch, you want to be able to repeat the temperatures that worked.

Various methods for keeping the batch incubation temp work for most people. I would suggest using a sous vide immersion heater/water-bath circulator, if you already have one, or are thinking about getting one for sous vide cooking. Anova, Sansaire and other units can maintain incubating temps to .1 F
precision. Try out 105 degrees, 110 degrees, even 85 degrees (with much longer fermentation time).
 
Dessito July 28, 2016
No issue with the substance of these suggestions if one is interested in investing in extra gadgets. I have both various kitchen thermometers and a sous vide device, but only use those for projects where they are actually critical. For making excellent yogurt one needs none of that.

You certainly don't need to calibrate anything: 180 is when the foam starts to rise (visible to the eye, but you need to be paying attention); 110 is when the liquid feels warm, but comfortable with a pinky test (baby bath water, if that reference means anything to you). After the culture has been properly tempered and stirred in, the containers in which one pours the mixture can sit in a (turned off) oven or an empty cooler, each wrapped in a simple plastic shopping bag. Taste starting at 12 hours and put in the fridge once the yogurt has reached your preferred level of tartness. (24 hours for me.)

I am in no way a traditionalist, but I am a proselytizer when it comes to trying to win new homemade yogurt converts and I believe that the more simply the process is presented (and it IS simple and cheap), the more likely people are to start making their own. :)
 
Dessito July 28, 2016
@LearningToCook -- I think the original question was yours too! :) Glad you are trying to make yogurt again.

1) Heat the milks slowly to *just before* it starts to boil (you'll see the foam starting to rise; you want to remove it from the burner immediately at that point and not let it actually "boil").

2) let it cool to at least 110 degrees before adding starter - YES

3) use pasteurized milk (I was using raw whole milk) - That's up to you, but pasteurized milk will give you a creamier result and way better consistency.

Also, have you ever added cream to make it creamier? - I personally have never done that.

And does it matter for how long you boil the milk? (i.e. if you boil for too long, does it curdle)? - Yes, it does matter. As I clarified above, you don't actually want to boil the milk at all, only to bringing it to the boiling point for a second. The reason why I said the amount of time to get there varies is because milks vary. I have used several different organic brands over the years and (probably because of the different amounts of water in them), they just take a slightly different amount of time to reach the boiling point.
 
ktr June 12, 2016
My husband used to pour out the milk thru a strainer into the thermos we used to incubate the yogurt. Then if there were any curdles they were strained out.
 
Dessito June 12, 2016
I have been making my own yogurt for 15+ years. The creaminess has more to do with the temperature at which you introduce your starter in than with the level of fat in your milk. Lumps mean you've curdled some of the proteins at one of the temperature transition points.

First, I would suggest starting with room-temperature milk and heating it gradually. If you bring it to the requisite 180 F too fast, the resulting yogurt can get rather grainy. When I make yogurt, typically 1 gallon at a time, it will take 30-40 minutes or longer to come to the right temperature.

Next step where you need to pay attention to the temperature is when you introduce the culture, especially if you are using other yogurt and not standardized powdered starter. I do the finger-test for temperature and the milk should really feel comfortably warm an no longer hot (110F or so). Otherwise, mixing the starter culture at too high a temperature can also cause the yogurt to separate or turn lumpy. Also, make sure to use either a purchased powdered starter, or a fresh starter no older than 1 week.

As you are mixing it in, temper it with a little bit (1/2-2/3 cup) of the warm yogurt, mix VERY WELL with a fork, and then pour that back into the bigger pot of milk slowly, stirring all around with figure-eight motions.

The last thought I have (though maybe I should have mentioned that first) is that all of that applies to pasteurized milk only. Yogurt made from raw milk will always be a little more runny and grainy at the same time.
 
LearningToCook July 27, 2016
This is super helpful. I just came onto the hotline to ask this same question, and I think you have answered it. Did I read this correctly:
1) heat the milk slowly to a boil
2) let it cool to at least 110 degrees before adding starter
3) use pasteurized milk (I was using raw whole milk)

Also, have you ever added cream to make it creamier?
And does it matter for how long you boil the milk? (i.e. if you boil for too long, does it curdle)?

Thanks for the advice.
 
Susan W. June 11, 2016
Here are some good tips from The Kitchn. Be sure to look at the comments as well.

http://www.thekitchn.com/better-homemade-yogurt-5-ways-125442
 
Dessito June 12, 2016
In general I like thekitchn site a lot, but anyone recommending adding gelatin/pectin to homemade yogurt immediately loses credibility on that particular topic in my eyes! :)
 
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