This year, I asked my husband for a yogurt maker for Valentine’s Day. (Super romantic, right?) And because he's a wonderful, thoughtful husband, he got it for me -- along with a few packets of yogurt starter. Sigh. The manual that comes with it provides basic instructions and proportions for a few types of yogurt (plain, with jam, with syrup, etc.), and it’s easy to use these as a jumping off point for other recipes. I tested out my new yogurt maker for the first time last week, whipping up a few jars of plain, a few flavored with honey and vanilla, and a couple infused with espresso. I sweetened the vanilla and espresso yogurt lightly; feel free to adjust the sweetness to your taste. —Merrill Stubbs
(40 ounces) milk (you can use low fat or skim, but I recommend organic whole milk for the best results)
starter or 1/2 cup yogurt with active live cultures (I don't recommend Greek yogurt)
Heat the milk gently in a large, heavy saucepan until it starts to steam. Remove it from the heat and let the milk cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, whisk together the starter or yogurt and about a ¼ cup of the lukewarm milk until smooth. Whisk this into the saucepan with the rest of the milk.
Transfer the milk to a measuring cup or a bowl with a spout and pour carefully into seven 7-ounce yogurt jars (make sure these are clean and dry). Arrange the jars, without their lids, in the base of the yogurt maker and cover the base with the clear plastic lid. Plug in the yogurt maker and set the timer for 7 to 8 hours, depending on how firm you like it.
When it’s done, screw the lids onto the jars and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours before eating. ***Note: To make honey-vanilla yogurt, whisk in 3 to 4 tablespoons honey (depending on your taste) and the seeds of one vanilla bean after you combine the starter with the milk.To make espresso-flavored yogurt, whisk in 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or more to taste) after you combine the starter with the milk.