Thursday, September 6, 2012

Homemade Yogurt and the Very Best Way to Use it - Chocolate Cake


Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious: Cocoa Yogurt Cake
Homemade yogurt gives this chocolate cake an appealing tang. (Photo: Ian Knauer)

One of the greatest thing we cooks can do is to become self-sufficient so we stop relying on large food conglomerates for our dinners—and desserts. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to learn how to make things from scratch. Start canning your own tomatoes and make your own ricotta cheese. Then, move on to yogurt.

Making yogurt is so simple that it’s almost magical. You’ll need milk (or if you like your yogurt to be richer like I do, milk and cream) and a couple tablespoons of plain yogurt. This could be the last yogurt you ever need to buy. From this point on you’ll have everything you need for the rest of your yogurt eating days.

The bacteria in yogurt is a living thing and, like most living things, it likes to eat and multiply—it just needs the right conditions. If you supply those conditions, the lactobacillus does the rest of the work, fermenting the lactose and turning the milk into yogurt. After the mixture has set I like to strain it through a sieve to make a thicker version, similar to a Greek-style yogurt.

Now, I like yogurt. I’ll eat it drizzled with honey for breakfast. But, there are things I like more than yogurt—like chocolate cake.

Recently I’ve been toying with a cocoa-yogurt cake using my homemade yogurt. The batter bakes up extra moist and the yogurt adds a curious tang, making it a perfect cake to serve with ice cream as a late-summer dessert.

Homemade Yogurt
Adapted from The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food
Ingredients
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
Directions:
Bring the milk and cream to 180°F in a saucepan. Cool the milk mixture to 110°F, then stir in the yogurt. Transfer the milk mixture to a pint jar and place the jar in a warm water bath. Replace the water with warm water (100° to 105°F) as it cools. Let the yogurt incubate at room temperature until thickened, 5 to 7 hours. Pour the yogurt into a paper-towel-lined sieve set over a bowl. Cover the surface of the yogurt with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Cocoa Yogurt Cake
Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil or butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Cut a 9-inch square of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the pan. Oil or butter the paper.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, powder, soda, and salt.

Beat the butter together with the sugar with a mixer until it is pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.

Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating to combine. Add the yogurt, beating to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture, beating to combine. Put batter in pan and smooth top with a spatula. Bake cake until a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Let cake cool completely in pan, then place a serving platter over the cake pan and invert the cake on the platter. Serve cake with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries.

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