Yogurt.

Thick, creamy yogurt, with enough tang to let you know it's cultured, but not enough to come off as mouth-puckeringly unpleasant.

Where do you find The Perfect Yogurt?

Right at home. Making homemade yogurt is a lot easier than you might think...

...especially when you have an electric yogurt maker at your disposal.

The instructions that come with an electric yogurt maker will lead you through the yogurt-making process using whole milk, 2%, skim milk, or soy milk. Here’s our favorite way to make a fairly thick nonfat yogurt, which can then be drained to make thick, rich-tasting Greek- style yogurt.

The following instructions will yield 2 quarts of regular yogurt, or about 3 to 4 cups of thick, Greek-style yogurt.

Put 2 quarts of nonfat (skim) milk in a saucepan or stock pot. It’ll bubble up as it heats, so use a big enough pan.

While your yogurt maker may not call for the addition of nonfat dry milk to the basic recipe, we find that it helps thicken the yogurt nicely, giving it body it might otherwise lack. So, stir in 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk, the kind that dissolves easily in liquid.

Don’t use our Baker’s Special Dry Milk here; it’s made for baking, and doesn’t dissolve readily.

Heat the milk over medium heat until it’s about 180°F; it'll probably be bubbly around the edges.

Remove the pan from the heat. Your goal is to cool the milk to right around 110°F, so get out your instant-read thermometer, or the thermometer that came with the yogurt maker.

To speed the cooling process, place the saucepan into a larger bowl of ice and water. Or into your ice-and-water filled sink. Or pour the milk into a metal bowl, and place in another bowl filled with ice and water.

Stir the milk frequently as it cools. This will happen faster than you might think – about 10 minutes, if you put your pan in ice water.

Once the milk is at the desired temperature, pour some into a small bowl. Stir in 2 packets of starter.

Or stir in 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt containing active cultures – or however much your yogurt maker suggests.

An organic yogurt, like Stonyfield, is a great choice. Read the side of the container to make sure it lists cultures: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, or the like.

Pour the starter and milk back into the pan, mix thoroughly...

...then pour the mixture from the large pan into the yogurt maker's removable plastic inner container.

It may be VERY full. Best to do this right on the counter where the yogurt will incubate.

Snap on the smaller inner lid, and place the plastic container of milk into the outer container. Cover with the larger, outer lid (not shown).

Plug in the yogurt maker. The red light at the base will turn on; this tells you it's working.

Let the yogurt “work” for 8 hours; the longer it works, the thicker it'll be.

A cautionary note: make sure the yogurt maker is set in a quiet spot, away from the general hubbub of your kitchen. In order for the yogurt to thicken properly, it should remain absolutely still as it incubates.

Unplug the yogurt maker. Take the outside lid off, and carefully remove the inner lid to reveal thickened yogurt, with perhaps a thin layer of foam on top.

Place the container of yogurt in the refrigerator overnight, to cool and thicken some more.

Next day, your yogurt is ready to enjoy; stir to smooth it out, if desired.

Notice it's thick enough to stand up a spoon. Whoever said homemade yogurt has to be thin and watery?

For thicker yogurt, drain the yogurt in the draining bag included with the yogurt maker, following the instruction book. If you've lost your draining bag, cheesecloth works just fine.

After about 8 hours, you should have thickened yogurt. After 12 to 16 hours, the yogurt will be thicker still: Greek-style.

Or, to avoid the dripping and perhaps precarious positioning of a wet bag of yogurt in your crowded fridge, drain the yogurt in a Wave yogurt strainer.

See the "wave" inside? The design exposes more of the yogurt to the strainer, yielding thicker yogurt more quickly.

Put a quart of yogurt in the Wave; it'll just fit. You won't be able to add the lid for about 30 minutes or so; that's OK.

Snap on the lid, set the Wave in the refrigerator, and let the yogurt drain until it's as thick as you like.

Here it is after 4 hours...

...and here it is the next day.

The result: 2 cups of whey; a scant 2 cups Greek-style yogurt. Many bakers like using whey in their bread-baking; it's full of protein, and the yeast seems to like its mild acidity.

Remember, this is only half the yogurt you made; drain the remainder, if you like. Your eventual yield, from 2 quarts of prepared yogurt, is 3 to 4 cups of rich-tasting, Greek-style yogurt – thick as sour cream, and just as tasty!

So, now that you've made your own tasty homemade yogurt - what next?

Well, how about tzatziki, a refreshing yogurt/cucumber salad (or topping, or dip)?

Or frozen vanilla yogurt?

Or what about a simple breakfast parfait of yogurt and homemade granola...

Filed Under: Recipes
PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

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