Every story about the origin of yogurt involves a nomad and a camel.
Was it Mongol villagers, trying to poison Genghis Khan, who first left milk to sour inside a drinking gourd?
Or was it a Turkish traveler carrying milk inside a goatskin pouch on camel-back in the desert, where the heat and agitation caused the milk to thicken?
We may never know the truth, but we know a lot about yogurt.
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk, which causes the transformation of the milk's sugar, lactose, into lactic acid.
The process of making yogurt today is more science than happenstance. Commercially made yogurt is made by introducing two cultures -- Lactobacillus acidophilus or L. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilis -- to milk. The bacteria ingest the milk sugars and expel lactic acid as a waste product; and the increased acidity causes the milk proteins to form a solid curd. Depending on the proportions of milk and bacteria used, the same basic process creates yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, mascarpone, creme fraiche or cottage cheese.
Be sure to check the sell-by date stamped on each container, and read labels carefully:
- Contains active yogurt cultures means that the yogurt has not been heat-treated. Check to see that it does not contain starch or gelatin, which are used as stabilizers. Best choice if you want to get the full benefit of eating yogurt cultures.
- Made with active cultures means that the yogurt was probably heat-treated, thereby killing the active cultures that produced it. Usually done to prolong shelf-life.
One of the world's healthiest foods, yogurt is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin-vitamin B2 and iodine, with beneficial effects on bone health, cholesterol, weight loss and the immune system. Yogurt adds tang, but also acts as a tenderizer in marinades.
A staple in the diets of many Mediterranean cultures, it features in sweet and savory dishes, including tzatziki, cole slaw, scones, and of course, frozen yogurt.
Would Genghis Khan have loved a yogurt smoothie? I think so. After all, he was the adventurous type.
From the pantry, you'll need: all-purpose unbleached flour, baking powder, kosher salt, plain yogurt, granulated sugar, eggs, lemon, pure vanilla extract.
Adapted from the lemon-yogurt cake in Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten, this recipe serves 8-10; leftover waffles can be frozen, and reheated in a toaster.
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 tsp double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Preheat a waffle iron.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.
Place 2-3 Tbsp batter in the center of the waffle iron (or the amount recommended by the manufacturer), and cook for 3-4 minutes, until waffle is lightly browned (the high sugar content in the batter will cause the waffles to burn faster than a less-sugary batter). Remove with a fork, and repeat until all batter is used.
Top each waffle with vanilla frozen yogurt, and serve warm.
More waffles for breakfast or brunch:
Pumpkin banana waffles, from The Perfect Pantry
Cranberry, orange and walnut buttermilk ricotta waffles, from The Perfect Pantry
Zucchini waffles, from The Perfect Pantry
Savory cornmeal and chive waffles with salsa and eggs, from Joy the Baker
Blackberry cobbler waffles, from How Sweet It is
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