Until three years ago, I didn’t know how to make yogurt at home. What seems like a basic enough task now evaded me for a long time. I pulled out all the tricks and hacks I found on the internet from measuring exact temperatures using a food thermometer to setting it in ceramic, stainless steel, glass. Nothing worked. And in the off-chance that it did, it was too sour to eat. This is when, frustrated, I’d stir in half a cup of yogurt into half a litre of milk (you’d normally add half a teaspoon for this amount).
What finally did work after a bit of practice is the age-old and still very relevant method of sticking your finger into the milk to figure out the right temperature. For ten seconds. My grandmom tells me that at the ten second mark, you want to be able to hold your finger in for a few seconds longer without burning it. Anything hotter would kill the bacteria, and anything colder wouldn’t activate it. Sounds complicated I know, but you do it a few times and it becomes instinctive, muscle memory. I only stick my finger in for five seconds now. What a rebel.
You don’t need to use homemade yogurt here of course; store-bought would work just fine. Whichever kind you use, just make sure it’s thick enough without too much whey diluting it. I usually hang homemade yogurt in muslin for a few hours for this reason. Use any fruit of your choice – mangoes and berries are my favourite. To cut costs, I buy them peak season for really cheap and freeze in individual portions (I still have a small stash of mangoes from the summer in my freezer!) Frozen berries that most stores carry also work here.
There are some decent tasting brands of flavoured yogurt available these days, but they are loaded with sugar, have flavourings and colours added to them, and this—don’t really contain what they claim on the label (why is it called ‘blueberry’ if it has 48 percent black grapes and 8 percent blueberries? Pray tell me).
This recipe uses no processed sugar. Dates—soaked in hot water and then puréed— provide sweetness here. The compote is basic: fruit (fresh or frozen), the blended dates, and a squeeze of lemon. Totally optional, but what I love for some extra texture since they mimic raspberry seeds are a handful of chia seeds tossed in at the end.