French vanilla yogurt has got to be one of the most popular vanilla bean recipes around!
In our household, it is pretty well tied with the lemon yogurt as the favorite homemade yogurt. It is well and truly delicious. Really.
This was also the very first flavored yogurt I tried to make from The Yogurt Bible cookbook, so I was especially glad to have my fears allayed and confirm that I was able to make homemade yogurt that was even better than store bought.
Since one of my primary motivations in going the homemade route was saving money, in truth, I would have declared success if it could even come close to store bought flavor.
To be clear, the brand we'd been buying, Liberte, is admittedly quite good. And we do still buy that brand occasionally just for a change, or if I don't have time to make my own.
But, this recipe for French Vanilla Yogurt is wonderful. Fresh ingredients and no preservatives does make a difference!
To get even better results, try using certified organic milk. Yes, it does bump up the cost, but the flavor is that much better.
Eventually though, I felt brave enough to experiment slightly.
In the original recipe, instructions call for putting the entire vanilla bean in with the cold dairy, then removing it after its heated, and before adding maple syrup.
I tended to get a bit stressed worrying about getting the timing right so that the dairy wouldn't get too cold while I was doing the vanilla extraction step, so one day I decided to extract the vanilla from the bean at the beginning of the process.
To my great surprise, not only was the process easier, I got a LOT more yield of vanilla from the bean! So now I extract the vanilla first, then add the vanilla and the entire pod in with the cold dairy. That allows me to add the sweetener at the same time I add the powdered milk.
I only remove the vanilla pod just before adding the yogurt starter.
Ta da! Less fuss and muss, and more flavor.
This discovery then led to the next experiment...
In following the original recipe, I was adding $ 5 to $ 7 to the cost of each two litre batch of yogurt.
So, I experimented with only using one vanilla pod, and doing the cold extraction method...
The result? No one even noticed!
Not a bad way to save money!
When you find something that works, it takes a little bravery to stray from the path that works. And when it comes to preparing food, it's always easier to experiment with yourself rather than others. As my family has become dependent on my fresh homemade yogurt, I didn't want to disappoint.
Nor did I want to waste two litres of milk!
So, I have to admit I was a bit nervous about using vanilla extract vs actual vanilla bean fresh from the pod. Especially since the author of The Yogurt Bible, Pat Crocker, warns that there is a risk that the alcohol of the extract may keep the yogurt from gelling.
And of course, I wondered whether using extract would take away from the great taste we've become accustomed to.
My scaredy-cat experiment then became replacing one vanilla pod with 1 tablespoon of pure clear vanilla extract.
The result? I'd say that the flavor was very very slightly less sweet. However, the yogurt luckily thickened just as usual. So no complaints.
As of writing, I haven't yet tried using only extract instead of real vanilla from the pod, so I can't comment on true replacement.
My guess though is that commercially prepared vanilla yogurt is made using the extract, as it would be not only cheaper, but infinitely easier.
If you've made homemade yogurt using only the extract, let us know your results, and if you made any other adjustments to the recipe as a result.
Not only this book, but every online yogurt recipe I came across, the instructions are to use 2% or whole milk. Not surprising, since the milk fat is a large part of the thickening process of homemade yogurt. But, since the Yogurt Bible Recipes call for the addition of skim milk powder, I wondered whether that could offset the reduced fat in 1% milk.
As it happened, my curiosity dove tailed with a lack of 2% in the house, so laziness and curiosity resulted in experiment #4.
The result? It took slightly longer for the yogurt to gel to the consistency we like, about a half hour longer. No biggie.
Taste wise, my husband didn't notice a difference. I found it slightly 'thinner' tasting, but with so little difference that I wondered whether my mind was straining to detect something.
If you try this experiment, I'd be curious to know if you notice a difference in taste. Let me know below.
If you do decide to try making it with the 1% milk, you'll be saving both calories and money. Details below.
I actually started this experiment before switching to 1% milk, and I suppose it has a lot to do with why the lower fat milk experiment worked at all!
At the same time that I was making this French Vanilla yogurt recipe each weekend, I was also making a Lemon Yogurt recipe, also from The Yogurt Bible book.
The lemon recipe calls for 18% cream and whipping cream, and has a beautiful texture.
So, I decided to add some 18% cream (.5 litre) to my Vanilla recipe, but without the whipping cream.
The result? Beautifully creamy texture that complements the vanilla bean. And so, so so very tasty!
Milk - 3 %
10 % Cream
Recipe: 665 calories
Serving: 58 calories
Vanilla Bean (1)
Yogurt Starter (freeze dried)
Calories per Recipe: 3023
Calories / Serving: 253
Cost per recipe:
Cost per serving:
I've given you a lot of detail so that you can compare to your local pricing if you're really curious. But, if you just want a quick comparison of apples to apples based on the most similar Vanilla Yogurt brands found in the store, here you go....
Liberté Méditerranée Vanilla Yogurt
$ 5.63 Cdn
Save with homemade
$ 31.15 US
$ 7.00 approx.
Save with homemade
per 227 g serving
I've found that the Liberte brand Méditerranée yogurt is the only commercial yogurt that comes close to the taste and texture of homemade vanilla bean yogurt. When I checked them out online, I wasn't surprised to see that they say (emphasis mine):
"Méditerranée yogurt is made from milk and cream. With a texture that’s the richest and creamiest on the market, this is yogurt at its finest. La crème de la crème like we say. This yogurt is exceptionally creamy and has 9 % fat. It contains neither gelatine, nor sugar substitutes."
Liberte MÉDITERRANÉE Yogurt Ingredients:
WHOLE MILK, CREAM, VANILLA FLAVOURED SYRUP (SUGAR, WATER, NATURAL FLAVOUR, PECTIN, LOCUST BEAN GUM, LEMON JUICE), SUGAR, MILK PROTEIN, BACTERIAL CULTURES.
I wholeheartedly agree with their assessment of both taste and texture - our favourite commercial yogurt!
I know I'm not alone in my addiction to Liberte Méditerranée yogurt. If you look at the comments on their product page, it's mainly other addicted folks having trouble finding it! For any questions about Liberte distribution centers in the USA, please contact them at www.liberteyogurt.com or at 1-800-453-0510. In Canada, call customer service at 1-888-340-9306 with your address and they will be able to help you out.
So what if you want to try commercially available organic french vanilla yogurt? It can actually be hard to find locally, but luckily it is available for delivery in the US, using the links below.
If you decide you want to skip the time and energy of making homemade French Vanilla Yogurt, you may want to try this Organic version from Stonyfield Farms.
Cultured Pasteurized Organic Whole Milk, Organic Sugar, Organic Natural Vanilla Flavor, Pectin, Vitamin D3
More details here: http://www.stonyfield.com/products/yogurt/smooth-creamy/whole-milk-french-vanilla-32oz
This isn't available locally, so I can't comment on taste, but based on ingredients, I suspect that it's fairly similar to homemade yogurt. If you've tried it, and can compare to the homemade french vanilla yogurt recipe, please add your comments below...
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