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French Vanilla Yogurt

French Vanilla Yogurt

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.

For the first few months, I followed the recipe in The Yogurt Bible exactly. And I'm happy to say I got perfect results every single time. 

Eventually though, I felt brave enough to experiment slightly.

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My French Vanilla Yogurt Recipe

So, after the different experiments I tried, this is the recipe version I use every weekend. This will yield 2 Litres (approximately 2 quarts) of French Vanilla Yogurt.

ingredients

  • 1.5 Litres of 1% milk
  • .5 Litre 18% milk
  • Vanilla Pod scraped insides, plus opened pod
  • 2/3 cup skim milk powder
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 10 mls package freeze dried yogurt starter

Steps

  1. Add milk and 18 % Cream to heavy bottomed stainless steel pot
  2. Heat to 80 degrees Celsius on medium heat, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to bottom and skin from forming on top.
    You'll know that you're getting close to your target temperature when you start to see steam rising from the milk.
    Use an instant read thermometer or yogurt thermometer to know when you've reached the magical 80 degree mark.
    As soon as you've reached 80 degrees, turn off heat.
  3.  Add freeze dried yogurt starter and stir till dissolved.
    Add maple syrup, and stir till dissolved. 
  4. Remove from heat and place pot on trivet in a cooler location.  Allow the dairy mixture to cool down to 45 degrees Celsius.
    In my case, I just move the pot to the much cooler dining room. In about 45 minutes the dairy has reached the target temperature. 
  5. Once the dairy has reached the target range of 42 to 45 degrees Celsius, add the contents of the freeze dried yogurt starter package. Stir till completely dissolved.
  6. Using a jar funnel if appropriate, pour the yogurt mixture into the yogurt jar(s) / bucket.
    Place that yogurt filled container into the yogurt incubator. By far the easiest is a thermally insulated holder, which is what I use.
    Place the covered yogurt container somewhere where it won't be disturbed - ie there won't be a lot of vibration.
    Now it's just a waiting game for the yogurt mixture to thicken and become the edible texture you'll love.
    After some experimenting, I've found that 6.5 to 7 hours gives the best result.
    Note that the cooler the spot, the longer you'll need for it to gel. I normally place them in a quiet corner on the kitchen counter. Moving the yogurt incubators will take an extra hour or so. Once I even lost the whole batch because it as too cool to gel.
  7. Once the yogurt has reached the desired consistency, take the yogurt container out of the incubator and put it in the fridge. 
    The cold will stop the gelling process, but until it does expect the yogurt to thicken a bit more.
    Generally it takes about an hour or two to reach the best eating temperature.

That's it! 

Fresh yogurt will easily last in the fridge for a week, though it rarely makes it that long in our household.
Be sure to add French Vanilla Yogurt to any baking recipe that calls for plain yogurt, you'll be glad you did!
If you do decide to try this recipe, let me know your results below.

Enjoy!

Homemade Yogurt With vanilla bean - Tips and tricks

Vanilla BeansFresh Beans make all the difference in Vanilla Bean Recipes

Change Timing of Vanilla Extraction

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...



Reduce amount of Vanilla Bean

Buying the real vanilla bean pods does add the best natural flavor, no question. But, for us, it also means a special buying trip, as our local grocer doesn't carry fresh vanilla pods.

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!

Substitute Vanilla Extract

Vanilla Extract

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.

Use 1 % Milk

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 yogurtBut, 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.

Add 18% Cream

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!


Calories and Costs

Calories and Costs


Ingredient

Calories per Recipe
2 Liters
/ 2 Quarts

Calories per serving
175 gr / 6 ounces

Costs per Recipe
2 Liters / 2 Quarts 

Costs Per Serving
75 Gr / 6 Ounces

Milk - 3 %

Recipe:
1258 cal 

Serving:
99 calories

$ 1.95

$ .17

10 % Cream 

Recipe: 665 calories

Serving: 58 calories

$ 1.75

$ .15

Vanilla Bean (1)

0

0

$ 3.50

$ .31

Milk Powder

Recipe:
515 calories

Serving:
45 cal

$ 2.88

$ .25

Maple Syrup

Recipe:
585 calories

Serving:
51 cal

$ 2.06

$ .18

Yogurt Starter  (freeze dried)

0

0

$ 2.00

$ .18

TOTALS:

Calories per Recipe: 3023

Calories / Serving: 253

Cost per recipe:
$ 14.14

Cost per serving:
$ 1.24

Compare cost to Commercial French Vanilla Yogurt

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....

Brand (Size)

Store Cost

Recipe Lowest Cost (same Size )

Cost Savings

Calories

Recipe Calories

Liberté Méditerranée Vanilla Yogurt

$ 5.63 Cdn
 (750 gr) 

$ 5.30

Save with homemade
$ .33

230 cal

253

$ 31.15 US
(32 ozs)

$ 7.00 approx. 

Save with homemade
$ 24.15

 230 calories
per 227 g serving

253


 Commercial Alternatives for Homemade French Vanilla Yogurt

Liberté Méditerranée Vanilla Yogurt

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.

Stonyfield Farm Organic French Vanilla Yogurt 

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.

Their ingredients: 
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...


In case you were wondering....

  • Here's some background info on how I got the numbers above.... My source for the online prices was loblaws.ca, as they have an easy to use online store that provides great price comparison tools, as well as nutrition info.  Plus, Loblaws has locations cross Canada. I also used Amazon for the Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for US prices.  Toronto Prices are as of 27 Aug 2016, US prices as of 13 Sep 2016.

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