Last week I finally broke down and bought a cuisinart yogurt maker and fromagerie (cheese maker)!!!! Begin frantic cooking.
The recipe for making yogurt at home stays pretty constant, though you have your choice of starters ranging from one cup of industrial yogurt to packets of powdered "yogurt starter." ...and then there are your thickeners, which vary from powdered milk to rennet or magnesium clorate (ide?) to absolutely nothing. But the recipe remains: sterilized milk, a starter stirred in, keep warm for about 8 hours, refrigerate.
But that simple line "keep warm for about 8 hours" can be a pain. I've tried wrapping the bowls in towels, heating pads, leaving the pots in the oven with only the pilot light on. I find them all fairly troublesome, especially when there are appliances that will do it for you. They are available for as cheap as ten bucks, but I opted for the nicer cuisinart because it has a probe to keep a constant temperature AND I can now make various soft cheeses!
The cooked-and-caramelized apples in this recipe are generally considered "apple pie" in the US and "tatin" here in France. Basically it is the same simmer-butter-and-apples, add-sugar-to-caramelize process, but with different crusts and reputations in the two countries. In the US its "down home" or "classic" american, while here it is almost gourmet. Heaven in a crepe... Either way, learning to make the simple basic recipe is SO useful because it can be thrown into so many different desert crusts, cakes, or simply thrown in with yogurt or whipped cream.
The Crème de Marron is another French specialty that these days, most people buy in cans. Marron is actually chestnuts, so this is a sweet paste of chestnuts, and yes, you really can roast them on an open fire. But oh do I suggest making this confection instead. The best part is you can preserve it like jelly etc., and have a year long supply! Thats my plan, but this was just from the first batch, so the blog post will come with the next round. sorry :)
So here we go: this is the recipe that fills my 6 125ml yogurt pots. Increase or decrease to fit what you are using!
The Caramelized Apples
makes just enough to cover the bottom of 2 or 3 yogurt cups. multiply as you like.
1 generous pad of butter
about 1/3 cup sugar, brown preferred (it doesn't burn as easily)
a packet of vanilla sugar
dash of cinnamon
*The vanilla sugar is not necessary, but its a great addition to many desert recipes. If they don't sell it where you are you can make it yourself simply by keeping a separate jar of sugar in the pantry with a stick of vanilla in it. You end up with vanilla flavored sugar, which is great for absolutely anything you can think of. Coffee and cakes included.
1. peel and cut up the apple and put it in a pot over medium high heat with the butter. The apple will start to cook down after a few minutes, softening
2. sprinkle sugar over top (including vanilla sugar) and stir in, watching carefully after this point so that you don't burn the sugar. Not only does it stink if you burn it, it sucks to clean. Add the cinnamon. The sugar will start to "blond," which means it is caramelizing
*NOTE: the more sugar you add, the more caramel you will have with your apples. Also, I choose not to use it, but some corn syrup will help keep it soft and gooey and not burnt.
3. at this point, it takes more experience than actual directions to know when it is done (I am sadly not quite adept at this, yet, and often burn my caramel... oh well) but it seems to go a lot smoother with the butter and apples than plain caramel does. The apples will start to puff up and make a slight whining sound like when you sautée potatoes and the inside will soften.
4. when you deem the sugar duly caramelized, the apples duly cooked, and the flavors properly melded, its done! This took about 10 or 15 minutes for my one apple.
Crème de Marron: post coming soon.
Pots of Yogurt
My yogurt maker has 6 pots that come with it, so I put a scoop of the caramelized apples in each of 3, and crème de marron in the other 3.
The yogurt, I must say, is extremely simple once you get the method.
1/2 liter of UHT milk
1 cup of previously made yogurt, homemade or bought
sweetener of choice; I used a couple spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk
firming agent of choice (not necessary, read online for options. The easiest is a bit of powdered milk or a couple drops of rennet)
NOTE: a quick word on the milk choice. At first I was upset that they didn't have much fresh milk here in France for making yogurt, but it turns out UHT milk is WAY easier. Fresh milk you have to heat to almost boiling to sterilize, and make sure to sterilize all your utensils as well. In addition, it is more prone to leaving pockets of whey in the yogurt and a skin on top.
UHT milk you can buy and use at room temperature with no heating or cooking involved, skipping all of the sterilization, and the product is often more firm! Plus no grose skin on top.
Stir. Pour in the pots, on top of the marron and tatin, place in yogurt maker (or warm oven etc.) for 8 hours. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating as they will continue to firm.