Soy Yogurt, Take Two

September 17, 2009
This second batch of soy yogurt (served with the end-of-season mangoes) was slightly thicker than the first time but still not as thick as I'd like.

This second batch of soy yogurt (served with the end-of-season mangoes) was slightly thicker than the first time but still not as thick as I'd like.

My first attempts at making soy yogurt were a success, but I wanted this time to see if I could get it a bit thicker. I don’t want to have to strain it, so I’m tweaking the recipe in the hopes of getting something I like.

After watching Alton Brown on the tv show Good Eats, I thought adding a small amount of soy flour to my soymilk might help. The finished product was noticeably thicker, at least on the bottom of the container, although there still is some wateriness, which you can see in the photo above.

However, I also wrapped a towel around the inner container before stuffing it into the insulated cooler, and I put a towel underneath the whole thing, to maintain the warm temperature for a longer period of time. The ideal range is about 115-120 degrees F. The bacteria will continue to make yogurt as it cools, but not as vigorously.

Since it was thicker at the bottom, this may be due to the towel and not the soy flour. It didn’t occur to me to put a towel on top. So I need to isolate the effects. Next time I’ll try towels but no soy flour and see what happens.

One thing is for sure: the yogurt from the first batch, which has been in my fridge, is getting more sour over time. The lovely tang and creaminess make it addictive, and I find myself dipping in for a spoonful every now and then. I guess it’s healthier than dipping into something like caramel sauce!

The live bacteria are good for my digestive system, which helps my immune system. And I could be paying a lot of money for commercial yogurt instead, which often has gums, thickeners and gelatin, which I don’t want to eat. Mine has just soymilk, a small amount of the first batch of soy yogurt, and some soy flour.

Gee, on second thought, maybe the soy yogurt as starter this time made a difference. Last time I used commercial dairy yogurt as a starter.

Well, I guess that means only one thing: back to the lab!

Spooky Food Ideas

September 13, 2009

Halloween is only 49 days away, and yes, I’m counting! It happens to be my favorite holiday, and I realized I’ve never had a dinner party for it. Not that I am overflowing with ideas for spooky edibles.

Of course, the internet came to the rescue. There were the typical severed fingers as bread or cookies, which I’ve done before, and bloody punch, with a floating frozen hand (fill a glove, tie off the end with a rubber band, and freeze.)

I’ve made a Japanese-flavored dish of udon noodles and sliced shiitake, in a soy-flavored, dark brown broth, which I called “Slug and Worm Stew.” The chewy texture of the shiitake was just enough to make you think twice as you started to chomp. But that’s been it.

After scouring the internet for ideas, I now have more ideas than I need, including some that are far too disgusting or gory to use, such as the bleeding heart cake, which gushes blood when you cut into it, or “turds” (even if they were made of chocolate!)–eeyoo!

On the other hand, stuffed cockroaches (dates with a crunchy cream cheese stuffing–the crunch really makes it seem like guts–) sounds doable, although I will need to veganize the cream cheese part of it. There were a couple of dips and spreads with disgusting names. After all, it’s all about presentation.

What is bound to kill your appetite more: “Red Bean Dip” or “Coagulated Blood Dip”?

Which would you rather sample: “Vegan Cheeze-Filled Dates” or “Smashed Cockroaches”? Heh heh.

Okay, back to the labORatory…Igor, Come!

Bubur Pulot Hitam, Sticky Black Rice Pudding

September 8, 2009
Sticky Black Rice Pudding is a Vegan, Whole Grain Dessert

Sticky Black Rice Pudding is a Vegan, Whole Grain Dessert

For dessert at our final dinner in Malaysia, we were served a warm rice pudding, accompanied by sliced papaya. It was the perfect ending to three weeks of lip smacking.

Although the main ingredient, black glutinous rice, may be hard to find, the dessert is very simple to prepare. And you can’t beat it for unusual appeal–how often do you eat something so dark purple, it’s black?

A Vegan, Whole-Grain Dessert

If that isn’t reason enough to try it, assuage your guilt by knowing it is actually a whole grain, full of fiber and vitamins from the bran and germ, which are left on. While not as tacky as white glutinous or sticky rice, the grains have a chewy, nutty flavor that is perfectly offset by the accompanying salted coconut milk.

Look for black glutinous rice in Asian markets. I was ecstatic to find it in Chinatown, Honolulu, and I jumped right in, testing and concocting, to develop this recipe.

In Malaysia, a pandan leaf is often added to enhance the aroma, and palm sugar or a combination of palm and white sugar are used. To my non-Malaysian palate, omitting the pandan leaf and substituting brown sugar were not offensive. On the contrary; this is going to become one of my favorite desserts.

Alina’s Bubur Pulot Hitam,
Sticky Black Rice Pudding

1 can coconut milk
1/4 tsp salt

1 c glutinous black rice
2-1/4 cups water

6 TBS brown sugar

Combine coconut milk and salt. Stir to dissolve salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Combine rice and water in a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and cook on medium-high for about 30 minutes, until water is absorbed and grains are tender.

Check near the end of the cooking time to be sure it doesn’t burn, and add a small amount of water if necessary. Older rice needs longer cooking time and will absorb more water.

Remove from heat. Leave covered and let sit 10 minutes.

Add brown sugar; mix well. Set aside to let cool.

To serve, put warm (not hot) rice into a bowl. Spoon salted coconut milk over it. Serve with sliced fruits, such as papaya, mango, peaches, etc., if desired.

Homemade Soy Yogurt

September 6, 2009

My latest mad-scientist food experiment is to try my hand at making soy yogurt. I’ve done other fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, lacto-fermented vegetables, but this was the first yogurt expedition.

I mixed in a small amount of regular yogurt (with starter cultures) into some soymilk that I heated and cooled to the proper temperature. The mixture has to remain at the correct temperature in order for the bacteria to grow and cause the thickening and sourness.

My low-tech solution was a plastic container which fit perfectly into an old insulated foam cooler I had lying around…house full of junk=lots of opportunity!

The mixture is placed in a container inside a cooler to maintain an even temperature.

The mixture is placed in a container inside a cooler to maintain an even temperature.

Then it was set in the corner to work its magic, literally! I let it incubate for eight hours.

The concoction is put to bed.

The concoction is put to bed.

I opened the box and lid with crossed fingers to find…

After eight hours, the transformation has begun...

After eight hours, the transformation has begun...

Voila! The bacteria have infiltrated the soymilk, leaving the telltale fermentation calling card behind: bubbles.

I took a scoop to sample. It still tastes very much like soymilk, with slight souring, and the creaminess and thick consistency of a watery sour cream. I will let it be until I wake up tomorrow and see what I end up with.

So much excitement. How will I ever sleep tonight?

If only chemistry in high school had been this much fun…

UPDATE: The next day…
Today the yogurt was tangier than when I tasted it last night, although the flavor still wasn’t very strong. I was afraid to leave it out longer to see if it would continue to sour.

As far as thickness goes, it was fairly runny. I suppose I could strain it to get it thicker. More experimenting is in order, but it’s very exciting to be able to completely transform soymilk into yogurt.

From now on I should be able to use that as my starter culture and just add some from the most recent batch to make more yogurt.

Vegan Ranch Dressing or Dip

September 1, 2009
This is thick enough to spread or dip into.

This is thick enough to spread or dip into.

I wanted a vegan ranch dressing that had tang and zip to it. Once I realized that it was basically an emulsion, a mixture of oil and water (in this case, soymilk, a water-based liquid), I based the recipe and procedure on mayonnaise.

Since I have fresh parsley and green onions in our garden, I haven’t tried it using dried parsley or substituting other herbs. Feel free to experiment. Mwah ha ha!

Alina’s Vegan Ranch Dressing or Dip

1/2 cup soymilk
2 TBS cider vinegar
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp salt
2 TBS sugar
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 TBS chopped green onion
1 TBS chopped parsley
1 cup oil

Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend for 30 seconds.

Stop the blender, scrape down the sides, and blend for another 30 seconds, or just until it is thick and pale green.

Do not overblend, or it may separate and turn into an oily slick with droplets of milk floating in it, although this has not happened to me with this recipe before (knock on wood…)

This is thick enough to be a dip. If you want to use it as a dressing, thin it down with a small amount of milk or water. You can adjust the garlic and cayenne to your taste. It’s just mild enough now to give a hint of zing to it without being overpowering.

It’s tasty and addictive. I’ve been using it as a substitute for my mayonnaise and as a spread in sandwiches.

This will likely keep a few weeks in the refrigerator, but I keep eating it up fast, so I can’t say exactly how long!

You may get a tiny amount of separation, with watery liquid pooling at the top, after a couple days. Either pour it off, or stir it back in. Like anything else with multiple ingredients, this tastes even better the next day, after flavors have melded.