Posts tagged breakfast

Cooking with Yogurt: More Than a Snack in a Cup

muffins

As a teenager, I would browse through the shelves at the supermarket, picking out cups of yogurt infused with my favorite fruits. I’d get home, open a container, maybe mix in some granola. As I raised a spoonful of the creamy mixture to my mouth I’d think, this is it…I’m going to love yogurt.

Nope, it never happened. There was something about yogurt’s sour taste that always made me grimace and recoil from the container after a few bites. I knew it was full of healthy stuff like protein, calcium, and vitamin B. But no matter how hard I tried, I failed to make my peace with it and it has never been a regular part of my diet.

Recently, though, I’ve discovered that I enjoy the effect of yogurt in baked goods. It adds extra moisture and tenderness to muffins and cakes, and can be used as a substitute for high-fat ingredients such as sour cream. Best of all, its sour aftertaste is camouflaged by whatever I am baking it into. I’ve even used yogurt as a binder in meatballs with successful results.

Over the weekend I made Food & Wine’s Spiced Yogurt Muffins. In place of the low-fat yogurt called for in the recipe, I used skyr, a thick, non-fat yogurt that is actually Iceland’s most popular snack. Perhaps because of the thicker nature of the skyr, the muffins came out a bit denser than I expected. No matter, as they still retained the soft, spongy texture that I had been looking forward to; they were positively squeezable. Cinnamon, allspice, clove, and nutmeg combined with a bit of applesauce to create muffins as comforting as hot apple cider on a cold winter day.

I see infinite possibilities for these muffins: Next time I make them I think I’ll add some chopped walnuts, and perhaps I’ll substitute some whole wheat flour in with the white. Whatever I decide to do, I’m sure the yogurt will make everything taste great. I have finally found yogurt-related peace.

 Recipe for Spiced Yogurt Muffins (adapted from November 2008’s Food & Wine magazine)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups plain low-fat yogurt or non-fat Norwegian skyr
  • 4 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. (Food & Wine suggests spraying the cups with vegetable oil. I skipped this step, and once the muffins cooled, I didn’t have a problem removing the muffins from the liners.)

Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, clove, and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk all of the ingredients together. Break up any large clumps of brown sugar with a fork.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, butter, applesauce, and vanilla. Gradually add the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Fill each cup halfway, as the contents will rise a bit during baking. Sprinkle the granulated sugar and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg over the muffins. Bake for 18 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

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Ricotta Pancakes

Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries

For someone who used to hate ricotta cheese, I sure am making up for lost time. A few months ago I fell in love with Cook’s Illustrated’s Ricotta Gnocchi. Then last Sunday I discovered that my new favorite way to make pancakes now includes this creamy, once-loathed dairy product.

Food & Wine’s recipe for Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries reminded me how ricotta cheese imparts an airy sweetness to a variety of dishes. These pancakes were fluffy and moist, a welcome combination of breakfast and dessert. Thinner and more delicate than regular pancakes, they weren’t the most handsome ones I’ve ever made, but they certainly made up for their sorry looks in the flavor department. 

“Ricotta” means recooked in Italian. According to Steven Jenkins’s Cheese Primer, ricotta isn’t even a cheese. It’s actually a by-product of cheesemaking, as it is made from leftover whey. Interestingly, whey is not disposable. If dumped into bodies of water or sewers, it can wreak havoc by increasing the growth of algae and killing the existing fish. Who knew that cheese could be so evil?

I’m glad someone thought of an appropriate use for this wily whey. Italian ricotta uses the whey from sheep or water buffalo milk, while American ricotta uses cow’s milk, creating a very different effect from the sweeter and drier Italian ricotta. I’ve definitely noticed a difference between the packaged supermarket stuff and the fresh batches I buy around the corner at my Italian specialty store. When possible, always go with the fresh, Italian ricotta.

In fact, I think I’ll buy another container this weekend. Like I said, I have a lot of ricotta to catch up on. And more pancakes to make.

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