Sunday, November 22, 2015

Homemade Yogurt (Instant Pot instructions)

Homemade yogurt just sounds so...70s? I mean, I don't remember my mom making it, but I remember some kind of yogurt maker thingy gathering dust in the basement. I gave it a try, though, and though my first batch was a flop because my starter was too old, I've made a few batches since then and I'm totally sold. I was surprised by how delicious it was. 

with a little raspberry jam

When you want to buy dairy products made with low sugar, few additives and milk from hormone-free, preferably pastured cows, it can get pricey. Making it at home, a $3.99 quart of really good unhomogenized milk will yield about the equivalent of $6-12 of good quality yogurt, and if you get a better deal on the milk you'll save even more. Plus, you use less plastic, and you can decide the fat content and whether or not to add sugar for flavor. The process takes around 8 hours, so if you can time it to go overnight, that's ideal. 
with cereal and a drizzle of honey

You can do it using a yogurt maker, an oven, or even a heating pad if  you have one that doesn't shut itself off after an hour. I'm using the Gizmo you've heard so much about: the Instant Pot Duo (the Duo and Smart models have yogurt settings, but the Lux does not). 

I start with a quart of milk, but I've done twice that, and you can do up to a gallon depending on how much you think you'll use in two weeks. I've been using whole, unhomogenized milk as I prefer to use less processed ingredients, but you could use skim or 2% if you like. 

The first step is to scald the milk, and my Gizmo lets me press two buttons to make that happen: Yogurt and adjust. The display will say boil as you see here, and then I just put the lid on. It'll probably take more than half an hour to come up to temperature, but then it'll beep at me so I don't have to stand in the kitchen watching the pot while it happens. I've let entirely too many pots of milk boil over by getting distracted! 
When it reaches temperature, the Gizmo beeps and the display says yogt. I remove the liner from the pot and give the milk a stir with a clean spoon to help it come down to 115 degrees. 

Some people use fancy thermometers that also beep when the temp is reached. I use a candy/frying thermometer that I got for about $5 at the supermarket. 

Once it's there, I stir in a couple of spoonfuls of plain, good quality yogurt to start transforming the milk. Use 1/4 cup for half a gallon Update: after more experimenting, I've determined that 1 tsp yogurt per cup of milk is a good number. You can use the yogurt from the last batch as a starter as long as it's no more than two weeks old. I forgot to set some of the last one aside! Many people also stir in a couple of tablespoons of powdered milk, but I have bad memories of that stuff from childhood. No more of that! 

Next, I put the liner back in the IP base and put the lid back on. When you press the yogurt button, the display will show 8 hours, but you can use the + button to add more time if you like your yogurt more tart. You can also stop it at 8 hours and add more time if it's not quite there. 

After a few seconds, the 8:00 display will switch to 0:00 and start counting forward. When it reaches 8 hours, it will beep and let you know it's finished, and the display will say yogt again. The first time I tried this, I miscalculated in my excitement and it went off at 4. It would have been fine sitting in the thing with the lid on for a couple more hours, but since I was awake I had to get up and check it out!

At this point, assuming your starter yogurt was OK, you've got yogurt! You can eat it as is or flavor it in its current state. However, if you strain it, you'll have a creamier, thicker, sinful-seeming product resembling the Greek yogurt everyone is so crazy about these days. 

To strain, spoon the yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined strainer or a nut milk bag. You can set the nut milk bag in the strainer, too, or if you have knobs on your kitchen cabinets you can hang the bag from one of those. No knobs in my kitchen! 

Either way, put a bowl underneath to collect the whey. 

Let it drain for 1 to 2 hours.

The whey can be used as a calcium booster in smoothies or, apparently, in many other things! I have only tried it in smoothies, and I barely noticed the taste. 

But back to the'll still be a little lumpy when it's done straining. You can put it into a bowl to whisk it smooth, and it'll look like the one at left below. 

I cheated to avoid cleaning another bowl and just stuck the whisk in the nut milk bag. Worked great! 

Now, spoon the yogurt into containers. I have a gazillion 4 and 8 oz jars on hand, so I measured them out for lunches. 

I decided to make some "flavor on the bottom" jars, kind of like my favorite childhood brand. I put two teaspoons of maple syrup in the bottom of two 4 oz jars, and two teaspoons of raspberry jam in two more jars. 
Then I remembered my real favorite from back in the day: lemon yogurt. 

To the 8 oz jar, I added a very little bit of grated lemon zest and just one tsp of sugar. I stirred that one well and left it in the fridge for a few days. Oh. My. God it was good! 

The last jar is the plain I'll use for the next batch, which will go in tomorrow. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pumpkin Bourbon Mousse for Friendsgiving

It's gotten cool and (sometimes) rainy, so what's the picnic crowd to do? Have a Friendsgiving potluck! Organized, of course. When I was told that the pumpkin pie category was open, I volunteered this Pumpkin Mousse I've been making for...well, forever. 
 The original recipe is in the Frog Commissary Cookbook, and I tried it out after one too many years of disappointing pumpkin pies. Eventually I switched the rum to bourbon, and that sealed its fate as a regular in the Thanksgiving rotation. We usually serve it in a big, pretty, white bowl or souffle dish, but I used the little jars to make it easier to transport to dinner. 

 And, you know, I made an extra for testing and pictures. Purely in the name of blogging and science. 
First, find a heat-proof cup and put 1/4 cup of bourbon in it. Sprinkle a packet of plain gelatin over the bourbon to let it start dissolving. 

The booze is pretty strong in this, so you can use 2 Tbsp bourbon and 2 Tbsp water if you prefer it a little lighter. 

While that softens, put 16 oz pumpkin puree, 2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/8 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ground ginger, and 3/4 tsp fine salt (I ground up this salt) in a large bowl and mix well. 

About the pumpkin: most cans are about 14 oz these days, which is fine. This tetra pack was 16 oz. If you get pumpkin pie filling by mistake, skip the spices because they're already in there. 

Allspice is something I use 1/8 tsp of about every other year, which means it gets stale well before I use it all. Every couple of years I dump it out and refill the bottle with a small packet of the spice from the little rack at the end of the baking and spices aisle. It's usually much cheaper than buying a whole new bottle.

Stir 1 c sugar and 2 egg yolks into the pumpkin mixture and briefly set aside. 
Put 1 inch of water in a pot and set it on the stove over medium heat. When the water comes to a simmer, turn down the heat to low and set the cup of bourbon and gelatin in the pot. Give it a stir and let the gelatin melt completely. 

Stir into the bowl with the pumpkin mixture. 

Whip 2 cups heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks. Don't start the machine on 11, rather start on low and work your way up. Also, keep your eye on it or you'll end up with butter, have to run back out to the market in your lounge jammies to get more cream...luckily, that didn't happen to me. This time. 

Using a rubber or silicone scraper, gently fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the pumpkin, then fold the rest in once that is done. Ideally you fold until there are no streaks left, but sometimes I like the look of the streaks. Just make sure there aren't a lot of them. 

Check me out, making a video! To fold, pull the scraper down one side, through the bottom and up the other. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat. Continue until it's all mixed in. 

Spoon the mousse into a 6 to 8 quart bowl, 8 6 oz ramekins, or 15 4 oz Mason jars. Let set up in the fridge for about 4 hours before serving with whipped cream and your favorite ginger cookies. Don't tell anyone, but between you and me, I bought the cookies.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Instant Pot Chicken Jook (Congee)

One day when I was getting my master's at San Francisco State, I had a terrible cold but couldn't take the day off. I wandered into the student union in search of breakfast and discovered the magical concoction known as Congee (or Rice Porridge, or Jook in Cantonese, or Zhou in Mandarin). I've since made it several times on the stovetop. When I first got my magical Instant Pot, I was really excited to see the porridge function. I played around a bit to test it, just using rice and water.  

The first batch tasted great but didn't have the right look to me or to my Chinese-American colleagues. I found a tip from a Hong-Kong based Instant Pot user who said he put the uncooked rice in the freezer for an hour first, and the second test batch using that technique passed the visual test in the teachers' lounge. I got wrapped up in other recipes and put the testing aside for a while.

Then, I came down with a cold. Grrr. I've been pretty healthy this year, so I suppose I shouldn't complain. But wahhh! I've posted another recipe for congee that's pretty similar for the stovetop, but I decided to try it out in the Instant Pot because it won't burn the place down if I fall asleep while it's doing its thing. It switches over to a keep warm function when it's done, and that will keep going for hours if need be without burning the bottom of the pot.

An hour or more before you start, put 1 c uncooked jasmine rice in a small container in the freezer. If you like a thicker congee, use 1 1/2 cups. Remove it from the freezer and add it to the liner of the Instant Pot. Add a 1 to 2 inch piece of fresh ginger. 

If you're using just water, add 2 pounds of chicken legs. If you're using broth and water, 1 pound can be enough flavor-wise.

Cover with 9 cups liquid: 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth and 4 cups of water is great, or 8 cups of water is fine. Make sure the liquid is below the MAX line on the inside of the pot and remove a little if you need to.

I like the Cantonese style congee that's on the thinner side. If you like it thicker, use 6 or 7 cups liquid. 
Now, lock the lid on the pot and press the "porridge" button. If the liquid is cool, it might take up to 25 or 30 minutes to come up to pressure and start counting down, so that's more like 45-50 minutes of cooking time.

When it beeps, let it do the natural release thing and don't open until the valve goes down. If you can't wait, give it at least 15 min NPR before releasing the rest of the steam. 

Remove chicken legs from pot. Let cool long enough to remove the meat from the bones.

Return the meat to the pot and give it a good stir.
Check for salt - you might want to stir in a teaspoon or so if you used only water.

Ladle into bowls and top with 1/2 a chopped green onion per bowl and some toasted peanuts, cashews or pumpkin seeds. I forgot what I'd bought the peanuts for and ate them. Oops! Pumpkin seeds tasted great, though! 

Drizzle on a little soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Peanut Butter. Chocolate. Pretzel. Cheesecake. In the Instant Pot.

Oh my goodness. There's this great pressure cooking website I've been using a lot lately,, and it has several tantalizing recipes for different cheesecakes.

Somehow, the peanut butter cup one got stuck in my mind (who'da thunk it?), but I'm more a fan of dark chocolate with peanut butter, so I already knew I wanted to change the topping a bit. Then, when my search for chocolate wafer cookies for the crust without "creme" in the middle started to turn into a long one, the pretzel idea formed. Et Voila!

1 1/2 c mini pretzel twists
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp butter for pan

Crush pretzel twists into tiny pieces in a plastic zip-top bag or in a food processor. Add melted butter and brown sugar and mix well.

Butter a 7" cheesecake or springform pan and press pretzel mix into bottom and part way up the sides. Put pan in fridge until batter is ready.

Bring all ingredients to room temp before mixing, either by leaving on the counter for 1-2 hours or placing in a bowl of lukewarm water for 10 min. 
12 oz cream cheese
1/2 c sugar, granulated or raw
1/2 c peanut butter
2 Tbsp sour cream
2 eggs
1 Tbsp all-purpose or cake flour

In a mixer or in a large bowl, blend cream cheese and sugar on medium until well mixed. Add peanut butter (natural is fine as long as it's well-mixed), sour cream and flour, mix well. I started with the food processor but it wasn't blending the ingredients very well, so I switched to the stand mixer. 

One at a time, add eggs, mixing on medium high about 30 seconds and then scraping down the sides between the first and second additions. Mix another 30 seconds after adding the second egg, then scrape down sides of bowl and mix just 5-10 more seconds (overmixing can make for a yucky cheesecake!)

Pour the batter over the crust in the pan. Cover with foil.

Place 2 cups water in the liner of the Instant Pot pressure cooker. Insert the trivet and place the pan on top of the trivet. If you're using a springform, make a foil sling to help pull out the pan when it's done. If you're using a Fat Daddio cheesecake pan, you can pull it out with the trivet handles. 

Put lid on pot and lock into place. Press "manual" and increase time to 50 minutes. When time is up, let the timer count up to ten minutes before releasing the pressure valve.

If the middle is set, you're good! Run a knife around the edge of the pan to help the cheesecake loosen later. Let cool 1 hour at room temp before making the topping.
3.5 oz dark chocolate, ideally 60-70% cocoa
1/3 c heavy cream
a little flaky sea salt (optional, but Maldon if you can find it)
ten or so more pretzels

Use a serrated knife to finely chop the chocolate. Place it in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream just to a boil (careful: this can happen very quickly with such a small amount!) and then pour it over the chocolate. Immediately start whisking together; whisk until smooth.

Pour over cheesecake and put cake in refrigerator for at least one more hour, preferably two to six.

Just before serving, decorate with more pretzels and sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt.

Prepare to melt a little inside from the yumminess.