Brown sugar yogurt

February 19, 2013

yogurt by aharste

I love to make and use plain yogurt, but I want to be able to make sweetened yogurts too.

Sweetened yogurts are trickier to make than plain. The sugar content can prevent the yogurt from setting. The best way to make a sweetened yogurt is in the controlled environment of an electric yogurt maker.

Recipes for sweetened yogurt are not easy to find. The two I found were from Vietnam and India. I tried making a Vietnamese recipe using sweetened condensed milk, which, while delicious, did not set for me, even in the electric yogurt maker.

The Indian recipe calls for jagggery, a date palm sugar, and the addition of powdered milk for stability. I don’t always have jaggery on hand so I decided to make it with brown sugar.

The result was a lusciously creamy, sweet and slightly tangy yogurt.

Brown Sugar Yogurt

2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt, at room temperature
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk powder

Place the evaporated milk, extract and sweetener in a small saucepan, and bring almost to a boil, stirring constantly. When the milk foams, but hasn’t boiled (180F), remove pan immediately from the heat and put in a sink or bowl containing cold water and cool the mixture to about 115F.

While waiting for the milk to cool, stir the plain yogurt and milk powder together until smooth; stir this into the cooled milk. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean yogurt maker inserts.

Proceed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Incubate for 4-6 hours without disturbing (or overnight), then check to see if it has set. If it has not set, keep checking every hour until set. When it has set, refrigerate immediately and use within 2-3 days.

If it doesn’t set, it makes a pretty tasty pour-over for cereal, granola, or fruit.


The one in which I learn to clean and fillet a Brook Trout

February 14, 2013

My brother-in-law is an avid fisherman. Recently, on the Trout Opener, he caught his first Brook Trout. He gifted his prize to me to learn how to clean and fillet a fish and I enthusiastically accepted this little Brookie.

Brook trout are beautiful. Those little spots on her side were hot pink and the skin was as smooth and slippery as glass. And she was very small. I was getting very nervous that I had taken this on.


This feels pretty close to actual size. Actually, she was about 8 inches long.

To fillet a fish you need a really sharp fillet knife and you need to be really careful. I have a thirty-year-old scar on my left index finger when the fillet knife I was using to open a box slipped. The knife was so sharp I didn’t even feel it cut, but it ended up requiring stitches. I’m a firm believer that a fillet glove is a good investment because it protects the hand holding the fish and it helps you hold on to the fish (A dry piece of paper towel also helps to hold onto the fish).

So, since I’d already proven I’m not very good at filleting cardboard boxes, and I’d never filleted a fish, the first thing I did was look for a video. I needed all the help I could get so that I wouldn’t be left with a shredded fish. Fortunately, I found this video: “How to Fillet a Trout.” I was very nervous watching his knife angles, but it added some suspense to watching.

I’m not squeamish, so gutting her wasn’t a problem for me. I saved the innards as a treat for a family of crows that visits our yard.


The filleting was not easy. The first side was a nightmare. The fish was so small that I felt like I was doing microsurgery. I was sure I had ruined the fish. But the second side went smoother. My brother-in-law told me later that that’s always the way, even when you know what you’re doing. It’s pretty easy to see in the photo which is the bad side. I’m looking forward to buying the giant-sized trout they sell at Costco. Those should be a piece of cake.


I decided the best way to prepare it was quickly and simply. I browned some butter, patted back together some of the shredded fish on the bad side, and quickly sauteed it. It was ready in just a couple of minutes. There were four of us, so we each took a fork and had a couple of mouthfuls each. I couldn’t believe how delicious it was. What an awesome treat!


My brother-in-law tells me Crappies are next. I think I’m ready.

Chocolate Pâté

January 16, 2013


I made this recipe for the first time 25 years ago, when I didn’t know much about cooking.  Bittersweet chocolate was an exotic ingredient that I couldn’t find anywhere, and I couldn’t Google to find it.

Fast forward to last week when I promised to bring something chocolate  to  my book club meeting.  I wanted it to be rich and decadent, but super easy to make.  This recipe popped back into my head and I dug out the recipe.  25 years ago it didn’t seem so simple and foolproof to throw together, but I now realized it was basically a ganache with butter added for even more richness.  The recipe fit all of my criteria; in addition, I was able to throw it together at the last minute, having toasted the almonds and chopped the chocolate the evening before.

Use your imagination for things to serve it with.  Someone brought some wonderful coconut macaroons that made great Almond Joy-style treats when spread with the chocolate.  I also recommend assorted fruits and shortbread or digestive biscuit cookies.  I wouldn’t say no to chèvre either.

Instead of waiting 25 years, I should have been making this at least once a month!

Chocolate Pâté

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ⅔ cups heavy cream
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 5 pats
2 tsp Amaretto, or ¼ tsp. almond extract
1 ¼ cups blanched almonds, toasted and chopped medium fine

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread almonds in a single layer on a pan and toast in the oven for 7-10 minutes.  Let cool and then chop.  Set aside.

Place finely chopped chocolates and butter pats in a medium-size bowl.

Place the cream in a saucepan and heat, stirring constantly, until it is about to come to a boil, then remove from the heat (Alternately, you could heat the cream in a microwave safe container on High for about 3-4 minutes, watching carefully for the imminent boil).  Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and butter.  Whisk until the butter and chocolates melt and the mixture is smooth and shiny.  Stir in the liqueur or extract and the chopped nuts.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into a crock and cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve.

If the pâté is to be served within 2 or 3 hours, leave at room temperature. It will set to the consistency of thick frosting as it cools.  Otherwise, refrigerate, although it may then be necessary to add a bit of warm cream to the chocolate to soften and smooth the consistency, even after the pâté has been brought to room temperature.

10-12 servings

Alton Brown + The Mythbusters =

November 19, 2012

Alton Brown + The Mythbusters =

The ultimate hot-nerd trifecta!

Prune-Filled Donuts Are Bliss! Who Knew?

June 27, 2012

hartmans donuts by aharste
Hartman’s Bakery & Pastry
901 North 11th Street
Manitowoc, WI 54220‎

On the way to Elkhart Lake last weekend we passed this little bakery on a sleepy corner in Manitowoc, WI. I demanded that we stop.

Inside there was a line and a lot of plaques on the wall awarding them Best Donuts in the County honors. Could we have stumbled upon a winner?

This is an old-fashioned bakery where they make a lot of regional specialties and you can still get a cookie or a bar for way under $1. This beautiful tray of 7 donuts was $5.

Up in the left hand corner is a divine frosted sweet roll with pastry cream filling.

Hiding underneath there’s a scrumptious apple fritter full of diced apple. There’s also a glazed confection the counter woman called a cruller, but was more like an old-fashioned donut, shaped like a banana.

The cake doughts had real chocolate frosting spread on them.

In the upper right hand corner is a Persian. Persians orignated in Thunder Bay, but have drifted down to the Wisconsin lakeshore. They are basically frosted cinnamon buns, but there’s nothing basic about them. This one was moist and chewy, frosted with maple frosting and topped with crunch. Swoon-worthy. I think my husband was groaning while he was eating it, but I couldn’t hear too well over the num-num sounds I was making.

With a nod to the Eastern-European heritage of the area, there were granuated sugar coated donuts filled with prune or poppyseed filling. Im a sucker for any kind of filled donut and I just had to try one. I chose the prune and it was a delightful revelation; one of the best filled donuts I’ve ever had. Sweet, but not too sweet. A mix of my favorite textures, chewy and moist donut, crunchy sugar, creamy smooth filling.

I’m going to be thinking about these donuts for a long time.