Beth Dooley shares her recipes for yogurt, granola and ricotta cheese

How to make yogurt, granola and ricotta

Yogurt with granola with stewed rhubarb and fresh strawberries
Yogurt with granola with stewed rhubarb and fresh strawberries.
Photo by Mette Nielsen

On this edition of Appetites, we talk with cookbook author Beth Dooley about how to make yogurt and granola at home. According to Dooley, it’s extremely simple and allows one to control almost every aspect of what goes in to creating the culture.

“You get better flavor. You get fresher flavors. You have better control of your ingredients so you can choose the very best milk or the very best oats or dried fruit,” Dooley says. “You've got control over what goes into it so you can get away from artificial flavors and colors, sugars and salts, [and] preservatives.”

Yogurt can be easily made with commercially available milk and yogurt. You only need follow a few guidelines to ensure safety. Take your milk up to 180 degrees or boiling. Then let it cool back down to 113 degrees, or baby-bottle temperature.

To go with your yogurt, Dooley has shared some tricks for making a scrumptious granola to go on top of your yogurt. The secret to great granola is to keep the oven at a low and even temperature and periodically mixing the granola while it’s cooking. She adds to use, “a good oil like a hazelnut oil or even browned butter because the oil or the fat is what's going to give it that crunch.”

Add some variety to your granola mix by using different kinds of oats, nuts, dried fruits and seeds. Dooley adds that granola can be stored for a long time in a covered jar.

Find Dooley’s recipes for making yogurt, granola, ricotta and dried fruit below.

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Homemade yogurt

Makes 1 quart.

The yogurt will keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks.  For the “starter” use a good quality, plain, yogurt that does not have any additives or stabilizers.

  • 2 quarts whole milk

  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)

  • 4 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt with live active cultures (no sweeteners and emulsifiers)

Rub the inside of a deep heavy pot with and ice cube. Add the milk and cream and set over medium high heat. Stirring occasionally, bring the milk to a very gentle simmer, about 180 to 200 degrees. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.

Transfer the milk to a glass or ceramic container. Pour about ½ cup of the milk to a small bowl and whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then pour this back into the milk. Cover the container with a lid and keep it warm by setting it on a heating pad or on top of the refrigerator.

Allow the yogurt to sit and ferment for at least eight to as long as 24 hours; the longer, the thicker and tangier it will turn. Transfer the container to the refrigerator and cool for at least 6 hours so that it thickens. Store the yogurt for up to seven days. Serve with the Roasted Rhubarb Sauce (below) and a sprinkle of your favorite granola.

Greek yogurt

Set a colander or sieve over a bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth. Pour the chilled yogurt into the colander and set in the refrigerator to drain until it is as thick as you like, about two to eight hours; the longer it drains, the thicker it will become. Transfer to a covered container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Save the whey that drains from the yogurt to use in smoothies, soups, and for marinating poultry and pork.

  • Browned Butter Maple Granola

  • Makes about 6 cups

  • Feel free to vary the nuts and dried fruit …. But DO make the browned butter … it adds a level of richness and flavor to the oats, turning them especially dark and toasty tasting.

  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

  • 1 cup raw walnuts

  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds

  • ¾ teaspoon coarse salt

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom

  • ½ cup unsalted butter

  • ½ cup maple syrup

  • 1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, currants, cherries, blueberries, mixed or single)

Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, nuts, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.

In a small skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until it turns brown and smells nutty, about 5 to 6 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently scraping up any bits from the bottom so they don’t burn. Take the pan off the heat and immediately add the maple syrup, stirring until it dissolves. Pour this over the granola mixture, mixing it until evenly incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Homemade ricotta

Makes about two cups.

This is surprisingly easy! Layer it into lasagna or enjoy for breakfast topped with honey and fruit. The only thing you need is a large sieve and fine mesh cheesecloth.

  • 2 quarts whole milk

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine mesh) cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.

In a large (6 quart) heavy saucepan, slowly bring the milk, cram, and salt to a rolling boil, stirring to prevent scorching. Add the lemon juice, reduce the heat, and stir constantly, until the milk curdles, about two minutes.

Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain until thick, at least an hour. Discard the liquid. Store the ricotta in a covered container in the refrigerator; it will keep about two to three days.

Dehydrating veggies and fruit

Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is not only a terrific way to store them, but the process also intensifies their flavors as the water evaporates. Here’s how.

  • Small electric dehydrators for home use are on the market for little as $40 at discount home stores and professional grade versions for over $300.

  • Oven drying: set the oven to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, a convection oven works best. Place the fruit or veggie on a small wire rack and dry, turning it occasionally.

  • Sun drying: you’ll need at least three straight days of 85 degree heat/sun with very low humidity. Place the fruit or veggie on a clean screen covered with cheese cloth. Turn several times to insure complete drying.

General preparation guidelines for drying fruits and vegetables:

  • Wash the produce thoroughly. Remove pits … slice items into thin pieces.

  • Prepare produce by dipping fruit slices in lemon juice to avoid browning.

  • Place the produce on the racks in a single layer and turn occasionally.

  • Cool the dried items before storing in sealed container and shake occasionally … they will keep for about a week.