You don’t have to be brave to make your own yogurt

Cookbook author Anissa Helou recently joined The Washington Post Food staff to answer questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: I buy a quart of whole milk and a small container of yogurt each week to make yogurt. When I read recipes for making yogurt, though, they suggest that I can just reserve some of the yogurt I make and use that with the milk to make new yogurt. But yogurt spoils so I don’t understand how you can just keep reusing yogurt each week. Is it just because it’s such a small amount? And have you made yogurt from any milk besides cow’s milk? I wanted to try making it with almond milk but in reading about it, it seems it won’t work unless you make your own almond milk. That is a step too far for me. Is there any other liquid I can buy from the store that will work?

A: The yogurt you save will not spoil the new batch. You can make yogurt with goat or sheep milk as well, although I have only used cow’s milk at home, and straight from the cows, which I pasteurize myself.

- Anissa Helou

A: You can use almond milk to make yogurt, but you have to add thickeners to it. I haven’t tried, but I’ve seen recipes out there that start with homemade almond milk and uses arrowroot and gelatin. I’ve been playing around with making coconut milk yogurt from full-fat canned coconut milk, and it’s pretty interesting. Not perfect yet, but hopefully getting there.

- Joe Yonan

Q: Is there a general rule about baking times? I have a cake recipe that gets done on the edges faster than the middle; should I try baking it longer at a lower temperature, or for a shorter time at a higher temp?

A: You mean how long certain types of baked goods should be in the oven? That depends a lot on the type of recipe, the pan, etc. If your cake is browning faster than you want at the edges, then you can definitely try going longer at a lower temperature. You can also cover the edges or the whole cake with foil to keep that color from getting out of hand.

- Becky Krystal

Q: I am planning to freeze a batch of vegan black bean enchiladas - do you think they should be pre-cooked before they go in the freezer? Or should I get them all prepped but freeze them uncooked?

A: Do the latter - prep but freeze them uncooked. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, and make sure to remove the plastic wrap but recover with foil for at least most of the baking. You can uncover for the last 10 minutes or so to get some browning.

- J.Y.

Q: I am making a delicious seafood ceviche but when its done, all the seafood tastes the same. Am I allowing the lime juice to sit too long? Should I rinse it before I add the other ingredients? I am using cod, scallops and lobster.

A: It’s possible you are letting it marinate too long. How long are you leaving it in the lime juice? Really, it needs to be less than half an hour - probably more in the 10 to 20 minute range. Of course, if your seafood is all in the same marinade, then they’re going to take on similar flavorings.

- B.K.

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