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updated: 8/24/2016 8:57 AM

Baking secrets: Greek yogurt moves from breakfast smoothie to dessert

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  • Annie Overboe's blueberry Yogurt Parfaits with Granola are a family favorite.

      Annie Overboe's blueberry Yogurt Parfaits with Granola are a family favorite.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 

I'm a big fan of plain 2 percent Greek yogurt; hold all the sweeteners and stir-ins, please. For me, it's hard to beat the creamy protein punch this dairy powerhouse brings to my morning shakes. While it's a shopping list staple in my kitchen, Greek yogurt tends to stay on the breakfast side of our refrigerator.

That status recently caught my attention, and when conversations turned to crafting breezy summertime desserts, my thoughts focused toward featuring plain Greek yogurt as the star ingredient. Perhaps my favorite dairy food is not just for breakfast anymore!

While my taste buds enjoy the less sweet nature of plain Greek yogurt, I understand that many of our dessert guests favor the flavored varieties. Could I sway their taste buds toward appreciating a less sugary dessert featuring plain Greek yogurt? The culinary challenge was on this summer.

Here I knew the secret to success lay in choosing the right dessert genre through which to showcase Greek yogurt. A no-bake recipe fit the summer season and, just in case, I reserved a small amount of stove time on the back burner. This challenge called for something cool and creamy, boasting layers of easy to assemble flavor.

With plain Greek yogurt offering a thick and luxurious texture, fresh fruit parfaits won my favor. Blueberries provide the fruit component, bursting with vivid color and flavor. Granola would top the dessert, creating a crown of crunchiness that offset the yogurt's creamy smoothness.

Talking Greek yogurt, there's several varieties readily available, ranging from fat-free to the standard full fat. My recommendation is to go with a middle option, the 2 percent fat, plain Greek yogurt. Fage is my go-to choice, with just the right amount of creaminess to satisfy the most discerning taste buds.

In the test kitchen, sometimes what makes culinary sense on the white board doesn't translate well to the finished dessert plate. First, the parfaits lacked good visual appeal, with the fresh blueberries getting lost in a sea of creamy white yogurt. Not to mention, the touch of sugar sweetening in the yogurt fell flat on my taste buds. It was back to the culinary drawing board.

Annie Overboe's blueberry Yogurt Parfaits with Granola make for a sophisticated, yet light, dessert.
  Annie Overboe's blueberry Yogurt Parfaits with Granola make for a sophisticated, yet light, dessert. - Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Before tackling the fruit issue, I tinkered with the sweet ingredients for the Greek yogurt base. In its raw state, sugar only offers a one dimensional sweet experience on the taste buds. Honey, in contrast, lightly sweetens the yogurt with diverse tastes and regional flavors. I like an orange variety for the gentle citrus notes and aromas imparted to the base recipe.

Turning my attention to the fruit component of this dessert, I wanted to keep blueberries in the recipe, but the "wow" factor needed some elevation. Blueberries are one of the few summer season fruits for which cooking actually enhances the visual and taste bud experience of the fruit. The goal: craft a cooked sauce that didn't resemble a syrup or hard gelatin.

Starting with my go-to blueberry sauce recipe for pancakes, I drastically reduced the sugar content. To keep the blueberry sauce tight, but not gelatinous, a mixture of cornstarch and water cooks with the berries until thickened. Cool completely to develop the fruit essence and deep blueberry color.

Granola remained my topping of choice, but with the oven on cool-down I looked for a great ready-to-use option. Milk and Honey -- Cafe Blend granola offers great toasted flavor and color, along with an even texture. Nicely balanced spices announce granola on the taste buds, but don't distract from the dairy delivery or blueberry flavors. Make this chilled dessert ahead and serve garnished with fresh mint and blueberries. With this breezy recipe on the menu, it's easy to enjoy your summer season party.

• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Oakbrook Terrace. Write to her at food@dailyherald.com.

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