As a tartly sweet coating, yogurt goes where other dairy foods can't. Think yogurt-covered pretzels, cranberries and raisins, of which you're probably most familiar, are a good start, but you can do better when you explore alternative dried fruits and original flavoring options. Approach the yogurt as a dessert sauce instead of a candy coating, and you'll have more flavoring options to explore than you can imagine! Plus, you can use the same technique for any type of yogurt-coating you come up with. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Foods That Fit
You can dip just about any food in a yogurt coating, but some work better than others. Bite-sized, seedless, ready-to-eat foods do best with a yogurt coating. It will stiffen faster on small items, and you can pop yogurt-covered seedless foods in your mouth without having to dispose of a messy yogurt-covered pit when you're finished. Pretzels, raisins and cranberries work, but to take it a step further try coating oatmeal cookies, dry-roasted nuts, dried carrot chips and fresh berries for a break from the norm. Also look at alternative dried fruits, such as figs, dried apple slices, mangoes, apricots and dates, for a yogurt-and-sweetness combo you don't usually find in the supermarket.
Selecting a Yogurt
There's an inverse relationship between the amount of confectioner's sugar the yogurt needs to thicken and the starting thickness of the yogurt itself. The thicker the yogurt, the less sugar, and vice versa. You need to add about 2 cups of sugar per 1/2 cup of Greek-style or strained yogurt and about 3 cups of sugar for 1/2 cup of regular yogurt. The fat content of the yogurt doesn't matter because it doesn't stiffen the yogurt.
Adding Your Own Touch
Personalize your yogurt-covered goodies with flavoring ingredients, such as dried spices and extracts. Cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg add warm notes to the yogurt coating that go well with autumn fruits, such as dried apples and figs. Piquant spices, such as chili powder and paprika, bring out the sweetness in stone fruits, such as dried apricots and peaches, and a few cracks of freshly ground peppercorns marry seamlessly with dried mangoes. Add a little lemon zest or orange extract to the yogurt coating for bright citrus notes, and vanilla bean and cinnamon oil for complexity.
How to Dip
Bloom 1/2 teaspoon of gelatin in a tablespoon of water to make 2 cups of yogurt coating. Add the yogurt to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place it on the stove over low heat — you need 1/4 cup of thick yogurt for 2 cups of coating. Transfer the yogurt to a mixing bowl after it heats for a few minutes, then stir in 2 cups of confectioner's sugar and a pinch of salt until thickened.
Dust the food with powdered sugar and place it in a mixing bowl — 2 cups of yogurt covers 1/2 pound of dried fruit and bite-sized foods. Pour half the coating over the food and stir to coat. Then transfer it to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Separate the pieces as much as possible and let them air dry for 45 minutes. Dip the pieces in yogurt a second time and let them dry overnight. Store the yogurt-coated food in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.