Yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk can all be lumped into the same category when it comes to baking. They’re all dairy products that help to tenderize baked goods and can be a bit on the tangy side. At least, plain yogurt can be a bit on the tangy side. For years, it seemed like the only way you could buy yogurt was pumped full of sweeteners, flavorings and mashed up fruit. Plain yogurt has definitely enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past couple of years. Not only does this mean that we now have access to better quality yogurt, but there are more types of yogurt to choose from. Greek yogurt is the obvious example of this, as at least 50% of all recipes that include yogurt now seem to specify “Greek-style yogurt” over any other kind.
Greek yogurt is known for having a much thicker, creamier consistency than regular, non-Greek yogurt. It gets this texture from the way that it is produced, not from the introduction of gelatin or other stabilizers to the finished product. It starts out the same way as any other yogurt, with milk and an active yogurt culture, but before packaging the yogurt is strained to remove some the the excess whey from the yogurt and make it thicker. You can find flavored Greek yogurt cups in many shops, but the basic Greek yogurt is plain and has a slightly tart taste to it.
Most stores these days carry Greek yogurt. If your local markets don’t, or if the larger containers are prohibitively expensive, you can make your own approximation at home by straining regular plain yogurt. Simply line a sieve with a piece of cheesecloth (you can also just use a very finer strainer, if you don’t mind loosing a little bit of yogurt) and place some of the regular yogurt inside. Let the whey drain out for about 15 minutes, then measure out the required amount and continue with your recipe. If you want to make a bigger batch, you can strain a larger amount of your yogurt in the fridge, leaving the strainer over a bowl to drain for a couple of hours. You can then store the thickened yogurt in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it. Since Greek yogurt doesn’t use stabilizers, try to choose a natural yogurt, if possible, as a substitute.