Monday April 30, 2012 | 02:14 PM

A while back I shared a homemade vanilla yogurt recipe in Wednesday's Food & Dining section and have tweaked my recipe in honor of Cinco de Mayo. It's a Latin American inspired cinnamon-flavored treat I have dubbed, "Horchata" yogurt.

My husband grew up drinking horchata, a rice milk spiced with vanilla and cinnamon that is popular in Latin America. It sounds a little odd if you're not from a culture that pairs milk with cinnamon but during the years I lived in California I developed a love for this drink.

Unfortunately, the smooth creamy horchata I enjoyed on the other coast is not so readily available on this one. I've experimented with making it from scratch with mixed results. (If you're interested I think this recipe is tasty as long as it sits in the fridge overnight to smooth out the taste).

But then I had a brainstorm the other day when I found I was running low on vanilla powder to make my homemade yogurt. I decided to throw some cinnamon in and give an horchata-inspired flavor a try.

The yogurt was thick and creamy with a strong, but not overpowering, flavor of cinnamon. It isn't the most attractive yogurt because a bit of cinnamon floats to the top white the majority sinks to the bottom of the jar. But the entire quart jar had a cinnamon-spiced taste that my husband and kids loved.

Here's my horchata yogurt recipe if you want to try it yourself  If you've never made your own yogurt before you can check out this story that offers tips on the process. It's not nearly as hard as you think!

HOMEMADE HORCHATA YOGURT
1 gallon of milk
¾ cup of sugar
¾ cup of dry milk
1 tablespoon of Madagascar vanilla bean powder (found at a natural food store)
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of plain active-culture yogurt
Candy thermometer
Mason jars with lids

Heat the milk in a large pot on medium high heat. Do not set the heat on high, as it could scald the bottom of the pan. Attach your candy thermometer to the side of the pot to monitor the milk's temperature. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat when the temperature reaches 180 degrees. Depending on your stove top, this can take 20 to 30 minutes. When the temperature climbs to 150 degrees, keep a close eye on the milk, as the jump to 180 degrees happens quickly. It is important not to allow the milk to boil.

Once at 180 degrees, submerge the bottom of your pot in a pan with cold water and ice cubes to cool the milk quickly. Add sugar, dry milk, vanilla bean powder and cinnamon and stir well. The mixture needs to cool until it is 110 degrees, so keep the thermometer in the pan to monitor.

At 110 degrees, add the plain yogurt.

Mix the yogurt starter well before pouring into your mason jars. Place jars in a pot of warm water so that the water is just below the top of the jar. Then put the pot in the oven.

Set your oven at 110 degrees to incubate. This process can take 6 to 8 hours, depending on your taste preference. I prefer removing mine at the 6-hour mark to put in my refrigerator.

Recipe makes about 5 quarts of yogurt.

About the Author

Wendy Almeida has been writing about enjoying the outdoors with kids in her monthly Kid Tracks Outdoors column for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 10 years. Her kids have grown up exploring the trails of Maine on foot, skis and bikes as well as through the geocache and EarthCache games. The family has found treasures of all sorts while out on the trail and the journey continues to be as much fun now that the kids are teenagers as it was when they were preschoolers.

On Twitter and Instagram at @wea1021.

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