Berry, Berry Yogurt

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My first initiation with yogurt was in a little quaint dining place in Sagada, called the Yogurt House. Having eaten ice cream all my growing up years, it was something different –a little bit tart and fresh.

At first, I chose the plain one, just the yogurt without any toppings. But a friend introduced me to Hiker’s Delight, banana and yogurt wrapped in a home-made pancake and topped with strawberry preserve.

Soon, we were craving for Yogurt Complete, with slices of fresh banana and strawberry, with bits of granola that gave it a crunch. And from then on, there is no going back.

For those who can’t get enough of yogurt, they can make their own. Making yogurt is a satisfying culture (pun intended) of continuity because one keeps using the last spoonful from the last batch to make the next. Home-made yogurt usually doesn’t have stabilizers, sweeteners and water-logged fruits.

To make your home-made yogurt, you need to find a good starter yogurt. If you know someone who makes his own yogurt, you can ask him for his “heirloom.” But otherwise, you can opt for one of those plain yogurt brands that are sold in the market today. While they have sweeteners and stabilizers, they can make pretty decent starter. Like any yogurt, they have active bacterial culture.

Then, decide which milk to use. Full milk gives a satisfying flavor and a balance consistency. Low-fat milk can be a good alternative. Soy milk sets into a custard-like mixture and becomes thin when stirred, but it is a good alternative for the lactose-intolerant people.

When you have decided which to use, heat the milk at 180 degrees. Let it boil until it is steaming and beginning to form bubbles. When heat is applied to the milk, the whey proteins changes which helps create a fine consistency. After some time, lower its temperature to 115 degrees. Cool it down somewhere between very warm ad hot.

Then, stir in two tablespoons of starter yogurt for every quart of milk. Make sure to dissolve and thin the starter yogurt with a little milk before pouring it to the rest of the milk. Put the mixture in a warm jar. It can be a container or an insulated bottle. Cover it. Keep the milk warm until it sets; it usually takes about four hours. Some wrap the container in several kitchen towels; other put it in an oven with the light on. When it finally sets, put the yogurt in the refrigerator to stabilize it and slow down the continuing acid production.

You can also make yogurt using ice cream machine, just incorporate air into it after the ingredients have been mixed and then cool it rapidly to prevent formation of ice crystals.

But for those who don’t have the luxury  of time, you can just head to the nearest yogurt place, buy a cup (or two) and eat to your heart’s content. In the recent years, frozen yogurt took the market by storm. It became the latest fad among those who want to ride the health bandwagon. But slowly, it became a game changer in the cold dessert front. It is now a popular alternative to ice cream.

After that initiation, it has been a constant battle between ice cream and yogurt for me. But I can never really point out how I choose which. Sometimes, ice cream would win and, on several occasions, yogurt would prevail. It is going to be a long battle, but who am I to complain? Dessert just got better.

Cherry Crumble

Cherry Crumble

Some people choose yogurt because it is known for being the healthier option. The difference between ice cream and yogurt is in the cream. For ice cream to be labeled as such, it needs at least 10 percent milk fat; yogurt is not made from cream but with cultured milk. Since cream is the deciding factor, the fat content is the nutritional variable a person needs to check.

A cup of vanilla ice cream may contain 275 calories, with five grams of protein, 31 grams of carbohydrate, 15 grams of fat and nine grams of saturated fat; while a cup of vanilla frozen yogurt has 221 calories, with five grams of protein, 38 grams of carbohydrate, six grams of fat and four gram of saturated fat.

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BUT… depending on the type of frozen yogurt and toppings a person choose, ice cream may actually be the healthier choice. The calorie and fat content may vary depending on the portion size and what one puts into it. If you keep adding fat-laden, sugar-filled toppings such as syrups and candies, it will increase not just the fat content but also the sugar level and calories.

Good thing, there are yogurt places, like Pinkberry, that offer healthy toppings. Originated in West Hollywood, California in 2005, Pinkberry has been one of the fastest growing global brands, with over 240 stores across 17 countries, with the Philippines as its first market in Asia. It opened its door in Manila, particularly in Greenbelt 5, in 2005.

At Pinkberry, you can opt for fresh fruits, granola and nuts for their antioxidant property as well as for their fibers and proteins. Fruits are likely to have lower calories, fat and sugar. Pinkberry’s Mikki Montenegro shares that their fruits are always fresh, never from a can, frozen or sitting in the water. She adds that they source their fruits locally, especially the mangoes. “The Philippines has the sweetest mangoes,” she enthuses.

When they launched nine years ago, they were serving only two flavors: original and green tea. But now, they have over 18 flavors which they rotate seasonally.  When we visited their newly opened store in SM Megamall Fashion Hall, they were serving six flavors: original, salted caramel, chocolate hazelnut, cookies and cream, strawberry and their newest flavor, cherry. (I’m looking forward to Bloody Orange and Wild Berry.)

Cherry Crumble

Cherry Pie

Made from real bits of cherries, this flavor captures the delicate and juicy flavor of the fruit. It is quite light, not that tart.

We tried it with different combinations. There was the Chocolate-covered Cherry, with shaved milk chocolate and chocolate syrup. Then, the Cherry Crumble with fresh strawberries and honey almond granola, drizzled with agave nectar. Have some Cherry Pie, with waffle cookie and strawberry puree, or perhaps a Cherry Macaron with coconut and toasted almonds.

Or simply create your own combination. They have over 30 toppings, grouped into four categories such as  dry, fruits, luxe and liquid. (I simply adore the lemon cookie crunch.) Each topping is chosen to provide additional flavor and texture to complement their signature frozen yogurt.  While Pinkberry has heavenly but not-so-healthy toppings, the yogurt company aims to provide as many healthy options as possible.

Recently, they have partnered with Sugarpova, a candy line by international tennis player Maria Sharapova and IT’SUGAR founder Jeff Rubin. The candy line was first marketed in the US in August, with over 250,000 bags sold in the first three months. It was launched worldwide in 2013 through IT’SUGAR and Selfridges stores in UK.

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Pinkberry now carries the premium gummy candy collection that surely matches their frozen yogurt. They have the Sugarpova Flirty Mini, a fruit-flavored candy shaped in kissable lips, the Sugarpova Smitten Sour Mini, a rainbow-colored candy ribbon, and the Sugarpova Flirty Sour, a fun candy collection of lips, hearts and stars.

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PROMO ALERT: Want to win P500-worth of Pinkberry gift certificates? Just take a selfie with your Pinkberry yogurt topped with a least one Sugarpova topping, post it in your Instagram account and tag @pinkberryph, with hashtag #sharapinkberry. One winner will be chosen each week. Promo runs until October 24; winner will be announced every Friday.

Also, every Friday until October 17, Pinkberry will have a buy one, get one promo on all its salted caramel products from 5 p.m. until the store closes. Customers can get any two salted caramel items, pay for the higher priced item and get the other one for free.

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