One style of caramel recipe dissolves sugar in cream or milk and heats that until it browns. Is there any reason this wouldn't work with yoghurt? Is there a known such recipe? It's impossible to search the web for it, there are too many yoghurts with caramel.
I can't see a reason why it wouldn't work. Caveat, I haven't made it with yogurt myself, but it sounds definitively worth trying out, and I'd estimate the risk of unpleasant surprises as quite low.
When you make a caramel sauce, the liquid is used simply for thinning to the correct consistency. The most common liquids are cream and milk, because the fat makes it very tasty, but you could use other liquids, and especially any dairy will give you a rather similar result.
Chemically, acid does make for a softer caramel, but you're probably looking to stop it at a "thick liquid" stage anyway, and even if not, yogurt is not all that acidic, it should be around 4.5.
The "mix everything first" method shouldn't be a problem either. It does need good temperature control for a longish period of time, and you may have to watch it more closely than cream, because the acid is likely to speed up the caramelization somewhat. But especially if you use sufficient fat - maybe try sour cream instead of yogurt - it shouldn't get out of hand.
Yogurt gets a more pronounced sourness when it's heated. A caramel sauce is very sweet, so it shouldn't be an unpleasant "punch", but I'd expect it to not taste as neutral as when made with cream - which is a good reason to make it in the first place, as it would give you a nice variation.
The issue I foresee with heating yogurt up to high temperatures is curdling. The results may not be totally objectionable, but I would expect a certain amount of graininess in the final texture.
We all know that enough acidity will cause dairy to curdle and separate - heat will exacerbate this effect, even if the dairy you started with was perfectly stable. This is also why many caramel recipes opt for cream in the first place. It's not only for flavor or richness, but it's less likely to curdle due to the slight acidity coupled with high heat.
For the sake of experimenting, I would recommend creme fraiche since the higher fat content does allow you to cook with it with fewer separation issues. That said, I'm not sure what will happen once you get beyond boiling!
And if you do meet success, I'd love an update! Good luck! :)
Asker here -- I went ahead and made some yogurt caramel, and it turned out wonderful! The tartness happened to come out confident yet blended with my amounts, and I like it much better than I would a lemony note.
Taking a hint from the hivemind I used starch to prevent curdling, so what I have is really a pudding. But then I found out about the lack of shelf life due to starch, and that it reduces scent. Next time I'll try just blending it smooth once curdled as I presume further cooking shouldn't hold any hazards.
Here's what I did, for completeness. I make no special claims for the setup. Forgive the funny numbers, they come from a physical teaspoon. Also no guarantee what the spices would do if I hadn't in fact used up some unquantifiable-ginger-tinge butter left from another caramel experiment (which was a hit ;).
Yogurt caramel pudding
Yields: ca. 500 to 550 ml
Shelf life: 1-3 weeks in fridge
450 ml yogurt 3.5%, firm, nearing Best Before
20 g cornstarch
160 g powdered sugar
2.8 ml honey
65 g butter
1.4 ml salt
0.7 ml cumin powder
5.5 ml coriander seed powder
3.5 ml rose water
- whisk yogurt smooth with starch
- melt butter; whisk in yogurt, sugar, honey, salt
- low simmer, stir and scrape bottom regularly; beware of spattering due to starch
- browning only sets in once enough water has escaped, this may take a while
- test taste from cold plate
- when desired darkness reached, boil water and adjust consistency (test on cold plate)
- mix spices, rose water, some water into a paste
- rinse and heat up jars with hot water; whisk in spice, pour and let cool