Like eggs, butter, and cream, yogurt is one of those incredibly versatile, easy-to-love dairy products—it can go on pretty much anything, and it can be used in sweet and savory cooking applications alike.
But there's regular ol' yogurt, the kind made by fermenting milk for four to 12 hours, and then there's Greek yogurt—the kind that's strained after fermentation to remove much of the milky whey, for a thicker, more protein- and lactose-rich product (yes, you can also make it on your own at home).
Its alleged probiotic benefits are all well and good, but what we're most excited about is how it tastes—its lactic tang and rich, creamy texture. Greek yogurt's also an exceptionally useful ingredient in many beloved baked goods, due to the flavor that lactose takes on when it browns and the way a specific milk protein, called casein, can lend a hand in moisture retention and adding volume to cakes (and cake-like baked products).
With that in mind, here are 10 of our favorite desserts that incorporate Greek yogurt, to help develop your appreciation for the many applications of this delicious treat—beyond enjoying it straight from the tub.
This recipe packs in a seemingly gargantuan amount of cinnamon, but worry not: The spice ends up forming a gentle back note that complements the wheat-y flavor of the bran. Greek yogurt is on double duty here, helping to both cool the hot bran and keep the batter thick, resulting in a beautiful dome on each muffin.
Don't let the pumpkin-spice haters keep you from reveling in the cozy fragrance and pillowy-soft texture of these muffins on an autumn morning. We use a balanced blend of individual spices—clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger—to infuse them with warm flavor, and top them off with a nutty pumpkin seed streusel. As with the raisin bran muffins above, Greek yogurt thickens the batter so that each muffin develops a gorgeous tall crown.
This is not your nana's banana bread (unless your nana is Stella Parks, in which case, wow!). Our loaf comes out with a buttery crumb and a deep banana flavor that's coaxed out by the addition of nutmeg and clove. Yogurt and oat flour together help keep the bread incredibly moist; the latter also helps the batter rise higher and the loaf last longer than one made with just all-purpose flour.
Zucchini bread, like banana bread, is typically pretty sweet, greasy, and heavy on the cinnamon. This recipe switches up the standard formulation, using brown sugar in place of the usual white sugar to provide a little more flavor, and adding Greek yogurt to keep the bread tender. It's a zucchini bread that you'll want to make and eat over and over, even when you're not faced with a glut of squash taking over your garden.
This recipe is a little dangerous, given how easy it is, how delicious the rolls are, and how simple the cleanup ends up being: You'll find yourself making cinnamon rolls all the time. (Not one but two Serious Eats staff members have been persuaded to finally buy a stand mixer because of this recipe, despite having withstood the temptation through years and years of tantalizing cookie recipes.) Again, strained yogurt plays a pretty important role in hydrating the dough and keeping it thick.
Hot cross buns are traditionally served on Good Friday, but after trying this recipe once, you'll be persuaded to return to it all year long. These buns are chock-full of aromatic ingredients—vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, coriander, and candied lemon zest—and chewy dried cherries and apricots stud the tender crumb. The Greek yogurt here combines with milk to hydrate the dough, keeping it moist yet easy to handle. Make sure to use a Greek yogurt that contains only milk and active cultures; avoid brands thickened with gums, gelatin, or pectin.
Easier to make than the cinnamon rolls above, and almost as delicious (seriously, those rolls are hard to beat), this coffee cake requires just one bowl and about an hour and a half of your time, so it's perfect to make for a late-morning brunch. The crumb topping gets a nice graham flavor from whole wheat flour and a strong hit of cinnamon that doesn't get lost in the finished dessert. The cake itself is made tangy and light thanks to the strained yogurt incorporated into the batter. It's basically the platonic ideal of a coffee cake.
A trademark bit of culinary magic from Stella, these wee powdered doughnuts are uncannily similar to the little guys you buy in a Hostess box. While the addition of Greek yogurt gives them a slight tang and keeps them soft, the real star ingredient here is the fry oil: refined coconut oil, which gives the doughnuts a buttery richness and remains odorless at high heat.
Whipped Greek yogurt is pretty much just what it sounds like: Greek yogurt, mixed with heavy cream and sweetened with a little golden syrup, maple syrup, or honey, that's whipped until it forms stiff peaks. It makes a great topping for other desserts (like, say, this easy and super-tasty gingerbread sheet cake, which, we might add, is perfect for serving a crowd), but it's also excellent layered with seasonal fruits in a simple parfait.
We'd be remiss if we left out the dessert that most readily comes to mind when you think of lightly fermented milk products: frozen yogurt. The thing about using Greek yogurt in a frozen application is that its lack of moisture, a huge advantage in baked goods, becomes a downside; the result is a little too creamy, and eating it frozen can make you feel like you're chewing on sour cream. But, because all it needs is a bit of added liquid to get it froyo-ready, it offers the perfect canvas for any sort of flavoring, like citrus juice or a syrup. One of our favorite flavoring agents to add is dry white wine, which lends floral, honeyed, and fruity notes to complement the tang from the dairy.
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