Enhancing vanilla aroma/flavor in homemade yogurt
I've found a reusable yogurt culture I'm really happy with, and a consistent method for making thick, creamy yogurt without any additives - just milk and cream. I've been trying to make my default flavor vanilla, but I'm having trouble getting it to be pronounced in the finished product.
I'm using beans I purchased fresh from Olive Nation (so they're not dried-out or otherwise sad). I've tried steeping the split, scraped pods and their seeds as I heat up the milk, and I've tried adding the contents of a split bean after the yogurt is set and finished.
I don't think I'm expecting too much - I never eat junk food and don't eat sugar (except for some honey on my yogurt!), so my palate is pretty sensitive to, say, the sweetness of broccoli or the flavor nuances of the milk I get from my local farmer in the spring versus fall...but I'm not really getting vanilla here!
Do I just need to use extract? Are my beans possibly not as aromatic as they should be? Could I add them differently for different effect?
I started with one bean per quart and upped it to two. There is a mild vanilla aroma, but it's completely drowned out by the lactic tang when it hits your tongue.
Should I use extract? I wasn't sure if that small amount of alcohol will affect culturing. And if I have to use it...are the beans just for show?
In my experience, yes, you have to use extract. The alcohol really brings out the vanilla flavor. Happily, it is trivially easy to make your own extract from your beans and it will be better than the best extract you've ever bought. You can even use rum, whisky (of whatever sort you prefer) or even tequila as a substitute for vodka as a base if that's the direction you want to go.
Add the extract along with the goo that the seeds have turned into after the yogurt is fully developed.