I am aware that I have neglected this blog for a long time, and without making any reckless promises I would like to remedy that this year. I am going to start with a baby step: a short post about a simple cake that may change your life.
Hello everyone. I am aware that I have neglected this blog for a long time, and without making any reckless promises I would like to remedy that this year. I am going to start with a baby step: a short post about a simple cake that may change your life. This is the first cake that any French child learns to make because all you need is a pot of yoghurt, a few basic ingredients, one bowl and a hand whisk. The beauty of it is that it can be different every time. You can vary the yoghurt, the fat, the flour and the sweetener, spice it up with just about anything and throw in any fruit or other chunky ingredient (say chocolate, dried fruits or nuts) that suits your fancy. Chances are it will never look stunning - the gâteau au yaourt is the culinary equivalent of a well-worn pair of jeans - but it's just the kind of plain cake to lift your spirits on a bleak January day.
On this particularly gloomy day, when a bureaucrat at the French passport office lost one of my original documents and then claimed never to have laid eyes on it, I decided to make yoghurt cake with bergamot and pear. Bergamot because I had bought a beautiful organic specimen from Pierre at the Cours Saleya market on Saturday, and pear because a not-so-beautiful specimen was languishing in my fruit bowl. Food waste is a hot topic these days and gâteau au yaourt happens to be a perfect way of using up stray fruit before it's too late.
For those of you not familiar with bergamot, it's the orangey-yellow citrus fruit that perfumes Earl Grey tea. It doesn't have much juice, but the zest has a powerful floral aroma. If you should get your hands on one (they are sold in some organic shops in Paris), I suggest that you strip off the rind with a vegetable peeler, let it air dry and add it to your favorite green or black tea, or infuse it with herbs if you prefer. And, of course, you could use it in this cake.
For the flour I chose spelt (whitish rather than whole wheat), which has become a staple in my kitchen. The sugar was from the jar of sucre de canne (cane sugar) into which I pop all my used vanilla beans once I've rinsed them off and dried them. The oil was virgin peanut oil, which unlike the refined version preserves its healthful properties and delicate nutty flavor. And the yoghurt was sheep's milk, which has a thicker, richer texture than cow's milk yoghurt. Of course I could have used different ingredients: perhaps a light tasting olive oil, whole wheat pastry flour (organic Type 65 seems to be the closest equivalent in France), and honey instead of the sugar. A gluten free mix involving buckwheat should work well, though I haven't yet experimented with that. If you can't find bergamot, try lemon, orange, mandarin or perhaps Meyer lemon. Orange flower water is good for adding a mysterious floral note.
After a slice of this cake and a cup of tea I felt brave enough to order a new copy of my lost document, which I accomplished online in five minutes (and for free). Who says French bureaucracy is always a nightmare?
Yoghurt cake with bergamot and pear
Makes 1 loaf cake
1 yoghurt, about 125 g or 8oz (sheep, cow or goat's milk, but full fat if possible)
Now use the yoghurt pot to measure the other ingredients:
2 pots flour of your choice (I suggest spelt or whole wheat pastry flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 pot organic cane sugar
1/2 pot virgin or extra-virgin vegetable oil
2 free-range eggs
Zest of 1 small bergamot
1 pear, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 inch (1 cm) chunks
A little butter for the loaf tin
Butter a loaf tin and coat it lightly with flour. Preheat the oven to 375 F (180 C).
Turn the yoghurt out into a mixing bowl. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl. Add the cane sugar, oil, eggs and bergamot zest. Mix with a hand whisk until the batter is smooth, but avoid overmixing. Fold in the diced pear.
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 35 minutes, or until golden and risen. The top should spring back when you touch it lightly.
Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a rack to cool. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a drizzling of runny honey if you like.