Tuesday, May 12, 2009
French Yogurt Cake and the Act of Blogging
One of the first baking blogs I discovered after I started blogging myself was that of Orangette, aka Molly Weizenberg. I actually happened upon her book before her blog, although the book came about because of the blog. On my way to class one day, I suddenly found myself upstairs in Borders, in the cookbook section to be more precise. Although this wasn't the first time this sort of thing had happened, I was still surprised to look up and find Martha Stewart and Rose Levy staring me down on the feature display shelf instead of my professor. Already possessing their copy, I sneaked off to the side of the cookbook inlet where food literature is housed and began flipping through pages of prose. M.F.K. Fisher next to Judith Jones, a little Ruhlman for the contemporary adventurous, David Kamp for the what's-hot fiends, and Amanda Hesser for the New York Times Magazine loyalists who miss Mr. Latte were all stashed together with spines of other authors, known and unknown.
It was the unknown that caught my attention that day-a thick, pale bluish-green hardcover with the words "A Homemade Life" marching across the front between a neat row of dainty coffee mugs and little soldiers of quaint glassware. What's this? I wondered, picking up the book and reading the inside jacket. As it turned out, Ms. Weizenberg was a blogger, like myself, albeit a more well-known one. The admission on the jacket that while in Paris Molly "was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation, but more often, she found herself peering through the windows of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new patisserie, or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not in her studies but in the kitchen" piqued my interest for obvious reasons. Supposed to be in class but sneaking off guiltily to look at cookbooks? More interested in identifying the chocolate cake with the best crumb than in analyzing transcript or reading yet another article on the reading wars? Then in the midst of my Ph.D. or not decision, the dust jacket lines hit rather close to home. I went home and immediately bought the book on Amazon and read through it. I also began checking out her blog, though her entries do not appear very frequently. Her recipe for French Yogurt Cake with Lemon caught my attention from the beginning. It sounded simple, which I like, and quick, which I also like since I do most of my baking at night when I don't have a whole lot of time. Yet for one reason or another (no yogurt one day, no lemons the next), I never had the opportunity to bake this. Recently, I was flipping through Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking, From my Home to Yours (See: Dreaming of Biscuits, below) and came across her recipe for French Yogurt Cake. Her recipe includes almonds, which I didn't have around, but I remembered the recipe on Orangette's blog, which is a bit more simple (though she does note that you can make variations on the basic recipe, one of which includes using almonds instead of some of the flour). With yogurt and lemons in my fridge, this was the opportunity I'd been waiting for to try one of Orangette's Homemade recipes, and it did not disappoint.
Reminiscent of Fannie Farmer's "Cottage Pudding Cake" but a bit springier, this cake is the perfect winter or summer treat. It is slightly spongy but also dense, simultaneously light and heavy in the mouth. It has a refreshing hint of lemon, mostly picked up in the glaze, which I highly recommend using. I don't care for glazes and almost made this cake without it, but it turned out to really make the cake. The elegant and simple look, feel, and taste of this cake is both a great dinner party dessert to please your guests as well as a casual afternoon snack.
My cousin recently asked me how I consume all of the baked goods I make. While it's not exactly healthy, one thing that helps is making half recipes. For this cake, I halved the recipe and used a 6-inch cake pan (thank you, Nancy!) instead of the 9-inch pan that Orangette calls for. (I used only 1 egg instead of the 3 the full recipe calls for and threw in a couple of extra tablespoons of yogurt to compensate for the extra half of an egg that was missing.) When trying to figure out what size pan to use for half recipes (or doubles) I find the Practically Edible website ("The world's biggest food encyclopaedia") pretty useful. It has pan conversions here.
French Yogurt Cake with Lemons, from Orangette
You will find Orangette's recipe here.
Rose's Recipes also features French Yogurt Cake, as does Carmen Cooks. Check them out for some nice photos.
In other blogging matters, Danger Kitten Bakes recently received a shout-out on the blog Cup O' Cake Designs. What this blogger doesn't mention, however, is that she is the one who inspired me to start blogging, so you should check out her work. As her blog states, she is in business as a "baker, card designer, and seamstress." What could be better than that?
A classmate of mine also has an endearing blog called Fooding Through Life in which she chronicles her adventures of "eating my way one day at a time". Sounds like a worthy pursuit to me. We discovered in class one day that we both secretly dream of going to pastry school and have each gone so far as to check out programs, consider costs, and ultimately determine, rather sadly, that while we might attend pastry school someday, today is probably not our day. Instead, we will both be experiencing the joys of teaching next year, with many new foodie posts, I'm sure.
The unglazed cake.