Baking in France, there is the element of the unknown. Maybe even a little danger.
The kitchen is somehow smaller than our (technically zero square feet) kitchen at home. The flour comes in numbered types. The eggs and milk aren’t cold. And the butter is so good, I only want to eat it with the bread.
At home, I tend to space (I mean zen) out when baking. Everything is in its place, nothing needs translation. But if you like to cook, you know that sometimes you need to be out of your element to get back into it.
So I go into this kitchen looking for adventure.
Of course, nothing bad ever happens, because the butter is too good. Also, I totally cheat by bringing oats, brown sugar, baking soda, chocolate chips, and my favorite loaf pan.
But on our last day in Aix, I wanted to bake in French, so I made a gâteau au yaourt. That’s French for this easy cake, often made by children, who use the yogurt cup to measure out the ingredients.
Dorie Greenspan, the fairy godmother of Americans baking in France, had just the recipe. With homemade lemon sugar and olive oil, it’s a bit more grown up, and tastes like a light poundcake.
I ate this piece with an iced espresso and the last of the roasted gariguette strawberries. Then I wrapped up two slices for the TGV to Paris we took the next day, for even more cake and adventure.
Dorie Greenspan’s Yogurt Cake
(adapted from Dorie and The New York Times)
Makes one 8” or 9” x 5” loaf.
1.5 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
a big pinch of salt
1 c. sugar
the zest of a lemon + a big squeeze of juice
1/2 c. plain whole milk yogurt
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil (I only had 1/4 c. olive oil left, so I used 1/4 c. melted butter)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. In another bowl, rub the lemon zest and juice into the sugar. Whisk in the yogurt, then the eggs.
Gently whisk in the flour, then switch to a spatula and fold in the oil. Pour into the loaf pan, smoothing out the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.