I am involved in a torrid love affair with food blogs. As I’ve mostly been cooking for one lately, I have a freezer full of partially eaten dishes and no one to praise my prowess in the kitchen. Apparently I cook for the glory, so I’ve bookmarked all those recipes I’m dying to try for some time when Roem is home longer than a hot second. Until then I’ve been cooking by memory, either turning the ingredients of my fridge into a soup, making grilled cheese or throwing together a creative salad.
Being both a francophile and lover of all things food related, I was delighted to come across the food blog, Chocolate and Zucchini. Somehow that name doesn’t put me off and instead makes me want to bake a nut studded zucchini bread with chocolate chips. In addition to having a fabulous name, Clotilde Dusoulier is a beautiful writer and inspirational chef.
I always feel a bit of an imposter when I read gluten free, vegan or raw food blogs because technically I don’t associate with any of those food doctrines. But each new food trend and fad really intrigues me and I tend to add in techniques that work for my diet of mostly fresh local food with the occasional meat dish. Clotilde embraces both raw buckwheat granola and vegan bechamel sauce in equal parts with beef kidneys. It’s her avid curiosity for different methods of cooking and preparing food that I completely identify with and make her blog such an interesting read.
Another shared trait with Clotilde is her inherent need to tweak every recipe. Even if a recipe turns out perfectly, I have a compulsion to change it, add to it or simplify it. This is definitely a problem if you have a husband with a favorite dish that is always under development and you find yourself unable to recreate it exactly as it was last month. But every once in awhile you are left with something that is inherently greater than the sum of its parts and so the experimentation continues.
One recipe that can take any amount of tampering as long as the base ingredients remain unchanged, is French Yogurt Cake. This is a cake that many French families make weekly and its ingredients can be measured from a small yogurt container. It’s so easy that children often make it and eat it for their afternoon snack. Clotilde has some amazing variations on her website but I keep coming back to the basic equation of yogurt, sugar, eggs and flour. Of course I can’t help but sub in some almond flour or lemon zest on occasion but I know it so well by now that I don’t even have to look up the recipe and it comes out perfectly every time. It also doesn’t usually require an extra trip to the store so it’s a great recipe to keep on hand for any unexpected occasions requiring cake (You got a job! You’re engaged! It’s Tuesday!).
Side Note: When I asked Roem to bring home some yogurt for this cake a few weeks ago, he showed up with a large tub of Strauss European style whole milk yogurt. I may have heaved a giant sigh of irritation that he didn’t pick up the thicker, Greek style Fage I prefer. That lasted about…oh…three minutes before I actually tried it. I don’t really like yogurt that much, mostly due to the texture (or lack thereof), but this is the most delicious, tangy yogurt I have ever had. I usually prefer to make my own (more about that in a later post) but Strauss Yogurt is so good that I’ve justified it as a necessary luxury.
French Yogurt Cake
(Slightly adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini’s Gâteau au Yaourt seen here)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/3 cup of olive oil (Extra Virgin if you’ve got it)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or other flavoring (Almond, Maple, ect.)
- 1 tablespoon rum (or Limoncello or any liqueur you have on hand)
- 1 teaspoon of citrus rind (lemon, grapefruit. lime, ect.)
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Line the bottom of a round 10-inch cake pan with buttered parchment paper and grease the sides. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, and rum.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together gently without overworking the dough.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.
You should wrap this cake after it cools (and you sneak a few slices) to let the flavors fully develop. It only gets better with age and is really wonderful with a dollop of Strauss yogurt on top and a few berries for breakfast (and lunch, dinner or snack). There is something so delightful about the rich flavorful olive oil and lightly scented citrus with the moist ripe cake. Enjoy!