Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gâteau au Yaourt (Children's Yogurt Cake)

Gâteau au Yaourt
Makes one 10-inch round cake, or one rectangular loaf 

This not-too-sweet cake is as easy as un, deux, trois . . . because it uses one simple measure:  the yogurt container itself. It is often the first cake that French children learn how to bake for that simple reason. Scoop the yogurt into the mixing bowl, then start measuring the rest of the ingredients with the container. You can add more ingredients when (I mean IF) you grow up (see variations* below). Child or not, this cake is perfect. It's even perfect for company in this childlike version without any variation.

This recipe is for 6-ounce yogurt pots (like you find in the U.S.) In Europe many yogurt pots are 125 ml / 4 ounces.  If that’s what size you use, you can still add the same amount of baking powder, soda, salt and vanilla; the recipe is very, very forgiving . . . just like children.

For a 9x13 pan scale recipe up by 1. 5

1 pot plain whole milk yogurt  (180ml / 6-ounce yogurt pot / ¾ cup)
2 pots sugar                           (I prefer 1 pot sugar: 150g / ¾ cup)
3 eggs                                      (use 2 eggs for the 4-ounce pots)
½ pot oil, scant                      (90ml / 1/3 cup), grapeseed or canola
2 pots flour                            (180g / 1½ cups all-purpose, or soft white whole-wheat)
1½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

Pinch of salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or paste)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10-inch cake pan, or loaf pan, lined on the bottom with parchment paper**.  I use a 10-inch greased cast iron skillet, unlined, and serve it from there.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and soda.
  4. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together.  Don't overwork the dough.  A few lumps are fine.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 30 to 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.

Ø  Citrus Cake: Add 1 TBL citrus juice and zest, or peel, for a delicious lemon or orange cake. Omit rum.
Ø  Almond Cake: Replace rum with ½ tsp almond extract and some slivered toasted almonds to the batter, and ½ pot of ground almonds for fun.
Ø  Chocolate Chip-Nut: Add nuts and/or chocolate chunks to the batter.
Ø  Layered: Slice the baked cake in two and spread a layer of lemon curd or jam in the middle.  Or both.
Ø  Frosted: Frost the cake with a chocolate frosting.
Ø  Fruity with Pine Nuts: Add sliced (canned) pears or peaches (drained from their “syrop”) to the top of the cake before baking. The pears will sink nicely into the cake for a sweet "second version". Pine nuts (toasted) make it extra yummy.
Ø  Berry-Praline: Add berries and a crunchy praline topping (reminiscent of a cake Dwight made on a P-Day that he mentioned in one of his missionary letters).
Ø  Chocolate Cake: Gâteau au Yaourt au Chocolat: stir in 200 g, more or less, melted dark chocolate to batter, or 1 tub cocoa powder.
Ø  Valentine Cake: add the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tsp crushed Pink peppercorns.  Bake in heart-shaped pan, sprinkle top with demerrara sugar for sparkle and a few more crushed pink peppercorns.
Ø  Spice: Add spices cardamom, cinnamon, etc.
Ø  Ispahan: For a twist on Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan macaron: Add splash of Rose water, diced lychee and raspberries. Yum. Your own Ispahan cake!  Top with whipped cream, crushed pistachios and some raspberries.
Ø  Raspberry-Almond-Brown Sugar: Add 300g fresh or frozen raspberries to batter (pour ½ batter, add berries, top with remaining batter) and use brown sugar instead of white in the cake recipe. Add ½ tub ground almonds to dry ingredients.

** Quick way to cut a round of parchment paper: cut off a square about 11 inches.  Fold on the diagonal, then again a few more times, like you would for making a paper snowflake.  Lay this triangle into your pan centering the point in the middle.  Crease the outside edge where it meets the edge of the pan.  With a knife or scissors, cut along the crease and unfold.  Voilà!

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