We’d Try and Guess

Time moves differently in the summer. I swear this to be true. It was one of the crueler jokes bestowed upon me when I began teaching: you put all of your energy and every dream of a chunk of freedom into this magical thing, summer vacation, and it’d be over before you could blink. I’m feeling a little of that as I sit here now with just a few days of July left, writing to you on a foggy Friday afternoon with a messy kitchen, a broken washing machine, and an empty refrigerator. Don’t get me wrong: it’s been a good day. We shared a messy biscuit sandwich for lunch from a new spot downtown and lingered over coffee longer than usual before starting the work day. A good week, really. But time has been moving quickly and I’m sure you notice that, too.


The funny thing about this space lately is that I feel just a touch stifled. I’ve actually been in the kitchen every day creating and writing recipes for the cookbook, but I can’t share them with you now. So it’s an odd feeling because I’m so excited to tell you about the Cherry Apricot Chutney and Peach Skillet Cobbler, but I can’t. I’d love to show you how the Blueberry Breakfast Bars turned out, and I’m taking a stab at a very special batch of whole grain seedy granola bars to take hiking with us tomorrow.  But all of that will just have to wait. For now.


During the year my mom and I lived together in California, we’d share magazines. Some food magazines, some catalogs, some bad gossip magazines. It was kind of funny passing them around because she’d have pages turned down and I’d try and guess what recipe or pair of shoes she was flagging for herself. She’d do the same with my dog-eared pages. What was it that you liked about this page? We’d try and guess, delighting in the fact that we knew each other pretty well, and we were usually right. When Sam and I visited my mom’s cabin on Lake George earlier this month, I was sitting on the stool in the kitchen chatting with her while she chopped vegetables for dinner. So I’d have something to leaf through and busy my hands, she handed me her recipe binder and pointed out the potato bake she was making that night. I started flipping through to see what else she had in store for herself this summer. I quickly came across a familiar looking French Yogurt Cake, and I tried to recall where I’d seen it or heard about it. It boasted yogurt and lemon and a healthy dash of salt, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how it’d be perfect for breakfast or dessert, with a slather of jam or topped with berries and whipped cream.

After we returned home, I started flipping through my own recipe binder thinking about things I wanted to bake while Sam’s mom was in town. I came across the same exact recipe. Dog-eared. Right in the front. I made some significant changes to the original recipe, using olive oil instead of vegetable oil and turbinado sugar (any good natural cane sugar will be great) instead of white sugar. I think quick breads turn out wonderfully with a white whole-wheat flour (I used King Arthur here), so I used a blend of that and barley flour. It’s not a towering light loaf the kind of which you’d see stacked up at, say, Starbucks. I wouldn’t describe it as fluffy and I wouldn’t say it has a particularly light crumb. Instead, I’d say that this loaf is a squatty champion that’s moist, wonderfully fragrant, and dense enough to support a generous spread of jam and butter. It’s not finicky or moody. It’s a two-bowl affair, a reliably simple recipe resulting in a loaf that likely won’t last long around here this weekend. I’m sure my version  turned out much different than my mothers will, but we’ll both bake it this summer and our kitchens, while separated by many states, will have that same scent of vanilla and lemon and the possibility of a warm slice of cake on an average summer afternoon. Maybe yours will, too.

Lemony French Yogurt Cake

Lemony French Yogurt Cake

  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 40 mins
  • Total time: 50 mins

The original recipe called for whole Greek yogurt, but I had low-fat on hand so that’s what I used here. If you have trouble finding barley flour, substitute all-purpose instead. Next time I bake this cake, I want to drop in a handful of blueberries or a pinch of chopped herbs (rosemary would be nice) from the garden.

Ingredients

1 cup white whole wheat flour + more for dusting pan
1/2 cup barley flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup turbinado sugar or natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mild olive oil
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a standard (8 1/4 by 4 1/4 inch) loaf pan and dust with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Using your fingers, rub the sugar with the lemon zest in a large bowl until the sugar becomes moist and fragrant. Add the yogurt, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Fold in dry ingredients just to blend. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until fragrant and the top of the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Store covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Comments

  1. Y

    Can't wait to see the blueberry breakfast bars :) In the meantime, this lemon yogurt cake has me wanting to dash to my kitchen immediately.

  2. Shanna

    Oh, how I need someone in my life to dog-ear recipes for French yogurt cakes, especially when I have a bunch of Greek yogurt to use up (but now at this reading, already have!). Lovely photos, lovely writing in this post, Meg. I love hearing your voice here, with or without those new blueberry breakfast bars.

    1. megang

      Thanks, Shanna! Yes, French yogurt cake is quite a thing, I think. I wonder how it would be made with white sugar and flour and have a suspicion it'd be a bit lighter and fluffier, but this version is pretty tasty, too. We took it hiking yesterday and it held up great. Hope you guys are having a wonderful weekend, ~m

  3. emmycooks

    This is a good system, this "recipe binder" thing. Probably superior to my "dog-eared magazines piled over, around, and under my desk" system. What a nice thing to inherit, along with an appreciation of lemon yogurt cake!

    And hey, feel free to let me know if you end up needing recipe testing help--I wouldn't mind a kitchen full of baked goods. In the name of science, you know. :)

    1. megang

      Ahhh yes, the recipe binder is key for me ... otherwise I just have piles of magazines and can't remember what is what. And I'd loooove another recipe tester. Going to email you soon! Happy Sunday.~m

  4. Mary

    I'm excited to try this. Love the book updates. Can. Not. Wait.

    1. megang

      Thanks, Mary!

  5. momgordon

    Talk about the "same page"! I just put my loaf in the oven in preparation for my afternoon visitors and then read your post. I treasure the thread of connection that runs through our lives. It makes me happy! Miss you!!!

  6. la domestique

    I love a good loaf cake recipe- so easy to throw together! My husband is Irish and always appreciates something like this to go with his cuppa tea.

  7. thelittleloaf

    It must be so hard coming up with exciting recipes and not being able to share them...but you will soon and HOW exciting it will be :-)

  8. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes

    I have so many magazines with marked pages it´s ridiculous, since I never find the recipe I want when I need it. This cake is just what I like to eat after my morning coffee. I have trouble finding barley and millet flour, what´s the best substitution? I have quinoa, buckwheat, pea, rice, chickpea, oat, amaranth, rye and whole wheat. I´m marking this recipe too!

  9. Dana

    As always, a lovely piece of writing Megan. I love the image of you and your mom in the kitchen together. And sharing magazines! I love that kind of cake. Much better than something fluffy from Starbucks.

  10. The Cozy Herbivore

    Oooh, this reminds me of a recipe I found in Bon Appetit a few months back for a French yogurt cake... and you're right, they're so lovely. Neither light nor fluffy, but supremely dense and moist and delicious. This looks like a wonderful version of the cake-- I can't wait to make it!

  11. dervla @ The Curator

    Love the French yogurt cake. I can never get it right though. Going to try your version now. Can't wait for your book!

  12. Molly

    You know what would taste really good with this yogurt cake? Cherry apricot chutney. I'm just sayin'...

  13. Hope Johnson

    Sending this recipe to my Mum! It's exactly the kind of recipe she would love. Thank you for sharing and I'm sure all your secret-keeping will be worth it for the finished book! Exciting!

  14. alexandria

    Lemon has been on my mind this summer and I'm excited to make this over the weekend. Thank you, thank you.

  15. Anne Zimmerman

    Love! I'm seriously wishing I had a hunk of that right now.

  16. Ashley

    The addition of blueberries sounds great. How's your garden doing?

    Thank you for making the entire post visible in a feed reader!

  17. Sophie @ happyspinach

    Wow... This looks so good! I absolutely love lemon yogurt cakes, And this one looks to be no exception. :)

    1. megang

      Great, Mirian! So glad you liked the cake. ~m

  18. Lori Redmond

    I would love to prepare this but do not have any barley flour. Do I use all whole wheat flour? 1 1/2 cups?

    1. megang

      Hi Lori! I would not use all whole-wheat flour. It'll be pretty dense. Why don't you use half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour? I think you'll get good results with that ratio. Enjoy!

  19. Cookie and Kate

    This cake is my kind of cake! My sense of time has been extraordinarily off since I moved to a new city a few weeks ago. I can't blame it on the summer, but I sure hope the days slow down once everything is settled!

    1. megang

      Oh, Kate! Yes, I've seen pictures on Instagram of that sweet new apartment/house. Light-filled and beautiful, but yes it takes a good few months to settle in, I think. Hope you're having a good week! ~m

  20. Crystal

    So happy to have come across your site and this recipe! It looks delicious. Do you recommend any kind of olive oil in particular?

    1. megang

      Hi Crystal! I'm glad you found the site, too! You know, I wouldn't use an olive oil that's too agressive. I use a mild, slightly fruity olive oil and that's what you'd want to use here. Also, nothing too terribly expensive. I'm a firm believer in leaving the good stuff for finishing/salad dressings. Enjoy! ~m

  21. Crystal

    Thanks for getting back to me and for the tip! Forgot to mention I'm a teacher as well, I totally understand your thoughts at the beginning of the post :) Enjoy the rest of your break!

  22. Bec

    just found the blog and love it!! this recipes looks amazing and the pictures are wonderful as well! - so magazine like! :)

  23. anna

    Hello!
    Great take on the classic yogurt cake with the addition of whole wheat flour and olive oil.

    I made this on a whim and its -15 out so I used what I had on hand:
    Subbed barley for All purpose
    Subbed Greek Yogurt for vanilla 0% probiotic
    Reduced sugar and did not add vanilla(b/c of flavoured yogurt)
    Also didn't have the right loaf pan so going to make muffins and bake for half the time...

    Ill let you know how they turn out!!!

    Im thinking since they are "cupcakes" now, I might make a lemon glaze for them....

  24. anna

    Update: Just tried one warm from the oven and this is one great muffin! :)
    No glaze needed!
    Also, forgot to mention I only had regular granulated sugar

  25. Linda

    I just wanted to stop by and tell you that I love this recipe. It was the first yogurt cake I made and I've tried many since and none of them are nearly as good as this one. I think there is something about the whole grains that gives it a density that is so much nicer than most fluffy cakes. This cake is simple enough to make with my three year old and my whole family loves it. Thank you!

    1. megang

      Awesome, Linda! So glad you enjoyed it. All best, Megan

Join the Discussion

Winter Comfort Food

Winter Morning Porridge

Winter Morning Porridge

I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead. 

Read More
Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine).  Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).

Read More
Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard

Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard

If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype. 

Read More
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.

Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.

Read More
Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little. 

Read More