For many years, I’ve always made a summer to-do list. I usually set to work on it right at the beginning of June when the days feel long and ripe with possibility. The list often involves things like learning to bake sourdough bread or making homemade ricotta, doing an epic hike I’d read about in a local magazine, training for a marathon, or reading specific novels. It is always a pretty aspirational list, and I generally don’t make much of a dent in it — resulting in the guilty feeling come late August that I’d wasted too many lazy afternoons when I could’ve been baking sourdough or making ricotta or doing memorable, epic hikes. But this summer is going to be a bit different: there will be no list. We wait so long in Seattle for long stretches of sunny days, and now that it stays late until 9:30 (or later?), I want to see more of our friends and find stretches of time to do not much of anything except catch up, tan our legs and eat farmers market berries. That’s my list.
Thankfully this crazy delicious recipe from Cheryl Sternman Rule’s beautiful new book, Yogurt Culture does not at all interfere with this summer’s non-list. It’s so simple we actually had these on a weekday, but I understand for those of you who have busier (read: bigger) households, you may want to reserve this one for the weekend. Either way, it’s summer breakfasting at its best (or desserting as these would be great in the evening, too).
I received a copy of Cheryl’s book right before we moved, so I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to cook or bake from it until we’d fully settled in. A few nights ago, it was a treat to sit on the couch as Sam was painting our window frames — trying to decide where to begin (and cheering Sam on). From sweet baking recipes to savory chicken or beef dishes, the breadth and variety of recipes in Yogurt Culture is inspiring as is Cheryl’s deep knowledge about yogurt in different cultures and applications. I find sometimes with single subject cookbooks, the star ingredient can sometimes seem forced in a particular dish, as if it doesn’t really fit but the author tries to make a case for it anyway. This is not the case with Cheryl’s book: yogurt truly takes center stage. And if you’re familiar with her witty, brilliantly written blog Five Second Rule, you know that Cheryl’s recipes always work.
If you’ve made traditional crepes in the past, you may remember pulling out your blender to ensure the batter is super smooth, and you likely recall the nice, short ingredient list. This recipe relies on yogurt instead of milk and you can use a whisk instead of your blender. It’s one of those ‘tough to mess up’ recipes as everything just goes in one bowl and you fry them up to order. I will say that much like most pancake or crepe recipes, the first one almost always turns out to be a dud, so consider that one a good taste-test candidate and don’t be discouraged right off the bat.
As for fillings or toppings, you don’t have to go the strawberry route here — we just have so many local, sweet berries in the markets right now I couldn’t help it. But really you can fill these crepes with anything you’d like — sweet or savory. Cheryl recommends ideas like bananas and nutella, fried eggs and ham, or butter and maple syrup. I think lemon curd and a little cream would be really nice, too. Or any sliced, fresh fruit (or, dare I say, ice cream for dessert!) I chose to make Cheryl’s yogurt whipped cream to go with the berries and I can already tell it’s going to be a staple around here. It has a nice tanginess that regular whipped cream doesn’t have (think cheesecake whipped cream, perhaps?) and thanks to the stability of the yogurt, you can whip it in advance and it lasts for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
If you live in the Seattle area: I’ll be leading a discussion and Q & A with Cheryl at Booklarder next Thursday, June 25 from 6:30-8. Come with all your yogurt questions, and expect a great talk covering a variety of ways to cook and bake with this increasingly trendy (!) ingredient. I hope to see you there.
I ended up using a bit of buckwheat flour in my crepes because I love the color and flavor, but if you’d rather use all all-purpose flour, go right ahead. The batter holds up beautifully in the fridge for a few days, so if you don’t want to cook them all off at one time, you can look forward to leftovers.
Only Slightly Adapted From: Yogurt Culture
For the Crepes:
For the Yogurt Whipped Cream
Make the whipped cream:
Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the yogurt and vanilla, then continue to whip, slowly streaming 2 tablespoons sugar down the sides of the bowl. Continue whipping until the peaks hold when the whisk is lifted. Taste, whipping in up to 1 tablespoons more sugar, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the Crepes:
In a large bowl, whisk the butter, flour, yogurt, eggs, whey or water, and salt until smooth. Let rest for 10 minutes. The batter should have some body but should drip easily from the whisk.
Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water on the skillet sizzle and evaporates. Using a silicone pastry brush, brush the bottom and sides of the skillet generous with melted butter. Tilt the skillet forward, then pour 1/3 cup batter close to the lip of the skillet. Quickly swirl so the batter coats the bottom. (If the batter is too thick to swirl and coat easily, whisk 1-2 tablespoons water into the remaining batter).
Cook until the underside of the crepe is lacy and nicely browned and the edges look dry, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Invert onto a plate. Brush a bit more butter onto the skillet and repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with more melted butter between batches. Stack the crepes on the plate.
To serve: top each crepe with a generous spoonful of berries and yogurt whipped cream. Enjoy immediately.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.