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
- 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.
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.
Healthy Comfort Food
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.
Cheesy Quinoa Cauliflower Bake
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
To Talk Porridge
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)
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.
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.
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
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. :)
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
I'm excited to try this. Love the book updates. Can. Not. Wait.
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!!!
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.
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 :-)
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!
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.
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!
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!
You know what would taste really good with this yogurt cake? Cherry apricot chutney. I'm just sayin'...
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!
Lemon has been on my mind this summer and I'm excited to make this over the weekend. Thank you, thank you.
Love! I'm seriously wishing I had a hunk of that right now.
The addition of blueberries sounds great. How's your garden doing?
Thank you for making the entire post visible in a feed reader!
wow, looks delicious!
Sophie @ happyspinach
Wow... This looks so good! I absolutely love lemon yogurt cakes, And this one looks to be no exception. :)
Delicious cake, it worked out so well!
Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters
Great, Mirian! So glad you liked the cake. ~m
I would love to prepare this but do not have any barley flour. Do I use all whole wheat flour? 1 1/2 cups?
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!
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!
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
So happy to have come across your site and this recipe! It looks delicious. Do you recommend any kind of olive oil in particular?
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
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!
just found the blog and love it!! this recipes looks amazing and the pictures are wonderful as well! - so magazine like! :)
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....
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
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!
Awesome, Linda! So glad you enjoyed it. All best, Megan