If you are a regular at this blog, or even just pop into this kitchen once in a while, you might know that I am a part of a small virtual book-cook club. I haven’t been awfully regular there, but we’re a small bunch of bloggers who all recognise that life has a way of making its own plans for us and sometimes havoc with our good intentions.
Last month’s book choice was A Homemade Life: Stories And Recipe From My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg. Last month being December and everyone knowing the nature of that beast (month), it wasn’t surprising that none of us had the time to read or cook from it. So we’re doing it this month and I’m just managing to make the deadline, so to speak.
Most of you would be aware that Molly blogs at the very popular Orangette. While I do not follow her blog regularly, I have read a lot of her posts and she does write very well. I must say I’ve never tried out any of her recipes though.
I liked the way Molly starts her book as it really rings true with me a lot of the time. The first chapter opens with these words - It started when I was a freshman in high school. We'd be sitting at the kitchen table, the three of us, eating dinner, when my father would lift his head from his plate and say it: "You know, we eat better at home than most people do in restaurants."!
As the title of her book promises, it is really about stories about her family and life interwoven with recipes. She writes about leaving Oklahoma for France for studies, selling olive oils and teaching English in her beloved Paris to support herself, working in a Pilates studio in Seattle and as a publicist for a publisher, about a date who made dinner for her which was tufts of 7 different sprouts and 3 cherry tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar!
She also tells you about her much loved father who became ill of cancer and died at 73, about starting a blog because she loves to write, getting fan mail for her blog posts from a New York composer who is now her husband.
I knew which recipe I would be baking even before I started her book, as I had my heart set on baking her French Style Lemon-Yogurt Cake a few months back. I first tasted this cake about 3 months ago when I went visiting Sheba. She had baked the version that was on Molly’s blog and I really liked the cake very much. So the choice of Molly’s book last month was a sort of sign for me.
As it happens, this Lemon-Yogurt Cake is very important in Molly’s life. It was this cake recipe on her blog that prompted Brandon’s (now her husband) friend Meredith to write to her. As Molly says, “she owes this cake a debt of gratitude and though a simple cake it borders on the magical”.
This French style yogurt cake or Gâteau au Citron as it also known, is a popular old fashioned French cake and there are many versions of it. Molly’s recipe (and all the others) require 3 or 4 eggs which was a bit too much for our tastes. We prefer our cakes not to smell like omelettes, so I had to reduce the eggs to the bare minimum. I made a few changes to her recipe. I used melted butter with the oil as I find that cakes that have about 1/2 cup or more of oil tend to taste a bit “pasty” to me. I also added some blueberries to the batter.
Molly’s recipe includes a lemon syrup to drench the warm cake and then a lemon glace icing. Given that we’re not overly fond of lemons in our desserts and that in India all those little yellow or green little fruits of the citrus family are actually limes and extremely tart, I thought it prudent to use only the glace icing on my cake.
French Style Lemon-Yogurt Cake (Gâteau au Citron) With Blueberries
(Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life)
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 to 1 cup blueberries, dried
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons lemon juice
In a large bowl, lightly whisk together the yogurt, sugar, oil, melted butter and egg till well blended. In another smaller bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Now add the blueberries to the flour mixture and mix till they’re well coated with the flour.
Add this to the wet ingredients in the bigger bowl and fold just enough to combine into a smooth yellow batter. Do not over mix or beat vigorously.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured 7” or 8” cake tin and bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 to 30 minutes till golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Do not over bake.
Combine the icing sugar with the lemon juice in a small bowl, till it dissolves. Add more icing sugar if the icing is too runny. Spoon ithis over the cooled cake and leave for it to set solid for about an hour.Slice and serve. This cake serves 8 to 10.
Before I go further I also have to say a much belated but heartfelt thanks to Manju and Aparna (my namesake). If by some chance you haven’t discovered this yet, food bloggers are amongst the most awesome people around. They are also very good natured, giving and understand your fixation with things like cake moulds, cupcake wrappers, food decorations, parchment paper, and all such stuff related to food. Why else would they write to me and ask if I they could bring me anything from abroad as they were coming down to India?
Manju (also happens to be family ), who I couldn’t meet this time, brought me a stash of stuff including blueberries which I used in this cake, and Aparna managed to find space in her suitcases to bring me my 100mm f/ 2.8USM Macro lens that I have been dreaming of for ages! The last picture of the slice of cake (2nd image in this post) has been taken with the 100mm lens, while I used the 50mm f/ 1.8 lens for the others.