Having spent a weekend ill, retching akin to a poor parody of “Vomiting Veronica” (and consequentially missing a close friend’s wedding owing to my head-over-the-loo status) choosing to bake—and write about it—may seem a strange recovery response.
But then, thinking about the food I might successfully consume once my appetite (and accompanying digestive system) returned somehow spurred my recovery on. At least, leafing through my recipe cuttings collection while lying woe-is-me-style in bed, coupled with blog-browsing on the boy’s iPad, kept me occupied while I was positioned horizontal. It also meant I could view myself as more productive, than pathetic; the latter, of course, being the truer state.
I don’t own the “right pan”—who does?—I gather when reading Emily Weinstein’s lovely blog about learning to bake. None-the-less the lemons in the fruit bowl, and the ease with which she describes assembling the ingredients, has inspired me to bake a version of Dorie Greenspan‘s French yoghurt cake.
I feel hungry just looking at the pictures, partly because I’ve not eaten anything more substantial than apples and some celery for the last 48 hours.
I’m cheating, slightly, because I haven’t ventured out, so canola oil is replacing olive oil—which will add a more distinct flavour—and the “pan” issue means I’m trying the circular option, in place of the loaf tin. The olive oil should lend a richness to cake, which I hoping will be tempered by the sharpness of the lemon zest.
Oh, and cream in the fridge means I can attempt some sort of shortcake filling; which seems apt for the last official weekend of summer. Sponge and berries with whipped cream.
Other than adding some soft brown sugar as well as ordinary caster, putting in a little more lemon zest, and using olive oil in place of canola, I’ve pretty much followed Dorie’s delicious recipe. Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton-Mifflin, 2006).
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 and 1/2 lemons
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flavourless oil (I used olive, which isn’t flavourless, but still works well)
Preheat the oven to 170C degrees. Generously grease an 9-x-2-inch round cake pan, and place on a lined baking sheet.
Whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt, and set aside.
Put the sugar and zest in a medium-sized bowl and, working with your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and aromatic. (This part may be messy, but the intense aroma makes up for it.)
Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla to the bowl and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very well blended.
Still whisking, stir in the dry ingredients. Use a large rubber spatula to fold in the oil. By now you’ll have a thick, smooth batter with a slight sheen. Scrape the batter into the pan (loaf tin, or circular cake tin) and smooth the top with a palette knife.
Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (10 ir so minutes longer if you’ve opted for a loaf tin), or until it will be golden brown. Use a knife (or skewer) to test: insert into the centre of the cake and it should come out clean.
Transfer the pan to a rack, cool for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Cool to room temperature right-side up. Using a serrated knife, cut horizontally into 2 rounds.
Admittedly, my wasted weekend had left me with a hankering for cream, coupled with a desire to see out the summer with a berry-topped cake, but it would be just as delicious, and certainly much lighter, to make a simple lemon syrup to pour over the cake. This is easily done while the cake is in the oven.
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar
Put the lemon juice and zest, sugar and 100 ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over a low heat. Increase the heat and boil until the amount has reduced by half and ressembles a syrup.
When you take the cake out the oven, immediately pour the syrup over the top and leave to cool for longer in the cake tin. Then place the cake on a wire rack to cool completely.
However, if you’re in more of a cream-and-strawberry-type-of-place, as I was, opt for a filling similar to below.
A punnet of strawberries, hulled, halved of quartered depending on size (keep a couple whole to scatter on top)
284ml pot double cream
25g caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Lightly whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract to form soft peaks.
Put the base piece of cake on a plate, spread with a generous layer of cream and cover with spoonfuls of berries. Cover with the top cake piece, the remaining cream and berries.
Sit down, and eat, immediately.
Briefly back from the abortive-Belarus adventure, the boy had a guest; the lemony whipped cream ensemble didn’t last long.