Welcome to Paris - French Yogurt Cake
Welcome to Paris
In November 2012 I went to Paris. I went to stay with my former Parisian Treasure Island roommate. To say it was an incredible experience, would be an understatement. I left Paris with a glorified and unrealistic vision of how the French live. Granted, I visited days after my friend found out she passed the New York Bar Exam and thus every day was a celebration. Having some family friends over equated to elaborate dinner parties, having tickets meant tickets to the French ballet at the Palais Garnier, having a celebratory drink always meant quality champagne, having bread meant it was from the most acclaimed bakery in France, and having butter meant it was from the farmers market near their country house outside of Mortagne-au-Perche. Going out to a casual meal was a multi course affair. Indeed, my glorified memories were warranted and accurate. I was not only introduced to French cuisine for the first time, but a cultural class I didn’t know could be a reality. Yet, it was her family’s modesty that was so impressive. I was struck by her family’s generosity, but moreover eagerness to share their cultural and family traditions. I look back on my trip to Paris as a fairy tale. And grateful I was introduced to French butter.
When I first arrived, we were overjoyed to be reunited, though it was only been a few months since she left DC. I realized how quickly she became such a close friend. She has an American accent, which she attributes to watching American TV shows, primarily Friends and Brothers and Sisters. When we pranced around Paris together, people thought we were both American. Our first full day in Paris included all of her favorite places. I bought some Benisimon shoes, which apparently every French woman owns. They resemble the French version of Converses.
She took me past churches, through gardens and markets.
She covered my eyes and walked me to Pont des Arts. When we’re in the center of the bridge she opened my eyes.
Welcome to Paris.
Notably, she took me to her favorite bakery. We order almond cakes. Hers was raspberry, mine pistachio. I take a bite and realize it’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s made from ground almonds, butter, and sugar. I later learn the name for these heavenly French cakes are financiers.
Throughout the trip, I had her mom’s homemade Blanquette De Veau (veal and vegetables in a cream sauce), bone marrow for the first time, prepared at home. The most wonderful homemade apple tart, from apples from their country house. Her mother made it seem so effortless. We had radishes in country butter, celery root puree, roasted tomatoes. Everyday included inconceivable cheeses and pates. All from local markets. At a lunch out, her mom realized I had never had blood pudding. So, after my entree of fois gras, she ordered me a complete second entree, solely so I could try it. She made fresh scallops, and pan roasted whole fish with the heads still on. One for each of us. It was so many culinary firsts. I wanted to try everything! And I did. Other than the butter and cheeses and croissants, it was those almond cakes we had on the first day that I remember so vividly.
Upon returning back to D.C., it wasn't until I was gifted a Kitchen Aid stand mixer that I felt like a baker. Accordingly, I wanted to make something fantastic as my first recipe. I made French yogurt cake. Apparently, it’s one of the only recipes that French women bake at home, since they have an overabundance of bakeries in which they can easily attain gourmet, professional pastries, seemingly at every corner. Paris is flooded with patisseries, and even the mediocre one’s are fantastic. So why bake a cake? I learned French women do, however, make this everyday yogurt cake. It's common for the French to have plain yogurt in their fridge. I remember my friend was so frustrated that she had such difficult finding full fat plain yogurt in individual containers in the U.S. I never noticed. In Paris, we had plain, rich yogurt with small, sweet strawberries and granola for breakfast. So, my first recipe with my new stand mixer would be attributed to my glorification of Paris.
This yogurt cake is light and elegant. The ground almonds reminded me so much of the financiers in Paris. The day after, the cake was even better as the cake soaked up the glaze. It could be served in so many various ways, with berries, crème fraiche, a chocolate glaze. I liked it best the day after, eaten cold. Seemed French.
FRENCH YOGURT CAKE
¾ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup finely ground roasted almonds
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup canola oil
¾ cup white sugar
Butter and flour round cake pan
Ground roasted almonds with ¼ cup powdered sugar, until forms powdery almond meal
Combine almond meal, flour, baking powder
Beat yogurt, eggs, vanilla in a stand mixer until well blended
Slowly incorporate dry ingredients
Stop stand mixer and slowly fold in oil with spatula until just combined
Batter will be thick and sheen
Bake for about 25 minutes
For glaze, combine citrus juices with powdered sugar
Mix well and microwave for 30 seconds
Pour on glaze right before serving
*Recipe adapted from Doris Greenspan, The New York Times (2010)