Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Notre Gâteau au Yaourt

Late yesterday afternoon I decided we needed a cake in the house. I did not grow up in a family that typically had cake on occasions other than birthdays, which meant we had layered frosted birthday cake, about five times a year. In contrast, in this part of France, it is common for families to keep a homemade cake on the kitchen counter. Furthermore, the norm here includes eating cake for breakfast, as we did last week with the Gâteau Chocolat that I made for Mardi Gras. We have adjusted to these local customs...I guess Marie Antoinette knew what she was talking about when (if) she said, “Let them eat cake!”

Anyway, since I’ve given up chocolate for Lent, the Espinasse family recette for Gâteau au Yaourt seemed to be just the thing. We happened to have on hand the necessary Alsa Levure Chimique “Alsacienne” and the tiny container of plain yogurt necessary to properly prepare the cake. I love this cake recette because, besides being delicious, it has only six ingredients, three of which require no measuring: the eggs, the sachet Alsa and the 125g container of yogurt. The yogurt container is key, because the measured ingredients, the flour (x3), sugar (x2) and vegetable oil (x1) are calculé with this container! What could be simpler?

I got halfway into the preparation and realized I was one egg short; while the recipe says you can use only 2, in my opinion, 3 eggs are the way to go to get the best texture and taste. So I called my favorite voisine, Julie and walked over to borrow the egg. Forty-five minute, a cup of tea and delightful conversation later, I returned to finish the cake.

While Kristin’s recipe posted at “Au Pif” says you can use 2 teaspoons of baking soda, her beau-frère introduced me to the Alsa product, used by French families since 1897, shown in this photo. Alsace is a region in the north of France, next to Germany. I am convinced that Alsa Levure Chimique “Alsacienne” is the secret ingredient that gives the cake its spongy texture. The 11 gram packet includes pyrophosphate of sodium, bicarbonate of soda, bread wheat and wheat gluten. I suppose, with a bit of experimentation, you could get the same result combining baking powder and baking soda. Opening and dumping the little pink sachet is much easier!

Emily assisted with the mixing; it is very important to do this with a whisk to remove all the lumps. Don’t forget to grease and flour the moule before you pour in the batter.

The cake went into the oven just as our dinner came out. When the baking was completed about 45 minutes later, it went to rest on the windowsill between the shutters and the glass, so that it would cool by the night air. We ate several slices last night and took two to Julie, in thanks for the egg that make the cake possible.

We had half a cake remaining when we went to bed. Emily’s copine Mia, from Buchet, arrived at 10am this morning for a day of play. Now, an hour later, the gâteau is just a memory. Note to self: Pick up more eggs and yaourt at the marché this afternoon!

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