Yogurt Cake (Gâteau au Yaourt)

yogurt cake

There is no simpler cake to make – and probably no easier cake to eat, either. See what’s left of the cake in the above photo? That was taken the morning after I made it the night before. It was less than 12 hours old.

Delicate, slightly spongy and made with yogurt and oil instead of butter and sour cream, it tastes like a much lighter version of our pound cake. And it’s a very French thing.

For those of you who think that French women are pushing those extra-long rolling pins across sheets of puff pastry in their teensy kitchens, I give you this, probably the most common of all French cakes, the one that everyone, even X’s mother who doesn’t cook (and certainly doesn’t bake) makes all the time: gâteau au yaourt, or the yogurt cake.

It is as easy and as quick as a box cake. It is very dump-and-stir. You can add stuff to it, like I did in this recipe – the zest of a mandarin orange – or leave it plain Jane. I’ve added jimmies to this cake to give it a tiger twist, and I’m planning on making an all-chocolate version soon. My friend Debbie tosses in chunks of apples or pears and nuts when she makes hers. Think of this recipe as a base. Add whatever you’re in the mood for.

It is a great cake to have in your repertoire for those last-minute things that you want to bring something to but think you don’t have time for, or for a weeknight dinner dessert. You do have time to make this. It’s just 5 minutes to put together and less than an hour in the oven.

Serve it with a dusting of powdered sugar and a spoonful of jam (X’s preferred way). Have it with your afternoon coffee. Or morning coffee. Or both. In fact, I think there may be a tiny bit left in the kitchen…that I’m going to go eat right now before X wakes up.

I’ll make him another one.

Yogurt Cake (Gâteau au Yaourt)

Makes one 10-inch cake (8 to 10 servings)

  • 2 cups (4 125 gram yogurt containers) of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • zest of 1 mandarin orange
  • 1 cup/250 grams (2 125 gram yogurt containers) of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup/250 grams (2 125 yogurt containers) of whole milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil (I use sunflower oil in France), plus slightly more for oiling the sides of the pan
  • powdered sugar, for serving
  • raspberry jam, for serving


1. Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F and line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the sides. Place the pan on a cookie sheet to catch any spillage.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set this aside.

3. Mix together the zest and the sugar, using your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar – by doing this, you release the oils and it’ll make the cake more fragrant.

4. In your mixer, beat your eggs until they’re light, then add the yogurt, zest and sugar, vanilla, and oil and mix well. Now add the flour mixture and mix just until combined — you don’t want to overmix. Pour your batter into the pan, and slide it into the oven to bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool on a rack. Slice and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a side of raspberry jam.

Radish Leaf-Basil Pesto

radish top pesto

copy goes here

Radish Leaf-Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

  • a big handful of radish leaves, well rinsed
  • a big handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan
  • sea salt and pepper
  • about ¼ teaspoon of lemon zest (or more to taste)


Put your radish leaves, basil, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the Parmesan, pinch of sea salt and pepper, and lemon zest and taste for seasonings. This is best if you let it rest for an hour before eating.

Roasted Root Veggies with Mascarpone Cream

root veg with mas

Roasted Root Vegetables with Mascarpone Cream

Makes 4 to 6 servings


Adapted from “Vieux Legumes” by Keda Black and Sonia Lucano (Marabout)

  • 2 pounds of root vegetables, peeled and sliced into 2-inch pieces (carrots, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, potatoes)
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • ½ cup of mascarpone
  • ½ cup of Greek yogurt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary


1. Preheat your oven to 400°F, and line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix the veggies with the olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, and pop them into the oven. Let them roast 20 to 40 minutes, or until they’re cooked through and brown on the edges.

3. While the veggies are roasting, make the mascarpone cream: Whisk together the mascarpone, yogurt, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve the root veggies warm, with mascarpone cream on the side.

Why the French Hate Tex-Mex

Not long ago, it seemed as if Tex-Mex had invaded Paris in mucho grande sort of way.

Plastered all over the metro walls and on street corners, from my own snooty-pants quartier to the more popular parts of town, McDonald’s was advertising its new “P’tit Plaisir Sauce Salsa” burger.

Boy, when I saw those Doritos hanging out of that burger with sauce salsa, I just about started to cry.

Was I really here — in Paris — or was I back home, in Big D, where we routinely put triangle-shaped corn chips on our burgers to get a quick Tex-Mex fix?


Then, on the way to Parc St. Cloud to walk Rose one morning, I stopped at the Total gas station to put a couple of litres of gas in the car (which cost as much as 20 P’tit Plaisirs), and right there, next to the cheery bright yellow packages of Tuc crackers, I saw this classic cookbook on my beloved cuisine, for the insane price of just 2 euros.


Right there, in the pages of the little pocket-size book, was “Hamburgers texans,” (sic), burgers made with cumin and coriander powder, and mixed up with eggs and garlic, served, naturally, with a sesame seed bun on top of the lettuce, and with a big old gob of butter on top of the tomatoes and grilled onions.

Just like home.

If that wasn’t enough, then I saw this — “Haricots epices a la cow-boy,” (spicy beans a la cowboy), and the Mexican cantina classic, “Travers de porc au miel et a l’ail,” (pork ribs with honey and garlic).

There were recipes for hot dogs, dipped in a batter and fried (OK, not so far off); fried chicken; and shrimp with mayonnaise, too.

But its not just the low-brow, gas station and cheap burgers crowd that’s getting it all wrong. That same week, I saw a recipe in the back of Saveur magazine for a margarita, made with lemons — not limes. Um, that would be more like a tequila-spiked lemonade, right?

Is it any surprise, really, that the French think that Tex-Mex is awful?

Sadly, McDo’s got it right. Small pleasure, indeed.

Where Bakers Go to Stock Up

I love going into this cramped, little shop near Les Halles, filled with boxes and bags of Valronha and Callebaut chocolate in pastilles in a range of cacao percentages and flavors, and bricks of pure unsweetened chocolate, too, which I use for my brownies, along with some of the 70 % Callebaut.

You can barely squeeze past the people that come here, all searching for that something that they need to make a cake or a pastry that day, and it’s always fun to watch what other people are buying. I come for the chocolate, the vanilla beans, the almond powder on occasion, and the piment d’Espelette. They’ve got a great selection of dried mushrooms and all sorts of oils, from pistachio to hazelnut, that would make a dull salad stand up and dance.

On my last trip here, I found the organic dried figs and peaches that quickly made their way into my Sticky Toffee Puddings. So you just never know what you’ll find to inspire you here.

G. Detou

Tomato Tarte Tatin


I was so proud of myself for finally nailing the Tarte Tatin that I decided to venture out on my own and make a tomato version, and with a Cowgirlified crust (my polenta tart dough). I’d seen something like this before in French cookbooks, and it seemed like such a great idea – a fancified upside-down tomato tart, really – and y’all know how much I love tomatoes, which are just about gone, but I’m not giving up yet.

I liked the contrast of the green zebras with the red tomatoes in the center, but they were a bit watery. I think that next time, I’ll use Roma tomatoes because they’re a bit meatier — plus you can get them most of the year (I’ve noted before that I like to slow-roast Romas for all sorts of things in the winter).

You could add goat cheese and a layer of pesto, as Daniel Boulud does; or make them in individual portions (just use custard cups). For that matter, basil instead of thyme would be nice, too. This works great as part of a light meal — I had this with a bowl of my split pea soup for dinner– or as an appetizer.

Tomato Tarte Tatin


6-8 medium tomatoes (Romas would work nicely), halved and cored
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs fresh thyme (plus more for serving)
polenta tart crust, recipe follows
balsamic vinegar, for serving (optional)
Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F.

1. Make the polenta tart dough (recipe below) and roll out to 1/8″ thick in a 10-inch circle, so it’ll fit in the pan. Slide in the fridge until ready.

2. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or other skillet that you can put in the oven), arrange the tomatoes, inside-up, putting as many as you can in the pan. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper, and slide in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until they soften.


3. Remove the pan from the oven and gently place the dough on top, pushing it down around the sides of the tomatoes (so when it cooks, it’ll have a curly edge). With a sharp knife, make a few slits in the dough. Slide into the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes more, or until the crust begins to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and carefully turn out onto a large platter.


Serve warm with additional thyme, Parmesan, and a splash of balsamic vinegar, if you’d like.

Polenta Tart Crust


1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup polenta
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
½ cup ice water

Grease the tart pan with a tiny bit of olive oil if it doesn’t have a non-stick coating.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, and sea salt. Add the oil and honey and mix a bit — by hand — and then add the water and mix just until the dough comes together in a ball. 

Now, on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle large enough to fit tart pan. Trim the edges and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Fill the tart, and bake (or blind bake, depending on what you’re using it for) at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


Sundried Tomato Flatbread


Maybe I’ve got baguette fatigue.

Lately, I’ve been tearing out recipes for all sorts of variations of flatbreads — Indian naan, Lebanese flatbread, and Italian torta al testo — and when I found this not too long ago on the blogsite of my Austin pal, Lisa (Lisa is Cooking), I printed out the recipe right then and there and planned to make it. Luckily, this didn’t get too covered up by other recipes, and when I made minestrone a couple of weeks ago, I thought that this bread would be a nice little thing to have along with.

Like Lisa, I also didn’t have tomato powder, which is listed in the original recipe, so I used tomato paste instead. I’ve upped the amount of flour in the recipe to account for this additional wet ingredient. I didn’t have white balsamic vinegar, so I used champagne vinegar, and I doubled the amount of sundried tomatoes, and changed a few other things about how to put this together, too, based on a recipe for pizza dough/bread that I’ve been making for years. So I guess I changed a lot.

But the idea came from Lisa, and from the Cookistry website, too, and I’m happy that I found them both so I could have this with my soup.

It’s quick to put together, and just needs about an hour to rise, and then you simply press out the dough with your hands – it’s so cooperative, you don’t even need to use a rolling pin.

Crispy outside with a soft subtle tomato taste, this bread was lovely. X and I didn’t eat them all, so I put the leftovers in the freezer and I’m planning on making mini pizzas with them or using them for sandwiches. Next time I make this, I think that I’ll add fresh herbs — basil or thyme — to the dough, too.

Sundried Tomato Flatbreads

Adapted from a recipe by Cookistry and Lisa is Cooking

Makes 8 six-inch flatbreads



1 package instant yeast
¾ cup warm water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more for oiling the bowl for the dough to rest
1 tablespoon champagne or white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (I use Hungarian)
8 sundried tomatoes, chopped
fresh basil or thyme (optional)

1. In the bowl of a mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment, put the yeast and warm water and give it a stir to combine. Let rest for about 5 minutes or until foamy.

2. Add the honey, olive oil, champagne vinegar and tomato paste and mix to combine.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sea salt, and paprika. With the mixer running, add this to the wet ingredients, and mix until the dough becomes elastic and less sticky. (I added more flour here, because my dough was really sticky.) Once the dough is the right consistency, add the chopped sundried tomatoes and mix until well blended.

4. Add a little olive oil to a clean, medium bowl and with a paper towel or your clean hands, rub the oil all around the bottom and sides. Put the dough in the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm, dry place for an hour, at least, or until you’re ready to make the flatbreads.

5. To make the flatbreads, punch down the dough and cut it in 8 even pieces. On a lightly floured board, press out each piece of dough into a circle, as flat as you can with the palm of your hands. (Cowgirl tip: I make one flatbread, put it on the skillet to cook, and then, while one is cooking, I press out another one, and so on.)

6. On an ungreased cast-iron pan or skillet, turn the heat onto medium-high. One by one, put each piece of dough onto the hot skillet, turning it when it begins to brown. Be sure to cook these all the way through. Stack them on the side, and eat immediately — or save and use as sandwich bread, pizza crusts, or whatever else you can dream up.