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Eating, sleeping, breathing

This is getting serious.
Last week my friend Doron e-mailed to tell me about a dream he’d had in which he’d gone into a store and picked up “any and every kitchen tool in existence.” From microplane zesters to rubber spatulas, food processors, and stockpots, “it was heaven,” he said. I could almost hear him sigh wistfully on the other side of the computer screen.

Doron isn’t the only one who’s been eating, sleeping, and breathing all things kitchen. I’ve been known to have dreams involving roasted-onion tarts, platefuls of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, and butter-rich cakes stacked like gold bullion. I wake up breathless, touching my belly like a private eye looking for evidence, whispering, “Thank GOD I didn’t actually eat all that. Phew!” And coincidentally, the very same night that Doron unleashed his subconscious upon a kitchen supply store, I was dreaming of a fried chicken sandwich. In my dream, I was somewhere trying on a pair of pants, when I found myself suddenly before a deli counter of sorts. Facing me was a round, genial man in overalls. I somehow knew that the place was known for its fried chicken sandwiches, but I hesitated, unsure. The man smiled at me, gestured over his shoulder with a ruddy thumb, and drawled, “I got a whole messa chickens fried up in back. You gotta have a sanwich.” So I ordered one, and then I went back to incongruously trying on my pants, wondering whether my sandwich would come with coleslaw. Unfortunately—and as is always the case—I woke up before I could find out.

Then there are the times when all this eating, sleeping, and breathing paradoxically causes loss of sleep. Take, for example, the Sunday before last, when Kate sacrificed sleep and sanity to rise at six in the morning and bake sourdough boules before sunrise with a wifebeater and a copy of The Stranger—and this only a few days after she, in a fit of insomnia, read an entire hors d’oeuvres cookbook in the middle of night.

And of course there’s my strawberry problem, a late-night leitmotif since last June, when I giddily crammed 10+ pounds of freshly picked and washed strawberries into my freezer, blissfully unaware of the slumber they’d steal. Yes, dear reader, I’m still working my way through the berries, and I’m still lying awake at night, wondering what to do with them next. After all, before we know it, summer will be upon us again, with more fields of berries to be picked! As I said, this is serious. So thank goodness for old standbys, pinch hitters when the (alarm) clock is ticking.

Gâteau au Yaourt à la Fraise, or French-Style Yogurt Cake with Strawberries
Adapted from Gâteaux de Mamie

This cake is another slight variation on the yogurt cake I wrote about last August, a fantastically easy one-bowl French invention. Strawberries will be woefully out of season for another few months, but take heart: this recipe works beautifully with frozen fruit. The cake rises tall in the pan, and the strawberries collapse onto themselves, leaving moist, jammy pockets. The result has a light, moist, not-too-sweet crumb—perfect with coffee in late afternoon or with a melty scoop of ice cream after dinner. It tastes like June, like things to come.

Note: If you don't have a little individual-size yogurt jar from France—and we can't all have them—know that 1 jar equals 125 ml, or a touch over 1/2 cup.

1 jar plain yogurt (I like Brown Cow brand, either Cream Top or nonfat)
2 jars sugar (I like to use raw cane sugar, or a mixture of white and brown sugars)
3 eggs
2 jars unbleached all-purpose flour
1 jar finely ground blanched almonds (a Cuisinart does a fine job, but be careful not to turn your almonds into almond butter; you're aiming for a powdery texture)
2 tsp baking powder
1 jar canola oil
Frozen (quartered or halved, depending on their size) strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, stirring until well blended. Add the flour, ground almonds, and baking powder, mixing just to combine. Add the oil, stirring to incorporate. Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, and distribute frozen strawberries—about two handfuls—evenly over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the berries, trying to cover them as well as possible.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. [Because you’ve put frozen fruit into the cake, it may take a bit longer, depending on your oven. If, after thirty or so minutes, the cake is browning too quickly, you may need to tent it with foil.]

Cool cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan to cool completely. Cut into wedges and eat with satisfaction, watching your freezer slowly empty.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That kind of dream when you imagine ingesting pounds of delicious food happens to me when I'm in a state of anxiety. It's sort of frightening to wake up from those, really. "Where did all that food go?"

2:57 AM, February 08, 2005  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

Ouh I want that kind of dreams! Well, guess I do have them every once in a while, but the last dream I remember was failing an exam BIG TIME! Picking out kitchen tools would be so much more fun!

Love your blog and your writing, keep up the great work!

6:45 AM, February 08, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

I just looked up the word leitmotif yesterday (should I have known it long ago?). At the time I thought it was so that I could better understand a passage on postmodernity before my class but now I realize it was really in preparation for reading your blog. Of course.

8:31 AM, February 08, 2005  
Blogger Pusekatt said...

How come I don't dream about fun and yummy things like these?
Instead, in my pre-wedding stress I dream weird things like my dress not being ready and so my fiancee going to party at OUR reception without me(?!)
BTW, your cake recipe sounds divine, as your recipes always do, but I have a couple of questions:
- Can I use fresh strawberries?
- Does the yoghurt need to be full-fat or can it be lite?
Thank you! I might give this recipe a go soon.

2:27 PM, February 08, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Anonymous, I know exactly what you mean. The line between delicious dream and nightmare can be blurry indeed...

Zarah Maria, thanks for stopping by! I've been perusing your blog too and look forward to more. In the meantime, I hope that your exam went better in real life than in your dreams!

And Amy, I'm always happy to make learning new vocabulary words a fun and meaningful experience. I'm not sure there's any way to make reading about postmodernity fun, though it can certainly sound sexy...multiplicity, anyone? Rhizomes? Space-time compression? Flexible accumulation? Mmm.

And Pusekatt, I will be sending good-wedding-dream vibes your way. Maybe a little relaxing cake-baking would help you? If so, know that you can most certainly use fresh berries, and any plain yogurt will work just fine. I've used full-fat once or twice, but I usually use nonfat, since it can always be found in my fridge.

5:21 PM, February 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly - Sadly, I never dream of food. Probably because I spend way too much waking time thinking of it!

Gotta ask, does full fat make a difference in the texture or taste of the cake? Does the cream propel you into fits of groaning? Have you ever tried using strawberry-flavored yogurt and seeing if it intensifies the taste or subtly flavors the cake? Sorry, I often get lost in the details - the burden of being a food scientist at heart.

Mmmmm, fried chicken sandwiches....


1:24 PM, February 12, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Good questions, LAA! As for the fat content of the yogurt, I can't say that I noticed a difference, although fat does (in theory and usually in practice) make everything better. Perhaps a side-by-side taste test is in order? And as for flavored yogurts, I haven't yet tried using them. I'm usually a plain-yogurt girl, so that's what I keep in the house--and what this type of cake traditionally calls for. But if you used a good-quality flavored yogurt (maybe the fruit-on-the-bottom type?), it could be a good experiment! Keep me posted on the results!

Oh, and to get back to the dream topic, last night I dreamed that I was at some wedding in New Orleans (a city I have only visited once, by the way, for a horse show when I was eleven), and I was going through a buffet line. There was some sort of carnitas-style pork, along with barbequed chicken, red beans, and mounds of other stuff, including sliced apples that were appallingly brown. I have NO idea where I come up with this stuff.

8:46 AM, February 13, 2005  
Anonymous gaby said...

Hi Molly, I've been browsing your blog for the last few days and I can say I'm already addicted. Your stories are great and the recipes seem delicious. I have a question about this cake, have you ever tried to use whole grain flour?

9:03 PM, February 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This recipe is awesome! This was the first cake I've ever baked and I'm sold on it big time. Thanks.

3:48 PM, July 05, 2006  
Blogger Shannon said...

This cake is addicting. So easy! The first time I made it I followed the lemon yogurt cake and added frozen blackberries for Easter- YUM! The second one was this recipe with fresh strawberries, frozen backberries and frozen blueberries. I am going to make one tonight with vanilla yogurt (that I am trying to use up because I accidentally bought vanilla) frozen blackberries and pineapple. Thanks Molly!

3:10 PM, April 05, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admit that it is April and I still have about 5 pounds of strawberries sitting in my freezer. I know this cake will just chip away at it, but still...I'm excited.

5:03 PM, April 09, 2008  
OpenID galiwaw said...

total beginner and new to your site. what temperature should i be baking at?

thanks in advance for indulging my stupid q.

2:08 AM, April 28, 2009  
Blogger Molly said...

Anonymous, these scones should be baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

8:46 AM, April 28, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Made it with wild strawberry and vanilla jogurt and fresh strawberrys. Substituted almonds for flour. Absolutely wonderful, or as my husband always says "that`s my new favorite cake" :)
Thank you Molly very much!

2:58 AM, July 06, 2009  
Blogger Lauren said...

I have made this cake twice and both times have been sorely disappointed...the texture was oddly grainy and the strawberries turned into sad, mushy gray lumps, stuck to the bottom of the cake pan. I am SO disappointed- the recipe looks delightful (hence, my two attempts), but I won't be making it again.

10:18 AM, August 18, 2009  
Anonymous LLN said...

I made this cake this morning after making your lemon yogurt cake off and on for the past couple of months. The strawberries, the graininess of the almonds, it was perfection. I knew even before I baked it as I was scraping up bits of the batter from the bowl and could. not. stop.

Absolutely looking forward to your next book! Hope you're well.

1:05 PM, February 26, 2011  
Blogger Gaylene Meyer said...

Love the flavors of this cake! I've made it twice and both times it has been undercooked in the center. I wonder if it is the moisture from the strawberries. Advice?

4:27 PM, March 12, 2011  

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