Baking With Dorie Greenspan: Mediterranean Yogurt Cake, cookies that travel well and more

Dorie Greenspan’s Mediterranean Yogurt Cake.
Jan 13, 2016

Beloved cookbook author Dorie Greenspan ("Baking Chez Moi," "Baking: From My Home To Yours," "Around My French Table" and more) answers your questions about baking, her "Everyday Dorie" column and everything else she's cooking.
This week's column: How to make the simple cake that’s a household standard in France
This week's recipe: Dorie Greenspan’s Mediterranean Yogurt Cake

Hola from San Sebastian, Spain, the capital of pintxos - or tapas.  Don't be surprised if my next Everyday Dorie column has a Spanish accent - this city is so inspiring.

Thank you all for coming and thanks to so many of you for baking this week's recipe: Mediterranean Yogurt Cake.  I've loved your comments in the Food section as well as on my Facebook page.

What have you been up to in the kitchen?  Let's hear!

I baked the mediterranean yogurt cake from last week's chat this past weekend....Do I need to say how tasty and heavenly it was! Just one problem, my husband devoured the cake in a couple of sittings. Is there anyway it can be doubled to bake more than just a loaf? Also, the recipe reminds of my mom's go to cake called Sunny Yellow Cake although the cake contains butter instead of olive oil.

I am so glad that you and your husband enjoyed the Mediterranean Yogurt Cake.  You can double this recipe to make two loaves, but I wouldn't go any higher than double.  

Dorie Greenspan’s Mediterranean Yogurt Cake

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan’s Mediterranean Yogurt Cake

I asked several weeks ago about freezing bread dough and you suggested I try it and let you know how it went. So here's the report. This was sourdough, in case that matters. I made the dough the normal way and when it was time to put the dough into pans, took the dough I wanted to freeze, put it into plastic bags, and rolled it flat (to speed freezing and thawing). When I took it out of the freezer, I put it on the counter until it was thawed and then microwaved it at half power for a few minutes. Then I put it in a loaf pan and let it complete its rise in a warm place, about 2 hours. I baked it as normal. Results: a little denser than never frozen, but much better than baking first and then freezing the loaf.

Such a good report - thank you so much for getting back to me and for sharing your experiment with all of us.  I'm delighted that you were happy with the results.

I am living in Carces, France, a small village in Provence, Var region. I cannot/ do not know how to purchase baking powder...... how is it sold? I have asked but nobody seems to know exactly what I am looking for.....If it's not available how do I bake? Thanks.

The French have their own kind of baking powder - it's sold under the brand Alsa (called levure chimique) and comes in 1 Tbsp packets.  It's single-acting baking powder, which means it's activated as soon as liquid touches it and so you have to bake your cake or whatever quickly after mixing.  It's available in markets all over France, so you should be able to find it and to play with it to see how it works for your recipes.

You can find baking powder as we Americans know it on amazon.fr

And for an interesting piece on American baking in France - it talks about lots of ingredients and what their French equivalents are - take a look at this from David Lebovitz.

Good luck and keep in touch - I'd love to know how you make out.

Hi Dorie! I have been baking my way through "Chez Moi" and I was hoping to get some guidance on how you initially shape your cookie logs (prior to introducing the ruler and parchment paper). Do you ever use flour on your hands for the sable dough, for example? My sable dough tastes great, but I have such trouble getting the logs round...can you post a video on your blog? Can't wait for the new book!

First, merci - I'm so glad that you're liking Baking Chez Moi and thrilled that you're baking your way through it.

Sablé dough can be sticky.  I'll often use parchment paper or plastic wrap to help me get it into a log.  Yes, you can flour your hands, if you'd like.  Another solution, if the dough is really difficult to work with, is to chill it for an hour or so before shaping it.

I wish I could be in your kitchen to see how sticky your dough is! I'm wondering if perhaps you're starting with very soft butter.  Next time you make the cookies, try starting with chunks of butter that are a bit cooler/firmer than your usual.

And I can't wait for my new book either, but we both have to: Dorie's Cookies comes out October 25 (seems so long from now) 

Hi Dorie, belated thanks for your article about making pie crust without refrigerating the ball for a few hours. I made a pecan pie for Thanksgiving and used your technique and it came out crisp and flaky and fantastic! Free from the tyranny of pie crusts past, finally.

HOORAY!! Soooo happy that you love the technique.  

Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Pie

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Pie

What adjustments do I need to make when using European style butter (82% to 83% fat) in recipes calling for American style butter? What differences in outcome can I expect?

Everyday American butter has a minimum of 80% butterfat.  I know some bakers who cut down the butter when they are using European butters with 82% or 83% butterfat, but I don't.  I don't find the difference great enough to affect the way most recipes work; however, I do find the difference in texture lovely in cookies, crusts and cakes.  

If you can find cultured butter, you'll also find a difference - a delightful difference - in taste.

I've tried on two browsers, and reloaded the page. No dice. Tried the links on both the live.washingtonpost.com page, and the WaPo home page. Can your chat producer help me out with a link that works, please? The link that doesn't seem to be working is: http://live.washingtonpost.com/free-range-1-13-2016.html

Chat producer/Free Range participant here. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. That is totally bizarre because the page was working earlier. We've flagged it for our tech folks, and they're investigating. I think we've been having some other site problems too. I hope they'll all be resolved soon!

Hello Ms. Greenspan, Happy New Year! Going to try your Mediterranean Yogurt Cake . Would love to ask if there is any your recipes can also be shown in metric? Thank you.

An interesting idea.

If you decide to metricize the recipe, it will help you to know that my measurement for 1 cup all-purpose flour is 136 grams (or 4.8 ounces).

In most recipes, the most important measurement when you're doing a conversion is the flour and cooks' flour measurements often differ wildly.

Ms. Greenspan: Your yogurt cake is surprisingly similar to Ina Garten's lemon yogurt cake. Taking her recipe, I substitute sour cream (8 oz.) for the yogurt and find it makes a much better crumb, firmer than with yogurt. I suspect sour cream would improve the texture of your cake, too, given the recipe similarities. Of course, how one likes one's cake crumb texture is individual, however, I am sold on sour cream over yogurt, as are all who have tasted the difference. I will use sour cream in your recipe and have no doubt it will taste delicious, with the crumb texture I like.

Ina Garten's Lemon Cake is based on a yogurt cake that was in my book Baking From My Home to Yours.  Read her intro and you'll see that mentions this.  And so yes, you're right, there are similarities :)

Sour cream is a fine substitute for yogurt and, since it's richer, you do get a slightly different crumb.

One of the reasons this cake is so much fun is that it lends itself to so many variations.  Enjoy playing with it!

Not baking related, but you piqued my interest in mentioning Comte cheese as one you intended to serve on New Years. After eating comte with honey and a slightly underripe red pear some years ago, I developed a near insatiable appetite for cheese and honey. Comte and honeys are staples in my kitchen. My grandmother was a beekeeper, so honey is truly a lifelong love affair. I've yet to met a honey I didn't like, but I'm rather partial to the deeper, richer, more intense honeys like forest honey. Would you mind taking a moment to touch on cheese and honey pairings?

How lucky you are that you grew up with honey! And yes, I'm with you, I enjoy darker, richer, deeper flavored honeys, but they're not always easy to find.

Being in Paris, I'm fortunate to be able to find great Comté at my neighborhood cheesemonger - in fact, there's usually a choice of young, middle-aged and older Comté.

Cheese platters in France are often served bare of 'condiments,' with a couple of exceptions: cherry jam with Basque sheep's milk cheese; and honey with goat cheeses.

Because cheeses are so wonderfully varied - and because honeys are too - you can have a great time making matches.  

Do you have favorite pairings?  Let us know. 

I've been baking madeleines for a few years now and they come out perfect. However, this time they came out sunken in the middle and didn't rise. I've been having trouble with my oven temperature do you think that might be the problem?? Thank you!

The oven might be the problem.  It's always the first place to look when a trusted recipe no longer performs. And a hot oven is especially important for mads - they need the heat to get that initial spring.

A couple of hints for getting those bumps on madeleines:

Let the batter rest for a few hours before baking.

Preheat your oven for extra time to make sure it's hot (I bake mads at 400 degrees F)

Put a metal baking sheet in the oven when you preheat it and put your madeleine pan on the hot baking sheet.

I made my first attempt at cream cheese frosting, and it was a miserable failure. I was hoping for something not cloyingly sweet, and chose a recipe with a smaller amount of powdered sugar, but got my cream cheese and butter too soft, and the only solution to a runny frosting was to either start over (I probably should have, but hated to waste what I had already used) or keep adding powdered sugar until I reached a workable consistency. So, before I try this again, what's the trick to a cream cheese frosting that holds up and isn't cloyingly sweet? I just finished a cupcake from my favorite bakery that does this beautifully, so I know it's possible, but I did not accomplish it this time. Thanks, and happy 2016!

And a happy new year to you!

You're right that your problem was allowing the butter and cream cheese to get too soft.  Get the butter just soft enough to beat and use the cream cheese cold.  

One way to cut the sweetness in this type of frosting is to add lemon juice to the mix.  The acidity will perk up what can otherwise be a too sweet finish to a sweet cake.

I only have unGreek yogurt. Can I strain it or something to use in the yogurt cake?

You can make the cake with regular yogurt - no straining needed. Enjoy!

Hi Dorie, I wonder if you or the other chatters can help me with a baking chocolate conundrum. A family favorite for the holidays is the King Arthur Flour flour-less chocolate cake. Up to last year I was using the Guittard semisweet 61% cacao chocolate wafers in the blue box for both the cake and the ganache. But now I can't seem to find these wafers in my local store. What my store is carrying instead is Guittard wafers that are 66% cacao and baking bars that are 64% cacao. Do you think the difference between 61% and 64-66% cacao will be noticeable? The recipe calls for 3/4 cup granulated sugar in the cake and no added sugar in the ganache. Since the chocolate is front and center in this recipe, I've been concerned that a slightly higher cacao content in the chocolate will result in a darker chocolate, less sweet tasting cake, which I don't really want. Ideas? (Also, I don't live in the DC area, so mail order suggestions for baking chocolate would be helpful.) Thank you!

I think your cake and ganache will be just fine with the higher cacao chocolates.  If you were using a 61% cacao chocolate and were happy with the results, then the extra 3% to 5% shouldn't dampen your enjoyment.  (I wouldn't go higher though for the ganache - less because of the taste than because of the finickyness of making ganache with super-high percentage cacao chocolate.)

Cacao percentages are interesting because they aren't a consistent clue to how 'bitter' or 'semisweet' a chocolate will be.  So much depends on the beans and the producer.

The two chocolates I use most often in the kitchen are Guittard and Valrhona.  But my rule for high-percentage chocolate is: If I like eating it out of hand, then I'll like using it in a recipe.

 

could I sub lemon for orange?

Absolutely!

I don't normally gush about recipes but have to here-Your yogurt cake is my go to. I used to have it on a sticky note on my cabinet but I have it memorized that I don't even need that anymore. it's the recipe I give all new bakers because it is foolproof. I often leave out the zest and will swap in various fruits. or sometimes I just mix in chocolate chips or make it all chocolate with cocoa powder. and it keeps well. it's the best. If you haven't made it, do so.

Sitting at my computer smiling - thank you!  

Like you, this is the recipe I give to new bakers - it's great to be able to share something that's easy, delicious and pretty much foolproof.

If I wanted to make it without the citrus flavor (I love orange, but my six-year-old does not), could I just leave out the zest and the orange oil? Or do I need to add something else (more vanilla, maybe?)

Yes, the cake will be fine without the citrus.  If you'd like, add more vanilla or even a little pure almond extract.

Another possibility, if you're looking to change the flavor, is to whisk in a little cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom into the flour.

I hope that you and your son enjoy the recipe.

I'm baking cookies for a baby shower and have to travel with them. I would love to make madeleines but they don't travel very well and I need a cookie that will last being baked on Thursday to being served on Sunday. I'm thinking biscotti but any other thoughts? Oh and it's a surprise shower so it has to be something that I can put in a Tupperware in my suitcase!

Biscotti are a great choice - they're made to last!  My go-to recipe for just about every occasion is my French Sablé.  The cookies last longer than you think they should and they're sturdy. Delicious too.  And you can decorate them if you'd like.

RECIPE: Dorie Greenspans Sables

I would like to make these and would like to know if you have a simple cookie recipe that is easy to make with readily available ingredients.

I just suggested my French Sablés - a delicious butter cookie (relative of the shortbread) - to a chatter.  I think these would be good for you too.

 

Is it OK to substitute canola or another oil for olive?

Canola oil will make a very good Mediterranean Yogurt Cake. 

I had a mishap the other day when I forgot to add yeast in the morning before I set the timer on the bread machine and ran out the door. I stuck the unbaked, yeastless dough (1/2 & 1/2 whole wheat) in a bowl in the fridge. Can I do anything with it?

Hmmm.  I really don't know, but I wonder if you couldn't make a kind of starter with a little water, a little flour and the full amount of yeast, let the yeast proof and then try mixing it into the yeastless dough by hand - kind of messy, you'd have to squeeze more than mix, I think.  Then go through the rise and bake.  

It might just be faster and easier to toss this batch and start over.  I hate when stuff like this happens ... and it happens to me often!

Your yummy-looking recipe calls for clementines, which I don't have handy. Would oranges work in this?

Sure - you can use oranges.  You could even use thin slices of apples or pears.  This is a recipe to play with.

I really love chunky granola that I buy in the plastic tubs at the store. I'm going through lots of it so i thought I should make my own. I love the nuts and dried fruit. Do you have a recipe?

Here's a recipe for wonderful granola from a friend of mine, Kerrin Rousset.  It's for granola that she brought to me as a gift - it's terrific.  Hers has chocolate, which you can omit if you'd like (but it's awfully good in the mix).  And yes, yes, make your own and add whatever you most love to it.  Have fun!

RECIPE: Kerrin’s Crunchy Granola with Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt

The yogurt cake recipe says: "Cut between the membranes to release the fruit segments; place them between sheets of paper towels to blot-dry while you make the batter." Unlike oranges and grapefruits, clementines easily separate into pieces, so do the instructions mean to peel those pieces? I'd also peel a clementine with my hands rather than a knife.

You're right, of course, that clementines are easy-peelers.  The reason I said to peel with a knife, was because I wanted all of the peel and pith removed and wanted the fruit exposed.  By removing the membrane - both by cutting down to the fruit and by cutting the fruit between the membranes separating the segments - you get glistening fruit that flavors the cake.  Fussy, I know, but tasty.

A friend who married a Frenchman and moved to France learned a really easy Yogurt cake recipe from her husband's niece there. She starts by emptying a potful of whole-milk yogurt into a mixing bowl. Then, using the empty yogurt pot, she adds 3 yogurt-potfuls flour, 2 yogurt-potfuls sugar, ½ potful sunflower oil, 2 eggs, 1½ teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt. Voilà! easy French yogurt cake.

Oui, oui, that's the cake that just about every French person knows how to make.  The tradition is to use the yogurt pot to measure all of the ingredients.

Because yogurt pots differ from France to America, I reworked the recipe so that it could be made with standard American cups and spoons.  

If a recipe doesn't specify that the item being baked needs to be covered, is it safe to assume not to? I prefer it when receipes state to cook covered or to cook uncovered so as to leave no doubt.

Usually, if something has to be covered, the recipe will specify that.  I've noticed that 'uncovered' seems to be the default and that 'covered' gets a mention.  And yes, it would be easier if it were always mentioned.

Could I use buttermilk for this cake instead of yoghurt? (I'm always trying to use up leftover buttermilk.) Thank you,

I feel as though I've made some form of the yogurt cake with just about everything imaginable, but I haven't made it with buttermilk.  I think it'll work and I think it will be very tasty.

Hello Dorie, I recently made your Lemon Bars, French style. They were awesome! I used ground hazelnuts rather than almonds. Should I stick with the vanilla in the crust or do you have another suggestion? PS the mediterranean cake is cooling on my counter now. Thank you for your great recipes.

I'm so glad you're enjoying my recipes - merci.  I'd stick with vanilla in the crust and I bet that the bars were great with hazelnuts!

Hi Dorie, Love your chats! Maybe this isn't your area, but thought I'd take a chance-- My elderly mother is cooking less and less for herself, and I'd like to start making some freezer meals (and desserts!) that she can just heat and eat. Can I prebake a pie completely so that it can be reheated? Is it better just to assemble the pie and let her bake? Best wishes

You can certainly freeze a pie, but it will be so much better if you freeze it unbaked and if your mom can bake it herself when she wants it.  And how wonderful that you're making these meals for her - I'm sure she truly appreciates them.

My dad has an egg allergy. I can make pies (without the egg wash on the crust), but don't know whether there's any substitute for eggs that might work OK. (I'm inspired by your Mediterranean Yogurt cake). Thank you

I haven't worked with egg substitutes, but a colleague at WaPo Food told me about a fairly new product called VeganEgg.  People seem to be excited about it. Maybe this will help.

 

Hi, Dorie! Bon Appetit had a recipe for an Apple Brown Sugar Pie from Macrina Bakery in Seattle. The recipe called for 1/2 inch wedges of apple to be sliced and roasted in the oven, which I did. Although the apples resulted in a much less soupy pie and pie crust, the apples themselves were really mushy -- more like applesauce. Although the flavor was good and I appreciate not wading through a puddle when I slice each piece, did I do something wrong? Next time, should I slice them thicker? If it matters, they were Granny Smiths, just as the recipe indicated, and other commenters noted that their apples were mushy, too. Thoughts?

This is such a good way of reducing the apple goop, but yes, the apples do get soft.  Next time, yes, try slicing the apples thicker and/or roasting them for less time.  Kind of par-roasting.  Haven't tried this, but I think it makes sense.

Thanks for the Sable recipe-looks delightful. Mommy to be is very sensitive to egg smells so I want to avoid egg washes like you indicate in the recipe to secure the crystalized sugar. Any other ways to get it to stick? They look so delicate-glad to know that they can be made days in advance and also survive travel!

You can skip the egg wash and the decoration or you can skip the egg, roll the log in sugar and take your chances on what will stick.

Do you think that using just egg whites would disturb your mother?  The sugar will stick if you mix the whites enough to get them spreadable and use that as the wash.

Hope the cookies are a hit!

Take it out of the fridge, cut into about six pieces, spread them out into 6-inch circles (maybe 8-inch). Let them rise a bit (they will, even with no yeast). Then bake them as flatbreads. Brush with oil, sprinkle on some seeds or salt, and enjoy. 400 degrees for 5-8 minutes. Flip over or not as you like. use a pizza stone if you have one. Or bake thenm on a griddle or in a hot cast iron skillet.

Zooom - this hour went so quickly!

Again, thank you - merci and gracias - for coming and for having such interesting questions.

I'll see you back here on January 27 (when I'll be back in Paris) at 1pm Eastern.

Until then - cook, bake, share, enjoy! xoDorie

In This Chat
Dorie Greenspan
Dorie Greenspan is the award-winning author of 11 cookbooks, the most recent of which is "Baking Chez Moi." Read more on her Web site, doriegreenspan.com, and follow her on Twitter: @doriegreenspan.
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