Friday, 4 January 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm not usually someone who really cares about New Year's.  I don't get all hyped up about staying up late, going to parties and banging pots and pans.  New Year's day always just feels like this sleepy day where everyone feels gross from the night before and you spend the day waiting for it to pass so that you can get on with things.  Maybe this comes from a crazy experience I had when I was younger.  For 3 years in a row I was stuck with a church group staying up all night long, roller skating, not allowed to sleep and when you finally felt like you were going to puke, they took us to McDonald's for breakfast.  The next day was spent sleeping and wondering how I could get some different friends. Thankfully, I did.

All that said, this year felt different somehow.  The kids and I all got sick for Christmas with some kind of insane cold.  I'm still recovering from it.  The real gift was that it slowed our whole family right down.  Instead of running around doing way too much, we have spent the past two weeks reading, playing endless games of Sorry, reading Calvin and Hobbes and watching movies.  It's been so lovely to just be with the kids and my dear husband, without distraction.  I think we really needed that. 

We were very fortunate to have some dear friends and their family come and share New Year's with us.  We had a great time, skating, eating good food and sharing in heartfelt, honest conversation.  It was one of those visits that makes you truly thankful for such good people in your life.  When I woke up on New Year's morning, the first thought I had was that this was going to be my year of simplicity and taking the path of least resistance.  There is no need to write a long list of my intentions for the year.  My intention is to live a life of simplicity, in food, with friends, with my family, in what I buy.  It is also time to let go a little and go with the flow.  I can take life a too seriously sometimes, it's not serving me.  It's time to slow down, talk to friends face to face more, never mind social networking sites, I want to see my friends.  Slow the food down, slow dinner down, have a cup of tea once a day.  If this Christmas holiday has taught me anything it is that we are all craving connection with each other, kids with their parents, wives with their husbands, friends with each other, it shouldn't take an illness to force us to do it.

So in the spirit of good, simple, slow cooking, here is a recipe for one of my favorite tea cakes.  It is so easy to make and even easier to share.  This year I encourage you to close the screen and pick up the phone.  Invite a friend to share this with you or have it after supper with your family.  Happy New Year everyone!

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
Adapted From A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

For the cake

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup of sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola (I use sunflower)

For the Syrup
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup lemon juice

For the Icing

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350℉.  Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter.  Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, and grease it too.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the lemon zest and whisk to mix thouroughly.

In a large bowl, combine the yogourt, sugar, and eggs, stirring to mix well.  Add the flour mixture and stir to just combine.  Add the oil and stir well.  It will look like a big gloopy mess, but don't panic!  Just keep going and it will all come together.  Pour into the preared pan.

Bake for 25-30 min, until a toothpick or cake tester instered into the center comes out clean.  Do not overbake.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a wide, flate plate.  Remove and discard the parchment paper.  Invert the cake back onto the rack so that it sits upright, with the shinier, slightly domed side facing up. Set the rack over the plate.

In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup ingredients.  Spoon the syrup slowly atop the warm cake.  Some of the syrup will run down the sides and onto the plate, this is desirable.  Cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the icing ingredients.  Whisk well to dissolve the sugar completely.  Spoon the icing over the cooled cake.  Eat immediately or wait until the icing has gotten a wonderful, firm shine.

**I know the cake looks a little plain, but that is because it's beauty is in it's simplicity. Also, I sometimes don't even bother with the icing, I just make the first syrup.  This is so lovely with tea and whipped cream.

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