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UPDATE: The winner of Yogurt Culture (chosen randomly by my daughter) is Susan! Congratulations, Susan, you are going to love Cheryl’s book. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I enjoyed reading about your favorite cakes, and, as always, you’ve shared great suggestions and inspiration.
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Two of my favorite food writers have cookbooks out. The books are on vastly different subjects, but they both feature great writing and a recipe for lemon cake. (I’m giving away a copy of one of the books, because I happen to have two. You’ll find details at the end of this post.)
Cheryl Sternman Rule’s book Yogurt Culture, published last spring by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, got me back into the habit of making my own yogurt, which I now do almost every week. The book is much more than a primer, though. Cheryl delves into the history and economics of the world’s favorite dairy food, and sprinkled throughout are essays spotlighting how yogurt is used in cultures around the globe. Recipes are both savory and sweet and range from drinks and dips to vegetables and mains, and, of course, breakfast and dessert. Cheryl, a friend and a colleague, is the founder of the website Team Yogurt and the blog 5 Second Rule. (I also have, and love, her first book, Ripe.)
My Kitchen in Rome is the title of the American edition of British author Rachel Roddy’s book (it was originally published in the U.K. as Five Quarters, a reference to, among other things, the neighborhood in Rome where she makes her home). Rachel is creator of the blog Rachel Eats and a food columnist for The Guardian. The book is a love letter of sorts to Roman food and to the city. Rachel pays tribute to quintessential Roman ingredients, such as artichokes, as well as places and people, including her Roman butcher. Her writing is warm and enveloping.
A couple of weeks ago I made the Iced Almond Lemon Loaf Cake from Yogurt Culture and brought it up to my parents in New Jersey. They are elderly and increasingly frail. They don’t cook much anymore, and they certainly don’t bake. Watching them enjoy Cheryl’s lemon cake for breakfast one morning filled my heart.
I cut thick slices of Rachel’s Ricotta and Lemon Bundt Cake (which I baked in a loaf pan) and gave it to two construction workers who were installing a new front door at my house on a cold and blustery day.
I liked both cakes equally. They are everything you want a lemon cake to be: light, tender, infused with fresh lemon flavor. The other day I sat down to compare the recipes. They’re similar, but there are differences ~ Cheryl’s is made with butter and whole-milk yogurt, plus a little almond meal; Rachel’s uses olive oil and ricotta and contains more eggs.
For fun I decided to combine the two recipes into one, which is the adaptation I’m sharing here. I couldn’t decide between yogurt and ricotta so I used a little of each. I opted for olive oil over butter because I am a sucker for olive oil cakes and also for the golden color it imparts. And I whisked in a little almond flour for the nutty flavor and pretty flecks it contributes.
Cheryl’s original recipe appears on page 248 of Yogurt Culture, and also on the books’s Amazon page. Rachel’s cake is on page 335 of My Kitchen in Rome. (You’ll find other cake recipes in her blog archives.)
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The GIVEAWAY: I must have been really excited about Yogurt Culture because I apparently pre-ordered it twice and received two copies in the mail. This means I get to share one with you. To enter, leave a comment telling me about your favorite simple cake, or your favorite way to enjoy yogurt. Be sure to enter your email address (which will not be posted) so I can contact you if you are the winner. A winner will be chosen at random and announced on the blog on Monday, March 7, 2016, so please check this post for an update. The winner must contact me by the end of Monday, March 14, 2016, or the book will go to a randomly chosen runner up.
In bocca al lupo!
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Thinking about where to go in 2016? Why not explore delicious Italy off the beaten path with me and my partners at Abruzzo Presto in September? Join us for a week-long tour exploring the food, culture, and landscape of this spectacular region. You can find the details on my tours page and please feel free to forward the link to friends and family with the travel bug.
For an authentic taste of Abruzzo and a sneak peek at our tour, please join Nancy and Michael Morizio of Abruzzo Presto and me on Thursday, April 14, for dinner at Le Virtù in Philadelphia. James Beard Award-nominated Chef Joe Cicala will prepare a special menu; there will be a pasta demonstration, great food and wine from Abruzzo, music, and information about our tour. You can find more information here.
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This cake combines recipes from two of my favorite food writers: Cheryl Sternman Rule and Rachel Roddy. It is golden and tender and infused with the fresh fragrance of lemon zest. While this recipe calls for both ricotta and yogurt, feel free to simplify and use one or the other. Drizzle icing over the cooled cake, as Cheryl does with hers, dust it with powdered sugar, or enjoy it plain. Adapted from a recipe in Yogurt Culture, by Cheryl Sternman Rule, and a recipe in My Kitchen in Rome, by Rachel Roddy.
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (nothing too assertive), plus more for greasing the pan
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1 packet lievito Paneangeli (see Note) or 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- Finely grated zest of 2 organic lemons or 1 lemon and 1 orange
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon whole-milk yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, lievito or baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, ricotta, and yogurt (it will look broken up but will come together once you add all the eggs). Drop in the eggs, one at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition, until the batter is smooth. Whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts. Dump the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until you have a thick batter. Stir in the zest, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If you find the top is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil during the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking. Set the pan on a rack and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter and invert the cake onto the rack; re-invert and let cool completely.
To ice the cake, sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Whisk in the yogurt and the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the icing is smooth, thick, and drips slowly from the whisk. Wave the whisk over the top of the cake to drizzle lines of icing. (If you like lots of icing, double the recipe, which is what I did.) Allow the icing to set before serving.
NOTE Lievito Paneangeli is an Italian leavening agent flavored with vanilla that is used for making cakes and other sweets. You can substitute 2 teaspoons baking powder per packet of lievito.