Gâteau au yaourt and an interesting French measure

A few weeks ago our British friends, Richard and Pauline, came to Michigan for a visit.  They were kind enough to present me with a small gift - a new baking book!  It's in French (which is great practice for me) and is entitled DESSERTS de notre enfance.  

Chock full of classic French cakes, tarts and childhood treats, it soon had me making a list of the goodies I'd like to try.

One recipe that caught my attention was gâteau au yaourt, not so much for its subject but for the method of measurement - a pot de yaourt!  And to top it all off, I had some yogurt in the fridge that needed to be used up.

pots de yaourt measurements

After further research I learned that this is a very familiar and popular childhood French cake often served for le gouter (afternoon snack time) or for breakfast.  It's also one of the first cakes French kids learn to make - so easy!

So I asked myself - "how much is actually in a pot de yaourt?"  Off I went to the trusty internet and found that the majority of pots de yaourt  sold in France hold 125 grams.  I also found a couple of sources that gave me some of the comparable weights and measures for one of these pots:  liquid volume 125 ml; sugar 125 gm; flour 85 gm; rice 125 gm just to name a few.

It took me back to baking books from days of yore in which a recipe might instruct using a "juice glass" or a "coffee cup" as standard measures.  And so it is with the French - perhaps un verre of something or a noisette de beurre is called for; or a c.à.s. (cuillère à soupe) or c.à.c. (cuillère à café), both standard size spoons (akin to our tablespoon and teaspoon) that are typically found in the average kitchen.

But before moving on to making the gâteau au yaourt I had to do a little testing of my own using a 5.3 oz/150gm container of cherry yogurt.  I played around, separately weighing liquid, sugar and flour in the clean and dry container, then did a little math to compare what similar weights would be in a 125 gm yogurt container.  They came out pretty darn close to the figures I had discovered on line (don't worry - I won't bore you with the details).

Now let's make gâteau au yaourt!  

Since I don't have all my baking pans with me in Michigan yet, I rummaged around in Mom's cabinets and found the two different sized loaf pans she's used for many years, from meat loaf to banana bread.  I knew my batter would weigh about 780 gm, so I checked the pan volumes by weighing water in them.  That confirmed for me that the larger of the two pans (see photo below) was just the ticket - the batter would have overflown the smaller pan.  The pan I ended up using is not typical of the standard loaf pans one finds these days.  It's longer, narrower and straight-sided - very nice in fact.

Mom's longer, narrower loaf pan

The gâteau couldn't be simpler.  Butter and flour a medium loaf pan and heat the oven to 350º.

les ingredients

In a medium bowl mix the dry ingredients:  2 pots de yaourt of sugar (equal to 250 gm, although I decreased it to 225 gm, similar to my standard cup of sugar); 3 pots de yaourt of flour (equal to 255 gm which I rounded up to 260 gm or 2 cups); 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 tsp kosher salt.

In another medium bowl whisk together the wet ingredients: one pot de yaourt (125 gm, although I used the full 150 gm of my cherry yogurt - figured the extra bit would add moisture to the cake); 2 large eggs; un demi-pot de yaourt  (63 gm or 1/4 cup) of vegetable oil and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the liquid mixture in and gently incorporate all with a spatula.

wet on dry

Fill the prepared loaf pan . . .

ready for the oven

and bake approximately 50-55 minutes.  Smelling good!

just out of the oven

Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes then turn out onto the cooling rack to cool completely.

The end result had a nice crispy exterior and the cake had a good heft to it.

Upon slicing it's easy to appreciate the dense crumb.

The flavor was very pleasant, having the nuance of the cherries from the yogurt; the texture was definitely that of a pound cake.

Steve, Mom and I enjoyed it with some Talenti vanilla bean gelato - not a bad way to wind out a hot and muggy Saturday night.

It's summer after all!