keep your culture

While we were overseas, I read a sad tweet from Andrea of the So D’Lish blog, that the price of dairy in New Zealand was going up again. As a habitual consumer of butter, it hurts to be handing over around $5 a block. Don’t even get me started on the price of milk. Yeowch. Not understanding the outs and ins of economy, I’m sure there’s a reason why it all continues to be so expensive, but it feels unfair and it kinda sucks.

With that in mind, please don’t throw things at me when I say that Tim and I recently bought a 2 litre bucket of yoghurt (Americans, that’s just over 2 quarts which seems…strangely straightforward as far as conversions go, but I’m not arguing with Google.) It started out that we just wanted “some yoghurt”, and then it did work out so much cheaper per capita of yoghurt to go for the enormous tub, and it was organic yoghurt on top of that, and the final thing that un-narrowed Tim’s eyes and convinced him that it was a sensible thing to do was when I said “It’ll go so quickly, I can make all those recipes with yoghurt in them!”
And then – this happens every time – I couldn’t find one stupid recipe to make. A bit like those nights when you roll from left to right in bed on a suddenly uncomfortable pillow under irritatingly grippy sheets, any recipe I did manage to find with yoghurt in it suddenly seemed completely uninspiring, and unused cookbooks piled up around me.
And then I decided to strike out on my own, with the help of that longtime hero of mine, Nigella Lawson. I adapted a recipe of hers from the important book How To Be A Domestic Goddess, ending up with a huge cake that you can add heaps of different flavourings to – I went for a sexy splash of Boyajian Lime Oil, which is outrageously expensive here in NZ but pretty reasonable in the UK where I bought it. I do not for one second insist that this is the only method of flavouring your cake. Some citrus zest and juice or some bottled flavourant will also do awesome things. The finished cake is so deliciously good that you don’t even need to make icing if you’re not feeling up to it. And to make up for the expense of using yoghurt, I used oil in the recipe instead of melted butter.
This cake was a bit of an experiment and it worked – light, puffy, golden, gifted with staying power – we took the last bits for lunch today, five days after it was baked, and it was still as good as day one. It can feed a bit of a crowd, too, making a satisfyingly large and easily sliceable slab.
Yoghurt Cake
Adapted from Nigella’s Baby Bundt recipe in How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
250ml (1 cup) natural yoghurt
175ml (3/4 cup) plain oil, I use rice bran
4 eggs
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
250g sugar

Zest and juice of 1 lemon, lime or orange
1 teaspoon Boyajian lemon, lime, or orange oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or coconut essence

Preheat your oven to 170 C/340 F and line a brownie tin or similar, good-sized rectangular dish with baking paper.

Whisk together the yoghurt, oil, eggs, salt (don’t leave it out! It helps the flavour) and any flavourings you desire. Fold in the flour, sugar and soda and stir vigorously. It will be a very pale mixture.

Pour into the cake tin, and bake – 40 minutes to an hour should do it, depending on your oven.
Ice as you wish or leave plain.

The yoghurt isn’t exactly a flavour in its own right but works excellently to deliver any citrussy stuff you might add to the batter. However it did occur to me just now, as I type, that you could use some kind of fruit-flavoured yoghurt in this. Think of it as a bit of a blank palate cake, ready for wherever the meeting point is between your inspiration and what’s in your cupboard – you could probably even change tack completely and add a few spoonfuls of cocoa to the mixture to see what happens. In case you’re wondering, the yoghurt itself is from Clearwater’s and is completely delicious, light and sharp but surprisingly creamy.
I just know that the moment my index finger gathers, silicon-spatula-like, the final drip of yoghurt from the base of the two litre pail, I’ll suddenly remember a billion different amazing recipes for yoghurt. Not that this yoghurt situation is a problem or anything, barely a challenge in fact. (I hope you all assume this anyway, but sometimes it feels necessary to reiterate that I’m aware there’s a world beyond my fridge). On that note, what a week, right? Seemed as though I found out everything on Twitter – from sitting round seeing exactly what it was Obama had to say, to discovering there had been a tornado on Auckland’s North Shore. By the way, if any of you were in Albany at the time, I hope you’re doing okay. Strange times. Finding out that the price of butter increased, of course, isn’t quite a “where were you when” moment but either way, thumbs up to the good people on Twitter for keeping me informed.
And the yoghurt levels have slowly dropped – for breakfast, for marinating chicken, and also in this really cool recipe for bread rolls which I tried out over the weekend and am not only going to be repeating as much as I can, but also blogging about soon.
Title via: Three Houses Down, with this awesome song from their album Breakout…in yoghurt as in life, eh?
Music lately:
Richard Hell, Another World – unfortunately not on Youtube (another one of those things that’s not actually a problem in relation to other problems, but don’t you hate it when you search for something on Youtube and a drop-down menu pops up with exactly what you were looking for, and then the video itself isn’t even there? Does that happen to anyone else?) but it is what I’m listening to. From Blank Generation, one of my favourite albums.
Broadway’s Norm Lewis (who I met in London, did you know??) singing All The Things You Are with Audra McDonald – if I was a block of butter (which, sometimes, I practically almost am) I’d have completely melted off the bench by the time this song finishes.
Next time: When the weather’s freezing and the butter’s expensive, I turn to cheap, warming fare like porridge. Especially when I can soak sultanas in brandy and have them with it.

10 thoughts on “keep your culture

  1. Mrs Cake says:

    Yum, yoghurt is good in all things! My Mum always used up all sorts of flavoured yoghurt in baking – mixed berry pikelets were a feature of my childhood. Also, five days is a pretty impressive shelf life! (though we generally don't get to test that kind of endurance in the Cake household…)


  2. Hannah says:

    Oh Laura, I love how your recipes are so often eminently doable, don't require crazy ingredients, and just make me want to run to the kitchen straight away!


  3. Zo @ Two Spoons says:

    Mmm, a wonderful post, and Clearwater's is by far my favourite too. I've discovered the joy of cakes made with oil and yogurt – you still get depth of flavour from the dairy but the oil keeps the cake soft for days, and it's often true for breads as well.

    Can't wait to use my lime oil in a cake or cookies. Glad I didn't in my failed cheesecake >.< I found some tangerine oil as well, which is new for me!


  4. Sumara says:

    I knew there was a reason I randomly picked up a lemon at the fruit shop today. πŸ™‚ I've got this in the oven now… 10pm isn't too late to start baking, right? *yawn*


  5. Anonymous says:

    Retro cool? Ambrosia made with just yoghurt. Mandarin segments, grapes, whatever, chopped marshmallows and yoghurt. Mmmm, like a very nearly completely healthy dessert.

    Oxford Kate

    P.S. Loving that I get to read your posts again!


  6. Emma says:

    This sounds so good – I've never seen such a thing as lime oil!

    For three or four years of my life, I was obsessed with Rent in a way I have never seen in another before. Could it be, years after I have abandoned this musical soundtrack love train, I have finally found my match??!


  7. Katie says:

    Perfect day for baking in auckland, wet and windy and wild. Just popped this in the oven and my 5 year old is licking the spoon – perfect for the school lunches tomorrow!


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