Saturday, August 31, 2013

French Yogurt Cake, a bit of news, and a great book recommendation!

Here's the photo, for the story!

You may have noticed that my posts are few and far between these days. This is because lately, I have almost no interest in food. 

This new development is especially odd, because, wait for it, ............................
I'm pregnant!!!!! 

Five months down, four more to go. Wooo Ha!

Based on everything about pregnancy that I've ever seen in the media, or heard from friends and loved ones first-hand, I've always thought that unless a lady loses her appetite due to ongoing morning sickness or major food aversions, pregnancy is the one time in most women's lives when they are the hungriest (or perhaps it's just the first time they're culturally allowed to admit to their hunger? Hmm?). 

But I am not hungry and this is so freakin' weird because I'm always hungry and always have been. I even have a horrible story about being ganged-up on by a bunch of mean girls when I was a budding pre-teen. Their main complaint about me: that I was "always eating". That's a horrible story, which I will spare you, but you catch my drift. I'm an eater!

So despite that fact that my pregnancy has been progressing really well and my little, wait for it.................girl is developing optimally (I want to say perfectly...yes I already think she's PERFECT!!!), I could care less about food for the first time in my life. So what gives? Perhaps some benevolent force in the universe is sparing us from financial ruin due to crazy food cravings, so we can afford our little bundle once she arrives? I just don't know.

During my first trimester I was absolutely exhausted (read: slow-zombie-style dead-to-the-world, ARRARAGAHGGGGH) but I managed, amazingly, to escape morning sickness and food aversions (and brains cravings) entirely. The normal, non-pregnant me is somewhat akin to a competitive eater. I can down an entire 16'-18' pizza, a box of mac n' cheese, an economy size bag of, well, anything, in under 30 minutes with no assistance (although, c'mon folks, that's not really that hard to do, is it?). I guess my "symptom", therefore, can best be described as a general food ambivalence. That being said, I'm still eating, of course, and trying to load-in lots of vitamins and minerals to give my girl a head-start, just not with my usual level of esprit.

But enough about all my food issues, or non issues, let's talk more about esprit (sorry, that's as much energy as I can devote to a segue today). My absolute favorite book about motherhood so far is called Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. It was recommended to me by my friend Amy, new mom and author of the lovely blog Fearless Homemaker. The book is about French parenting secrets as divulged by an American mom living in Paris. It is the answer to all my worries and concerns (so far) about how to find a balance between enrichment and adventure / structure and discipline. 

My mom was pretty authoritative but she was also loads of fun. My husband, and probably all of my friends, would probably describe me similarly (gulp). I'm concerned, therefore, that I learn to give my daughter the freedom to be her own exuberant self, while also teaching her to be highly considerate (read: not a brat). This book has loads of great advice and is also very nonjudgemental, which, let's face it, few things directed at women/mothers ever are. Breath of fresh air, yeah-oh!

I also love Druckerman's book because it gives parents permission to, in the French style, allow their children to be highly self-directed (i.e play by themselves). My hubby and I, up until the ages of around 6 and 8 years old, were both only children. Although we each have a variety of half, step, and in-law siblings now, we still identify mostly with that only child experience. 

We both hit the jack-pots in terms of stimulating, off-the-charts, kick-ass, awesome, engaging moms, but we also remember spending a lot of time alone. Neither of remembers this time as lonely, however. On the contrary, we feel that this self-directed time, during which our moms were dealing with work and household stuff or having grow-up time with friends and family, gave us both the rich inner lives and self-reliance that we still draw strength from today. 

Anyhow, Bringing Up Bebe rocks and I recommend it for all new to newish parents. Today's recipe is a simple cake from the book (one of only two recipes in there). Druckerman says that weekend baking is a family tradition in France and this cake, in which empty yogurt containers are used to measure ingredients, is one of the first ones that little kids there learn. 

The cake really is quite delicious and it's fun to use the yogurt containers instead of measuring cups. I recommend splitting the difference and using 1 1/2 containers of sugar and adding 1/4 teaspoon of salt (fyi, I also subbed 2 cups whole wheat flour in for 2 cups of the AP flour). I also recommend mashing or cutting up the berries. Mine were big and the final result was great but I'd like them smaller next time. The sweetness and richness of this cakes pops the best at room temperature, and indeed, with hot tea it's sublime. 

Here is the recipe, verbatim, from the book. Please note that I used two 8' x 1 1/2' round cake pans. If you have one 9'  cake pan that's deeper than 1 1/2 ' or a loaf pan, that should be totally fine.
gateau au yaourt (Yogurt Cake)  
Recipe from Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
2 six-ounce containers of plain whole-milk yogurt (use the empty containers to measure other ingredients)
2 eggs
2 cups sugar (or just one, depending on how sweet you like it)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Just under 1 container of vegetable oil
4 containers flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Creme fraiche, enough to dollop (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 F 
Use vegetable oil to grease a 9-inch round cake or loaf pan. (SEE NOTE ABOVE)

Gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. 

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients; mix gently until ingredients are just combined (don't overmix).You can add two containers of frozen berries, a container of chocolate chips, or any flavoring you like. 
Bake for 35 minutes, then five minutes more if the cake doesn't pass the knife test. It should be almost crispy on the outside, but springy on the inside. Let it cool. The cake is delicious served with tea and a dollop of crème fraîche.

Postscript: As I wrote this, I consumed quite a bit of gateau au yaourt with tea. Perhaps the gates to my maternal hunger are about to swing wide open after all. Eeeek!  

Post-Postscript: The cute, pink, reusable cake doily thingy is from IKEA!