vive le grignotage !
(long live snacking)
tea time, goûter and “un peu sucré ou pas du tout”:
gâteau au yaourt (yogurt cake)
One day a friend and I were having tea. He works in the culinary television industry and like most Parisians, he is passionate about food and so our conversation revolved around food, of course. As he poured the tea, he shared with me a saying his grandmother had when she served tea. She would say, “une sucré ou pas du tout” (meaning, take one sugar or take nothing at all). Thinking of childrens’ fondness for sugar (and for snacking), his grandmother’s comment stuck with me and it inspired this week’s simple pleasure: gâteau au yaourt.
Children have a fondness for sweet things and for snacking. As a chef and a mother, I know that it is often a struggle to regulate childrens’ sugar intake. In the States, desserts (as well as pre-packed snacks) contain a lot of added sugar or corn syrup and are quite sweet as a result. The problem is that this level of sweetness becomes the standard.
French children are no different in their desire for sweet treats or for snacks. However, the desserts in France are far less sweet than what you find here. Things we consider breakfast items, such as crêpes, waffles, or french toast, are considered dessert items in France. The comment of my friend’s grandmother – who took care to make sure that my friend’s taste for sugar was satisfied with little sugar – reminded me of this difference.
In France, the after-school snack is known as a “goûter” (it comes from the word “goûter” meaning “to taste”). It occurs about 4 p.m. and if you happen to visit a boulangerie or pâtisserie at that time of day during the school year, you will see children eating a small croissant, a small piece of cake or a tartine with confiture while their mothers enjoy an espresso or afternoon tea. The goûter is never that sweet although it can be a small pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant), chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) or a madeleine. If the goûter is enjoyed at home, gâteau au yaourt is a popular snack (often it is made from one of those family recipes handed down from grandma). It is a genoise cake much like angel food cake (although it is not like the sugary, spongy angel food cake you find in the grocery stores here so do not use that as a basis for comparison). Gâteau au yaourt is light and moderately sweet. It has no butter. Traditionally, it is enjoyed by itself. Sometimes the batter is flavored with a little lemon zest or vanilla extract.
This week’s simple pleasure is “just right.” A little something sweet makes the kids happy. Half the sugar (of typical cakes), nonfat yogurt and no butter (as well as an easy recipe) makes the parents happy too.
I add orange zest and orange blossom water to the cake batter to brighten it for spring. To take advantage of the season, I top it with fresh strawberries and with whipped yogurt cream flavored with a touch of Grand Marnier (but you can use orange juice). For a decorative garnishment, I topped the cake with pea tendril flowers and sweet peas. However, note that sweet pea flowers are inedible and any pea flowers photographed and called for in the recipe are purposes of garnishment only (see below for further explaination). Do not eat them!
When strawberries are not in season, you can serve this cake with a side of strawberry jam if you so choose. However, neither the cream nor the strawberries is necessary as the cake is delicious by itself. It may inspire you to rethink cakes and snacks - “un peu sucré ou pas du tout.”
Je vous souhaite un bon appétit !
When it comes to using flowers in your cooking, know what the flower is and know your source. First, you need to make sure that the flower you want to use is edible (i.e., violets and roses are edible) and, if so, what part can you eat (i.e., the just the petals or the whole thing). Second, unless you grow the flowers yourself, make sure that the flower is what it is represented to be and that it is organic.
With respect to flowers from pea plants. The issue can lead to much confusion so let me summarize it this way: Sweet peas are typically lavender, pink and white flowers that come from a pea plant that produces only flowers. These fragrant flowers, “sweet peas”, are inedible and are known to be poisonous. Do not eat them.
Other pea plants that produce peas (snap peas, snow peas and English /garden peas) also produce white flowers (often sold with the pea tendrils) and are generally considered edible. However, be aware that even produce sellers mix the the two up and misname them. The cake photographed contains both sweet peas and flowers from an English pea plant and as such, they are for garnishment purposes only … remove them from the cake before serving it.
Tags: dessert, flowers with baking, french cooking recipes, garnishing with flowers, gâteau au yaourt, goûter, healthy dessert, inedible sweet peas, project with children, simple pleasures, yogurt cake