Yogurt desserts for Shavuot

Janet Fletcher's Golden Yogurt Cake, served with honey-flavored yogurt cream (photo credit: EVA KOLENKO)
Janet Fletcher's Golden Yogurt Cake, served with honey-flavored yogurt cream
(photo credit: EVA KOLENKO)
This year, to celebrate Shavuot, we will make desserts with yogurt.
“Yogurt contributes so much value to such a wide variety of baked goods,” writes Cheryl Sternman Rule in her just-published book, Yogurt Culture, “that you’ll want copious amounts on hand for everything from tarts and galettes to... cakes.”
Yogurt keeps cakes moist and enhances their flavors. Rule uses it in her walnut cake with rum-soaked currants. There’s yogurt in her almond lemon loaf cake’s batter, as well as in its drizzled icing, which is made of confectioner’s sugar, yogurt and lemon juice.
For the holiday that commemorates the custom of bringing the first fruits to the Temple, Rule’s fruit-and-yogurt cake would be a fitting dessert. It’s made of seasonal fruit baked in a batter enriched with yogurt and butter and flavored with cardamom, cloves and vanilla. (See recipe.)
Some say that we celebrate Shavuot with dairy foods because the Torah describes the Promised Land as the land of milk and honey. For a honey-flavored dairy dessert, a good choice is the golden, citrus-scented yogurt cake made by Janet Fletcher, the author of the new book Yogurt. The yogurt helps the cake keep for a week. To accompany the cake, serve yogurt cream sweetened with honey. (See recipe.)
Instead of baking for Shavuot, you might like to make a creamy dessert. Here yogurt shines, too. You can turn it into a parfait by layering it with fruit and toasted nuts, or into a creamy mousse. Fletcher’s rich yogurt mousse is topped with orange marmalade and toasted almonds. Like Bavarian cream, it has gelatin, but it has no eggs and is much faster and easier to make. (See recipe.) Rule uses yogurt in her lemon-poppy-seed mousse, which is made of lemon curd folded into yogurt whipped cream. (See recipe.)
Any of these desserts would be a welcome finale to a Shavuot brunch. Perhaps the most useful recipe is yogurt cream. Make it with honey, as Fletcher does, or with vanilla, following Rule’s formula. (See recipe.) The yogurt enables the whipped cream to stay fluffy for days, as if by magic.
Faye Levy is the author of Fresh From France: Dessert Sensations and, in Hebrew, Sefer Hakinuhim (The Book Of Desserts).
“This moist, simple cake has a tender golden crumb and a subtle citrus flavor,” writes Janet Fletcher. Serve it with honey yogurt cream and with summer berries or stone fruit.
Makes one 23-cm. (9-in.) cake
■ 1½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
■ 2½ tsp. baking powder
■ 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
■ ½ cup vegetable oil
■ 1½ tsp. grated zest of lemon, Meyer lemon or orange, or a combination
■ ¾ tsp. vanilla extract
■ ¹⁄8 tsp. kosher salt or sea salt
■ 3 large eggs
■ 1¼ cups sugar
■ Honey Flavored Yogurt Cream (optional):
■ 1 cup plain drained yogurt or Greek yogurt (not nonfat) (see Note)
■ ¼ cup honey
■ ½ tsp. vanilla extract
■ 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter bottom and sides of a 23-cm. (9-in.) round cake pan with 5-cm. (2-in.) sides. Line bottom with parchment paper and dust sides with flour, shaking out excess.
Sift flour with baking powder in a bowl.
In a bowl, whisk yogurt with oil, zest, vanilla and salt.
In a stand mixer with a whip, beat eggs on medium speed until frothy and well blended. Add sugar gradually. Whip at medium-high speed until sugar dissolves and mixture is thick and pale, scraping down sides of bowl at least once. Lower speed and add yogurt mixture gradually. Add dry ingredients gradually and beat just until well blended.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan, spreading it evenly. Bake on center rack until surface is golden brown and firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack 10 minutes; then unmold and finish cooling, top side up, on rack.
For yogurt cream: In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, honey and vanilla. Gently fold in whipped cream.
Serve cake in wedges, topping each portion with a dollop of yogurt cream. Store leftover cake in a plastic cake container.
Note: Drained Yogurt: Chill yogurt thoroughly until firm. Line a large sieve with a triple thickness of dampened cheesecloth. Set sieve over a bowl to collect whey. Gently pour yogurt into lined sieve. Cover with a cloth and refrigerate about 1 hour, or until yogurt has the consistency you like. Scrape into a clean container, cover and refrigerate.
No mixer is required for this cake, writes Cheryl Sternman Rule, and the batter takes just minutes to make.
For the fruit, use cherries, apricots, peaches, blueberries, blackberries, and/or raspberries, preferably in combination.
Makes 24 servings
■ 4 cups mixed summer fruit, any combination of 3 or more, berries left whole, larger fruits pitted and coarsely chopped
■ 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
■ 1¼ cups plus 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
■ ½ tsp. ground cloves
■ 2 cups all-purpose flour
■ 2 tsp. baking powder
■ ½ tsp. baking soda
■ ¾ tsp. kosher salt
■ 1¼ tsp. ground cardamom
■ 110 gr. (4 oz. or 8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
■ 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
■ 4 large eggs
■ 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
■ Confectioners’ sugar, for serving
■ Plain Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F), with a rack in center position. Line a 46 x 33-cm. (18 x 13-in.) rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Coat the sides and corners with nonstick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, toss fruit with lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. of the granulated sugar, and ¼ tsp. of the cloves.
Into a large bowl, sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 tsp. of the cardamom. Add butter, yogurt, eggs, vanilla, and 1¼ cups of the granulated sugar and whisk well to combine. Sweep bottom and sides of bowl with a silicone spatula to dissolve any hidden pockets of flour.
Scrape batter into prepared baking sheet (it will be a very thin layer), smoothing top and working batter into corners. Scatter fruit in big spoonfuls evenly over batter, drizzling any residual juice onto cake. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar and remaining ¼ tsp. each cloves and cardamom. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until nicely browned and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack. Cut into 24 squares. Dust each square lightly with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.
Spoon a dollop of Greek yogurt alongside each slice, if desired.
Store leftover cake, covered tightly with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
“This fluffy mousse tastes like a luscious cheesecake without the crust,” writes Fletcher. You can make it up to 8 hours ahead. If you like, substitute other fruit preserves for the marmalade.
Makes 6 servings
■ 2 cups plain drained yogurt (see Note in recipe for Golden Yogurt Cake)
■ 1 cup heavy cream
■ ½ cup sugar
■ ½ tsp. kosher salt or sea salt
■ ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
■ 1 tsp. powdered unflavored gelatin
■ ¼ cup sliced almonds
■ 6 scant Tbsp. orange marmalade
Spoon yogurt into a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, stir together ¼ cup cream with the sugar and salt. Using tip of a paring knife, scrape vanilla bean seeds into mixture and add the pod. Sprinkle gelatin over mixture and let stand 1 minute to soften. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly to dissolve sugar and gelatin. Simmer 2 minutes, whisking. Strain through a sieve directly into the yogurt. Stir to blend. Cover bowl and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
In another bowl, whip remaining ¾ cup cream to soft peaks. Gently fold whipped cream into yogurt mixture. Divide among 6 glasses. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Toast almonds on a baking sheet in oven until golden brown, stirring once or twice; they will take about 5 minutes. Let cool.
If your marmalade is stiff, warm it in a saucepan with a few drops of water, stirring until it liquefies. Then pulse it in a food processor to chop the thick pieces of orange rind.
To serve, top each mousse with a scant 1 Tbsp. marmalade. Top each portion with 2 tsp. almonds. Serve immediately.
“With its airy texture, clear lemon flavor, and pop of bright raspberry, this mousse gets its crunch from crumbled amaretti cookies,” writes Rule. You can use any cookies you like or opt for chopped, toasted nuts.
Makes 6 servings
■ Zest and juice of 2 to 4 lemons (Meyer, if available) (¹⁄3 cup juice)
■ 2 large eggs
■ ¹⁄3 cup sugar
■ 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
■ 1 tsp. poppy seeds
■ ¹⁄8 tsp. pure vanilla extract
■ Pinch of kosher salt
■ ½ recipe Yogurt Whipped Cream made without any sugar (See recipe below)
■ 1¹⁄3 cups fresh raspberries
■ 12 amaretti cookies or other small cookies, crushed
Set aside a good pinch of lemon zest for the curd; wrap remaining zest in plastic wrap and refrigerate for garnish. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl.
In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk eggs and sugar until well combined and light, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in lemon juice, drizzling it in bit by bit, whisking constantly. Scatter butter on top. Set pan over medium-low heat. Swapping whisk for a wooden spoon, begin making figure eights along bottom of saucepan. Stir like this constantly as the curd cooks and thickens (don’t let it boil).
After 3 to 4 minutes of constant stirring, swipe an index finger quickly along back of spoon. If it holds the line without drips, curd has thickened sufficiently. If not, continue cooking and stirring until line holds. Remove from heat and immediately pour through strainer into bowl. Stir in poppy seeds, vanilla, salt, and the pinch of lemon zest. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of the curd and refrigerate until cold, several hours or overnight.
In a large bowl, fold lemon-poppy seed curd into Yogurt Whipped Cream to create a mousse. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up. Dollop a spoonful of mousse on the bottom of each of six glasses. Top with a few raspberries and a good sprinkle of cookie crumbs. Repeat (you should have two layers of mousse, berries and crushed cookies). Garnish each glass with a pinch of reserved lemon zest and serve.
Rule explains the advantage of her Yogurt Whipped Cream, which you can use anywhere you’d use regular whipped cream: “On its own, whipped cream is highly unstable, deflating quickly and losing its structure...Whipping...yogurt into it solves these problems, creating a light, sweet and still-fluffy topping that has enough structure and stability to last for days in the refrigerator.”
Makes 3½ cups
■ 1 cup cold heavy cream
■ 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
■ ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
■ 2 to 3 Tbsp. sugar
Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add yogurt and vanilla and continue to whip, slowly streaming 2 Tbsp. sugar down sides of bowl. Continue whipping until peaks hold when whisk is lifted. Taste, whipping in up to 1 Tbsp. more sugar, if desired.
Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. No rewhipping is required.