Many years ago, I was assigned to Greece for two months. I remember feeling an almost unbearable thrill when I found out. I had never been to Greece and it was one of the countries I had always dreamed of seeing. Would it be all that I imagined?
As sure as baklava is sweet, Greece wound its pulsing energy around my heart and I was lost to a country whose magic is both ancient and modern, where you can be rushing down a tiny back alley and then suddenly look up and see temples where ancient gods once worked their wonders, or arenas where philosophers once debated. But aside from all the enchantments Greece threw my way, I was also seduced by something a little more basic: the food.
I ate Greek food everyday for two months and not once did I ever tire of it. Gyros from my neighborhood rotisserie (the best I have ever tasted), baklava heavy with honey, pita bread with fava, taramosalata, melitzanosalata, and tzaziki, horiatiki salata with huge slabs of feta cheese, lamb youvetsi (my favorite Greek dish), dolmades, grilled octopus, a plethora of marinated olives from the market up the street…and then there was the yogurt. Greek yogurt was a revelation. It was thicker, creamier, and just plain better in ever single way. I ate it everyday, and each day my eyes still closed in ecstasy at my first bite. I had it with fresh peaches or with honey that was filled with pistachios. Still one of my best food memories.
Leaving Greece the yogurt-withdrawal panic set in…How can I get it? Will I ever have it again? Greek yogurt was not something they sold in Manila. I basically spent the years after Greece on the lookout for this yogurt, hoping that someone somewhere would start selling it, but no such luck. Until one day, I stumbled on a tip that one of our warehouse-style supermarkets was carrying a brand of yogurt that was, though not Greek, better then most available locally. I wasted no time in rushing over and buying myself a bucket. Yes, a bucket. As this was one of those membership type warehouse clubs, they sold most things in bulk. In this case a two-kilo bucket of yogurt. Of course, yogurt-starved that I was, this didn’t faze me in the least. I’ve mentioned this yogurt before here.
From the time I bought my first bucket, I haven’t turned back. This may not be Greek yogurt, but if there is a better yogurt in this town, I haven’t found it yet, and believe you me, I have been looking. It is thicker and creamier then anything on the market right now. I’ve already clocked in a ton of yogurt breakfasts since I found it and I have used it in cooking as well…all with great results. And now it was time to bake with it.
I had baked yogurt cakes before but most turn out disappointingly. Armed with the new and improved yogurt I was brimming with excitement to try again. I found many recipes, both in my cookbooks and on the internet, and bookmarked them all. I finally decided to try this recipe which I found on Stel’s yummy blog Baby Rambutan. I was drawn to it for two reasons: it had a marmalade glaze which I thought would be perfect for my kumquat marmalade, and was simple enough to leave fewer dishes for me to wash (a girl has to be practical too!). I followed the recipe as is, except I only used 1 teaspoon lemon zest and no orange zest.
The cake was soft and moist, with a dense crumb…I was hoping for it to be a bit lighter but it was still delicious. The kumquat marmalade was a perfect complement. There was a spot which was a tad under-baked, although I left it in the oven for a good 55 minutes. As Stel advises, this would be great with coffee. I like that it also makes a good base for many variations. I may try this with some stewed fruits next.
I am 100% content with my yogurt find, and look forward to using it in even more ways. One day, I’ll return to Greece, and eat Greek yogurt to my heart’s content, but until then, I have something to tide me over.