One of my favourite parts about the dog days of summer is the all-too-brief appearance of red currants. I love their unashamed tartness, their shimmering jewel-like quality, the surprising crunch of the little seeds hiding within.
They’re a little overwhelmingly sour on their own, but when added to a sweet baked treat or slowly simmered down into a brilliant red jam, they’re utterly fantastic.
I sometimes turn them into jam, or bake them up into a rather spectacular meringue-topped red currant torte. One of these days, I might even work up the nerve to make a batch of homemade red currant danishes, just like the ones that occasionally make an appearance at the O&B Canteen. This year, though, I just couldn’t summon up the determination to spend the better part of a hot summer day pounding butter with a rolling pin and endlessly folding and rolling out dough to make homemade danishes.
(Yes, it’s true… I have mile-wide streaks of laziness and impatience, which sometimes counterbalance my equally-wide streak of gluttony.)
Instead, I decided to bake them into a classic French-style yogurt cake. The cake itself is pure simplicity – a pillowy-soft pale yellow cake flavoured with lemon zest and just the right amount of sweetness for my not-so-sweet tooth. It’s normally baked in a round cake tin or as a loaf, but I opted to turn it into little mini-loaves instead, perfectly sized to grab on my way out of the house in the morning. (A jumbo muffin tin will also do the trick, if you don’t happen to have a mini-loaf pan kicking around.)
The hardest part about this recipe is the somewhat tedious process of picking the fragile thread-like stems from the currants while leaving the lovely red berries intact. The cake itself, though, is a breeze to make – whisk together the wet ingredients, add in the dry, then whisk again until you have a perfectly pourable silky-smooth batter. Fantastique, non?
My initial plan for these loaves was to fold the currants into the batter, as I would normally do with a blueberry cake, but I worried the delicate currants might get crushed in the process. Inspired by La Tartine Gourmandine’s lovely red currant mini cakes, I chose to sprinkle them onto the batter once it had been poured into the pans instead, creating a bright scattering of scarlet polka-dots across the top of each loaf. Beautiful, no?
It’s worth turning on the oven in the middle of a heat wave sometimes. :)
Missed currant season? Fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries also work well, or even roughly chopped cranberries. (Or heck, just skip the fruit altogether… the cake is perfectly lovely just as it is.)
- ½ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
- 1 cup fresh red currants
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour the cups of a mini-loaf pan (or a jumbo muffin tin, if you prefer).
- In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs and canola oil until smooth and well blended.
- Add flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest, and stir until the batter is smooth and silky. Pour into the prepared mini-loaf tin, dividing evenly between the cups. Scatter berries on top of the batter, using around 2 tbsp per loaf.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are pale gold and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre of one loaf. (If using a muffin tin, you may need to add another 5 minutes of cooking time.)
- Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes in the pan, then turn out and let cool completely before serving.