~ By Melina Kantor
I’ve got Katerina here, the protagonist from my most recent NaNoWriMo project. She’s anxious to speak to you about a recipe. She’s getting all deep and philosophical and saying it represents her or something. You’ll have to excuse her. She’s a baker. She’s always doing that.
But she’ll have to wait while I give you all a bit of background. I’ve got family in a tiny village on the southern coast of Crete, right on the beach. The photo of me in the Greek dress was taken in a nearby cherry orchard when I was five. I base a lot of my stories in a fictionalized version of the village.
Until now, my stories have all taken place during the summer. For this book, I tried something different. This story takes place in the winter, when the village is free of tourists.
Another fun fact? Winter brings about a whole new selection of pastries, which comes in handy when writing a story that revolves around a bakery.
Okay, Katerina. Have at it!
(Note: Between you and me, this recipe is actually my mother’s. Not Katerina’s mother’s. Shh. . .)
I may be five feet tall. I may be soft spoken. I may have big green eyes that look like they’d be better suited for a child. At the moment, I’m wearing a pink turtleneck sweater.
But don’t let all that deceive you. If you meet me, you’ll probably tell me I’m sweet. You might even compare me to the sweet confections in my bakery’s display case. That would make me cringe. (Not that you’d notice.)
If you took the time to look deeper, you’d see that yes, I’m sweet (although my mother might sometimes tell you otherwise), but I’m so much more. Underneath my sweet exterior, I’ve got hidden spices, a streak of tartness, and even some alcohol.
Just like my yoghurt cake, which we call yiaourtopita.
I know this with certainty because I have a special power. All the women in my family do. We can speak to a person for only a few seconds and immediately know which pastry they’ll like, which pastry represents them. Then, we magically figure out a recipe that is exactly to the person’s liking. This makes us a hit on the birthday / name day / baptism / wedding / holiday circuit.
My friend Evi is tough and complex like kalitsounia, a cookie stuffed with cheesecake-like filling. Yiannis, the little boy who lives next door, is gooey, soft, sweet, and messy like loukoumades, honey soaked fried dough.
So, if you’d like to get to know me, bake up a batch of my mother’s yiaurtopita, which she invented just for me. You’ll see that it’s a strong, sturdy cake, as far as cakes go. It’s not fussy and fragile like those cakes that require beating egg whites. I don’t have time for cakes that require such nonsense.
I’m running a bakery all by myself during one of the worst economic times Greece has ever seen, all while trying to get my ex-boyfriend to give back the thousands of Euros he stole. Even worse, there’s a new baker in town, and he’s totally in my way.
I’d say all this makes me as strong and sturdy as my yiaourtopita. I’ll assume you agree.
Now, go preheat your oven to 350 and get to work.
- 1 c butter
- 2 c sugar
- 6 eggs, well beaten
- 1 c plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tsp baking soda diluted with 2 oz cognac
- 2 c flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 c sugar and 2/3 c water (for the syrup)
- Melt butter and allow to cool slightly.
- Beat butter and add sugar gradually, beating thoroughly.
- Add eggs and yogurt; continue beating.
- Add soda, cognac, flour, cinnamon and cloves and beat well.
- Pour into 9×13” pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
- Simmer syrup for 15 min. Pour warm syrup over cool cake.
In my opinion, yiaourtopita is best served with a cup of muddy Greek coffee (without sugar – the cake has enough and why ruin the purity of the coffee). Or, better yet, a glass of ouzo. Or even a shot raki (which, by the way, I tolerate surprisingly well).
Here are some other bakers baking their version of yiaourtopita, for those who’d like a visual:
Kali Orexi! Bon appétit!
Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels. In July of 2012, she moved to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com
For more of her recipes, go to http://melinakantor.com/?page_id=22