November 2017


Yiaourtopita

(Orange Greek Yogurt Cake)

November 9: National Greek Yogurt Day

There is a hilarious scene in one of our favorite movies, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, in which the bride and groom’s families meet for the very first time. The American groom’s mother presented a bundt cake to the Greek bride’s mother to be served after dinner as a dessert (and decorated with a flower pot in the middle of the “cake with a hole in it”).

Perhaps the Greek mother would have found it easier to pronounce yiaourtopita than bundt. And it is easier for us non-Greeks to call the following recipe Orange Greek Yogurt Cake (although lemons could be substituted). It could be baked in a loaf or round pan, but as a nod to the movie we baked the cake in a mini bundt pan.

This Orange Greek Yogurt Cake is terrific for teatime and also on National Greek Yogurt Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Voskos)

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced (about ¼ cup liquid)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or orange extract
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil

Directions

Wash and dry the oranges. Zest the rind and squeeze the juice. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt with sugar, egg, and juice.

Add the zest extract. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually mix this in to the wet ingredients. Add the oil and mix into a smooth batter.

Pour the batter in a well-greased mini bundt pan, loaf pan or round cake pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes (mini bundts) and 30-45 minutes for the loaf or round cake pan, testing for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a cup of tea (optional).

Notes

  • As an intermarried couple ourselves, of course we loved the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”! There are many other films focusing on intercultural and interracial relationships. See the list here
  • We used full fat and whole milk Greek yogurt so the cake would be moist and not too dry.
  • National Bundt (Pan) Day is coming up in a few days on November 15.
  • Search our blog for other Greek recipes.

Day of the Dead

(Día de los Muertos) Cookies

November 2: All Souls Day

Having lived among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in South Texas, we came to know many as our friends and learned about their holiday traditions and customs. Around Halloween leading up to All Souls Day (Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos), we have seen several homes, churches and other significant cultural places set up colorful ofrendas (altars) as tributes to loved ones who have passed away. Displayed on these altars are framed photos of the dead, cut paper banners, flowers (marigolds), candles and/or incense, religious symbols and icons, food and other toys/trinkets. Some communities have lively parades with people dressed in skeleton costumes. Some families visit the gravesite of the deceased, decorate it and have a feast there.

At first, outside observers find the festivities excessive and even creepy. But in time we have come to appreciate the Mexican rituals that celebrate the lives of the dearly departed so that they are never forgotten! How nice it is to be remembered in a fond and fun way!

We are grateful that our amigos have taught us a little more about the Day of the Dead and invited us to participate in some of their family activities. Learn more about this Mexican holiday from the Inside Mexico website. And celebrate life (not death) with these chocolate cookies decorated with colorful fondant cutouts!

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)

For the chocolate cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used Mexican vainilla)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, ground cinnamon and chili powder or cayenne pepper. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Mix until a sticky dough is formed. Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in half or thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour). Roll out dough ¼-inch thick in between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with a skull-shaped cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

For the decorations

  • Powdered sugar
  • White fondant
  • Red fondant
  • Other different colored fondant
  • Colorful edible markers

Directions

On a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll out the white fondant to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out enough skull shapes for all the cookies. Set aside in a covered container so the fondant does not dry out. Lightly brush the chocolate cookie with a little water and position the white skull-shaped fondant over it. Smooth out the edges.

Roll out the red fondant and cut out a tiny heart shape using the mini heart plunger tool. Dab a little water on the red heard and position it upside down in the center of the white skull-shaped fondant. Use different shaped flower cutters on different colored fondant to make the eye layers.

Use the end of a large round tip to make the eyeballs. Attach “eyes and eyeball” layers with a little water. Roll out different colored fondant and cut a small daisy shape. Position part of the daisy shape on top of the skull.

Trim off the three petal parts on top and save this to position on the chin as a decoration, attaching both with a brush of water. Use different color edible markers to draw the facial decorations (we used dots, stitches and swirls). Be as colorful and creative as possible. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Notes

  • We got our skull-shaped cookie cutter at the gift shop in the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas. As morbid as the experience seemed to be, the exhibits and historical information were presented very well. Everything was fascinating and well worth the trip and visit.
  • Pan de muerto (sweet “bread of the dead”) and sugar skulls are foods related to Día de los Muertos. We hope to feature these recipes in upcoming blog posts.
  • Vanilla sugar cookies may be substituted in this recipe. But because chocolate originated in Mexico and has a nice color contrast to the white fondant, we baked dark chocolate cookies instead. We also used fondant to decorate them because we still have not mastered icing (outlining and flooding) our cookies!
  • Search our blog for more Mexican, Tex-Mex and Halloween recipes.