I love stone fruits. I think the prevalence of summer fruit is one of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles, and I generally spend the springtime months in a post-holiday baking lull, trying to fully appreciate the last of the tangerines and the first of the truly good asparagus. All the while, in my heart I long for firm, crunchy nectarines, sweet, juicy plums, and my old nemesis, the apricot.
In recent years, I have spent early summer on a constant quest for the perfect apricot. In theory, I love nothing more than eating them in the kitchen, leaning over the sink. In practice, I have found apricots to a fickle fruit. One bite will be delicately sweet and almost floral; the next will be jarring and acidic. Sometimes the texture is grainy or fibrous. It doesn't help that as soon as they appear at the farmer's market in May, I start compulsively buying any apricot that beckons. The best varieties aren't likely to be in season until July, but still I try them, a half dozen from this stall, five from the next one, hoping to find my perfect fruit.
Until then, I must satisfy myself with baking them. It's not a bad runner up, as apricot consumption goes - the oven really works wonders with the tartest or grainiest fruit, gently urging them into sweet, jammy mouthfuls.
I have recently made several of Orangette's Almond Tortes with Sugared Apricots, but the other night I decided to mix it up (well, a little bit) and make a French Yoghurt Cake with Apricots. Gâteaux au Yaourt have become all the rage in recent years, and it's not hard to see why: they have a perfectly moist, tight crumb, they are endlessly adaptable, and they have that maddening, simple elegance that the French seem to have perfected.
I've made a few different yoghurt cakes from different places, but I generally follow the same basic framework and adjust as needed. This may be the only baked good that I have memorized, to be honest!
Another benefit (as if you needed one)? It only uses one bowl and one spoon ... and, well, a measuring cup and a cake pan. So simple!
Yoghurt Cake with Apricots
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Orangette, Chocolate & Zucchini and others
1/2 C plain yoghurt (I use whole milk from Trader Joe's)
1 C granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 t almond extract
1 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 C finely ground almonds
2 t baking powder
1/2 C canola oil (or other bland cooking oil)
4 small, ripe apricots, pitted and cut into sixths
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8" round cake pan and set aside. Mix the yoghurt, sugar, eggs, and almond extract in a large bowl until smooth. Add the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt and stir until just combined.
Dump in the oil and stir until it stops being gross and turns into a smooth, glossy mixture.
Pour about half of the mixture into the cake pan, then arrange the apricots in a single layer - they'll get covered up and pushed around, so don't bother to be neat. Gently pour the remaining batter over the fruit.
Bake 40-50 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before unmolding.
Keeps at room temperature, wrapped in plastic or foil, for 3-4 days (if it lasts that long)