It’s 25 degrees outside, it’s beautifully sunny and what do I think of when I wake up? Cake. Not just any old cake mind; this is a posh French savoury cake known as cake salé. I first tried a version of it, as you do when you’re a pretentious young student of all things French, in the house of my French exchange family. Denise made a cake with dried fruits which was served for breakfast; I couldn’t stop eating it and always meant to ask her for the recipe since she swore it was very easy (then again she swore that osso bucco was easy…) but I never got round to it.
Then, at Christmas, I bought Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table and, aha, a recipe for cake salé. I had never heard of this cookery writer before but, as her collection of recipes attests, she’s obviously up there with the likes of Julia Child and Delia Smith in terms of being a matriarch of good, solid cooking. And, so far, her recipes haven’t let me down. Her tagine recipe is better, easier and tastier than the Moro and Claudia Roden ones I’ve tried and this cake, well this cake is worthy of Marie Antoinette.
PS Since so many people I know don’t have cup measures I decided to translate the cups into grams by measuring every ingredient; the numbers are therefore a little specific and, if you don’t have cups you will need electronic scales.
Savoury Cheese and Spring Onion Bread, adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table
You will need:
1 3/4 (292g) cups plain flour
1 tablespoon (8g) baking powder
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (you’ll need to vary this in terms of how salty you like it and what other salty things you add)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (she uses white but I never have any)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (85g/80ml) milk (she uses whole and so do I), at room temperature too
1/3 cup (70g/80ml; no idea why it’s not the same weight but is the same volume as the milk…!) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (80g) grated cheddar (she suggests cheddar, Emmenthal, Comte or Gruyere so I think any hard flavoursome cheese would be fine)
1/2-1/3 cup (60g) cubed cheddar (or any other hard cheese as above)
3 spring onions, trimmed and cut into very thin slices (if you want to be pernickety they weighed 35g but obviously that weight will depend on their size)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160F/gas 4 and butter a 11cm x 21.5cm x 6cm (in short a standard…) loaf tin.
2. Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, pepper) together.
3. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk for about a minute.
4. Pour the milk and oil into the eggs and whisk a little more to mix.
5. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture…
7. Put it in the prepared loaf tin and smooth out the surface.
9. Leave in the tin to cool for a couple of minutes, then loosen the cake from the tin, turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack.
10. Serve for breakfast, as it is, with butter, toasted or fresh, or with a pre-dinner glass of something cold in the garden.