To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.
- Pearl S. Buck
My father was never one to give fatherly advice. He loved us and coddled us, encouraged us and scolded us (when appropriate) and sometimes raised his voice to us (noisy, joyous children during the evening news) yet his expectations and desires for each of us were implied rather than stated, implied and understood. In his own quiet, gentle way, he let us know that we were to get an excellent education and all become lawyers or doctors. Yeah. He did.
One day he did sit me down for an unexpected father-daughter talk. I was just starting college, a psychology major, and his words of wisdom surprised me. "Don't even think of getting married before you have your PhD in hand and a good, well-paying job. If you get married first, you might never continue your studies and your financial independence is the most important thing you can have. You never know what will happen in the future."
Well, it was about as useful as my mother's advice "Get married twice: the first time for money, the second time for love."
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
It has taken me many years, but I finally found what I truly love, work that is work but also play. Pure joy. And there is nothing that I would rather be doing. Not psychology. Not art history, which followed hot on its heels. Nor hatmaking though I trained as a milliner in a luxury studio in Milan. But writing.
Ilva Beretta and I are so happy to announce our Autumn Plated Stories Workshop, which will take place the first weekend in October at Il Salicone, a splendid 19th century villa among the olive groves and vineyards of beautiful Tuscany, Italy.
If you are a food or travel blogger, aspiring or more experienced food photographer or writer and are looking to hone and refine your skills, find new creative energy and inspiration, and learn how text and images work together for greater impact, this is the workshop for you. From the team behind the award-winning blog. With the added bonus of a Tuscan cooking class from cookbook author Giulia Scarpaleggia!
Find details of the Workshop as well as how and where to register on the Plated Stories blog.
Photo courtesy Ilva Beretta
Why layer cake with cookie dough and cheesecake? Why stuff the whole concoction with marshmallows, chocolate chips and candy bars; why drench it in too much chocolate and caramel sauce? Why overkill when good chocolate, butter, eggs and flour with simply a dash of vanilla and cinnamon is just so, well, so perfect?
A French Fondant has nothing to do with sugary icing. A French fondant is simply a cake so moist and tender that it melts in the mouth, so light and ethereal it disappears in a flash, fading into a sweet afterthought. More or less flour, more or less butter and eggs offer a variation on the texture and richness. The one I offer you today is luxuriously thick and creamy like a pudding, surrounded by a dense, brownie-like outside and a crispy, meringue-like crust, barely there, just holding in the center. Gooey, yes, but beautifully soft and velvety, much lighter than one would expect. A deep chocolate flavor without a trace of bitterness, the salted butter adding an afterthought of caramel. My own addition of cinnamon and vanilla simply boost the overall flavor. This is perfection itself.
And a very sexy, sensual dessert for two.
The Chocolate Chestnut Fondant, made with an entire can of creamy chestnut cream, is denser, more fudge-like yet an elegant holiday treat with its mélange of chocolate and chestnut.
The Chestnut Fondants are more cake-like, feathery soft and light yet with the moistness of a fondant, much less so than either of the chocolate ones. A drizzle of chocolate ganache is perfect with the faint nuttiness imparted by the chestnut flour.
FRENCH CHOCOLATE FONDANT CAKE (Gâteau Fondant au Chocolat)
Adapted from Elle à Table N°93 March-April 2014
7 oz / 200 g dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
7 oz (14 Tbs) / 200 g salted butter
7 oz (1 cup) / 200 g sugar (I used semisweet baking chocolate so decreased the sugar by about a tablespoon)
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 ½ oz / 100 g flour
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter an 8-inch (20/21-cm) springform pan.
Coarsely chop or break up the chocolate and place it in a small saucepan with the butter cut in large cubes or slices. Melt over very low heat, stirring continuously; remove from the heat just before the chocolate and butter are completely melted but not quite. Continue stirring off the heat until the butter and chocolate are both completely melted and smooth. Alternately, this can be done in a bain-marie or in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs with the sugar until thick and creamy, 2 – 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Stir the cinnamon into the flour and beat into the eggs/sugar on low speed until smooth and creamy. On low speed, beat in the melted chocolate/butter in a slow stream until the batter is smooth and well blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the center is set (if you jiggle the pan back and forth you will be able to see if the batter is still liquid or if it is set but thick like pudding).
Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 15 or 20 minutes (or longer) before loosening the cake and carefully removing the ring. Allow the cake to cool completely before turning onto a cake plate.
For an elegant dessert, serve with a bit of unsweetened or lightly-sweetened whipped cream or a berry coulis. Or both.