I was already juggling a couple of things I wanted to do on a recent mid-week night when I stopped by The Cookbook Store to check out the latest offerings and chat with its resident maven/manager and my longtime buddy Alison Fryer.
Alison is plugged into all things culinary happening in our city (Toronto, by the way) and asked if I was going to George Brown College that night to hear a talk on food blogging by Clotilde Dusoulier.
I already knew about this up-and-coming young French woman from her popular little book “Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen.” I had also heard that she was currently at the chefs’ school in Stratford – the small Ontario town that has long been home to the famous theatre festival and was briefly home to me (more of that some other time) – as writer-in-residence.
What I didn’t know but soon realized as I sat listening to her that night in the small George Brown amphitheatre among a large group of avid bloggers, chefs and foodies was that the 30-something Ms. Dusoulier is one brilliant woman with charisma, charm and, in spite of her rising fame, a good dose of humility.
She told how this all happened. Born and raised in Paris, she went with her boyfriend to work in California as a software engineer. During two years there, she discovered her latent passion for food and cooking.
In 2003, she began her blog called Chocolate & Zucchini – incidentally but not surprisingly, two of her favourite foods. She describes blogging as a “little sandbox that feels like home.” She loves the interaction with others who become engaged by what she has to say.
Back living in Paris, Dusoulier, who is accent-free and fluent in both French and English, has obviously found her calling. In addition to blogging and writing books about food (she has penned a food guide to Paris), she also works as a consulting editor, contributes to various publications and does recipe development.
In her talk, she offered 10 rules of food blogging. Among them: Choose your focus: be genuine; set yourself apart; focus on great content; keep learning, and have fun!
Of all her pursuits, blogging about food takes the cake. “You can share stuff with readers to inspire, educate and entertain,” she said breathlessly. “Food bloggers are a great community. It’s important to foster relationships with those you admire,” she continued. And last, “It’s all about passion and sharing it.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
The next day, I grabbed my copy of “Chocolate & Zucchini” and turned to the recipe for Yogurt Cake mentioned a couple of times during her talk as a staple of her blog, cookbook and recipe repertoire. (Next, I plan to try her Tomato Tatin, My Grandmother’s Apple Cake and Lamb Tagine with Pears, all of which she recommended when I chatted with her briefly after her talk. Watch this space for more on them.)
The cake worked first time and is delicious. Here’s the recipe:
The perfect moist, not-too-sweet, plain cake to serve guests – or yourself – with a cup of tea or coffee, it’s also yummy with a scoop of ice cream or a spoonful of your favourite yogurt. Dusoulier writes in her intro that it’s great any time of day: “Breakfast, tea, dessert – any time at all, trust me.” I’ll add this bonus: it’s so easy to make, a child could do it.
1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tsp to grease pan
1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp rum (optional)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Good pinch of fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease bottom and sides of 10-inch springform pan with oil. (Use parchment paper to line bottom of pan if not springform.)
In large bowl, whisk together yogurt and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, oil and rum; whisk again.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to yogurt mixture; stir until just combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in oven about 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Transfer to rack; cool about 10 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake to loosen. Unclip sides of springform pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.