Thursday, March 27, 2014

Devil's Food Cake With Caramel, A La Tartine Bakery

Sometimes words fail to convey the enormity of a situation.  In the case of the alluring Devil’s Food Cake from Tartine Bakery, I’ll let this photo speak for itself.


This recipe knocks it out of the park each time. I made it twice within a week earlier this month, and it provoked similar reactions on both occasions.  Forks crashed onto plates.  Knees buckled. Gasps of surprise mingled with moans of delight. I had people already coming back for seconds as I was still slicing up the cake—a wild pleading look in their eyes as they extended their plates towards me—long before I’d had a chance to try a forkful myself, much less grab my camera.  Everyone gobbled up this chocolate madness so enthusiastically at both parties that only a modest wedge remained for its close-up.

I’d call that a home run.

I first experienced this cake several years ago at the justifiably famed Tartine Bakery during my annual San Francisco pilgrimage.  It was so compelling and crave-worthy, standing out even amidst all of the other confectionary beauties in the bakery's impressive display cases.  I was exceedingly grateful that Tartine had published the recipe in their cookbook, and I immediately baked a version of it myself upon my return home.

Devil's Food Cake in upper left corner, Tartine Bakery, SF on 8/27/10

Friday, March 21, 2014

Making A Cake Banner (When Your Decorating Skills Are Sorely Lacking!)

For someone who loves baking as much as I do, my cake decorating abilities leave a LOT to be desired, unfortunately.  I’m not utterly hopeless with an icing piping bag, but I’m certainly not great.  Thank goodness I always do a test-run before writing with icing on the actual cake, but these dismal practice attempts have caused my Not-So-Little Chef and me to dissolve in countless giggle fits, making it even harder to hold the icing tube steady.  It’s a quandary since I’m often commissioned to make special occasion cakes, and I do everything to encourage my customers to embrace an extremely simple design sans writing, lest my handiwork end up on the jaw-dropping and hilarious Cake Wrecks website!  But I have a brilliant new solution for my sub-par decorating skills: The Cake Banner.

I was commissioned to provide a cake for a friend’s baby shower last week, a devilishly dark chocolate-and-caramel cake covered with toasted cake crumbs that the mother-to-be had daydreamed about for years since the last time I’d made it. (That recipe will be on the next post, I promise!) One of the baby shower co-hosts asked me to get creative with the cake decoration, incorporating some pink into the design among other things.  Naturally, this request gave me pause.

However, I wanted to honor the festive decoration request for the occasion.  I recently saw this flag banner on Joy the Baker's blog, and I realized that this was the perfect solution to my decorating dilemma. The final result was darling and it put the biggest smile on everyone’s faces, including my own!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Desserts

I was hoping to have a new St. Patrick’s Day-themed recipe for you before the 17th.  However, with a quick-yet-outrageous trip to Los Angeles earlier this week in addition to furiously cranking out a round of CocoaRoar truffles for St. Paddy’s Day, I haven’t had time to explore anything new in the kitchen. My chocolate tempering machine is purring away in the background as I type, and as I wait for it to melt a pound of chocolate into a beautiful glossy pool so I can dip the last few hundred truffles, I thought I’d re-share a few St. Patrick’s Day ideas from previous entries.  Of course you may just want to spend tomorrow in your favorite Irish pub drinking Guinness or green beer.  But here are a few fun holiday-themed dessert ideas, should you need to balance out your beer and pub food intake.

This Black&White Guinness Float tastes like the most sophisticated milkshake you could ever hope to have. Despite its velvety dark appearance, Guinness stout is surprisingly light and frothy, making it a natural pairing with ice cream, and this beer float plays up both the deep chocolate notes and the creamy quality of the Guinness.  Sign me up, please.

The Guinness Gingerbread Cake is still one of the best cakes to ever come out of my kitchen, which I originally made for Sylvia’s birthday bash two years ago. (Happy birthday, Syl!) The cake is fragrant with spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and even a little dry mustard for heat!), deepened with Guinness for complexity, and the flavors all come together beautifully with a vanilla cream cheese frosting.  


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Soup With Smoked Paprika

Four years ago I posted a Roasted Cauliflower Soup recipe that my friend Roger makes, and I love it so much that I must revisit it again here on Kitchen Fiddler.  This soup has made frequent appearances on my table—and on my friends’ tables—more so than any other soup in my repertoire. I made a version with smoked paprika the other day, and it was as though culinary lightning had struck.

The remarkable thing about this soup is how luxurious it tastes while actually being quite guilt-free.  In fact, I often prepare it as a vegan dish by using vegetable stock, and yet it still tastes as luxurious as if I’d poured a quart of cream into it.  The richness comes from roasting the cauliflower with olive oil and salt, letting it caramelize to a deep nutty brown.

This recipe lends itself well to variation.  I’ve done different versions of this, adding other vegetables to the onion-garlic base and changing up the seasonings with the roasted cauliflower.  My original version is sweetened with lots of carrot and fragrant thyme, served with a drizzle of golden olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese on top.  I’ve had happy results cooking diced wild mushrooms along with the onions, finishing it with a few drops of truffle oil to echo the earthy mushroom quality.  But this smoked paprika version is my new favorite.