Thursday, September 17, 2015

Genius Chocolate Mousse for Kitchen Fiddler's Birthday

Oh hiiii….

I began this blog seven years ago today and I’m feeling a little sentimental. Though it’s been a while since I’ve spent time here, I felt compelled to come say happy birthday to Kitchen Fiddler today. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to make chocolate mousse this morning, for what better way to celebrate a birthday than with chocolate?!

When I started Kitchen Fiddler seven years ago, I was in a dark period of deep soul-searching, but blogging here provided temporary relief from my doldrums. Since cooking and sharing treasured recipes with friends had always been vitally important to me throughout my life, I was truly happiest during that difficult chapter whenever I wrote here, momentarily recapturing some semblance of joy that was otherwise eluding me. I am forever grateful for the outlet that writing this blog provided seven years ago.

Fortunately, we all have the possibility to change and grow. The dark seasons are not permanent, and life has gone in fascinating and unexpected directions since beginning this site on 9/17/08.  I couldn’t have anticipated this wonderful crazy adventure, not in my wildest dreams.  There have been marathon solo recitals and exciting concert tours as well as countless evenings sharing vibrant food over delicious conversations with beloved friends. My Not-So-Little Chef is now in high school (!), and I’ve handcrafted a ridiculous number of CocoaRoar truffles in my beautifully redesigned kitchen.

Lately I’ve been quiet here, having spent this year cooking quite simply while focusing on improving my overall health and getting in touch with my inner athlete. My cooking has mostly been functional rather than experimental, with many old standbys in heavy rotation.  I’ve been very vegetable-centric alongside quick protein sources, such as seasonal variations on my favorite sliced spring salad or this kale salad topped with a poached egg or two.

But sometimes you really need chocolate.

This chocolate mousse recipe comes from Genius Recipes, and I totally understand its inclusion in a book with such a title. You cannot believe how easily these two ingredients—chocolate and water—are transformed into a rich dessert that happens to be gluten-free and dairy-free. But of course you are encouraged to top your chocolate mousse with fresh whipped cream.  We’re celebrating after all, right? Happy birthday, Kitchen Fiddler!

Six years ago: Dutch Baby Pancakes

From Hervé This in Food 52: Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore

How can you make chocolate mousse without whipped egg whites or cream to lighten it and give it its texture?? By melting chocolate with water and whipping it over an ice bath, you create a creamy emulsion that thickens and stabilizes as you whisk air bubbles into it.

This is an unadulterated chocolate experience, with no egg or cream to interfere with the purity of the chocolate. Of course you can flavor it by replacing some of the water with equal amounts of liqueur or other flavored liquid. I’ve had good success with 2 tablespoons of crème de cassis or kirsch, though you could use any flavored liqueur you like alongside your chocolate. I think Grand Marnier or Amaretto would be delightful, and next time I will try a version using brewed Earl Grey tea in place of some of the water.

Ice cubes
¾ cup water (see headnote above for liqueur flavoring options)
8 ounces (225 grams) high-quality bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces (I love Valrhona chocolate in the 64% to  70% cacao range, depending on what I have)
Whipped cream, for garnishing (optional)
Additional grated chocolate, for garnishing  (optional)

Partly fill a large bowl with ice cubes and set aside while you prepare the chocolate mixture.

Pour the water (and liqueur, if using) into a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the chocolate pieces and whisk it with a large balloon whisk as it melts.

When the mixture has melted into a homogenous sauce, transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Immediately set this inside the large ice-filled bowl and vigorously whisk the chocolate sauce, either manually or with an electric mixer.  (If using an electric mixer, it will thicken faster so watch carefully.) When strands of chocolate form inside the whisk, immediately spoon the mixture into small ramekins or bowls and let set.

Troubleshooting notes:
+ If your chocolate doesn’t contain enough fat to form a mousse, melt the mixture again, add a little more chocolate and whisk again.
+ If the mousse is not light enough, melt the mixture again, add a little more water and whisk again.
+ If you over-whip it and it becomes grainy, melt the mixture and whisk again, with no additions needed.

Serve the mousse immediately or refrigerate until serving.  Top with whipped cream and additional grated chocolate shavings, if desired.  Makes 4 rich servings.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Date Coconut Shake

Hi!!!  I have missed you these last weeks, and I want to make up for my absence on this site with a scrumptious recipe, one I’ve actually made six times in the past two weeks. I present you with the Date Coconut Shake. 

A date milkshake??  Oh yes. I grew up in Southern California, and date shakes were one of the culinary pleasures of taking road trips that veered off into desert territory near Palm Springs where the date trees were plentiful. The date shakes of my childhood were traditionally made with a base of vanilla ice cream, and the pureed fresh dates added a beguiling honeyed depth to this frosty treat. We’d usually enjoy the shakes from the renowned Hadley Fruit Orchards, though were it up to me, I’d have been much more thorough in my research by stopping at all the various roadside stands along Highway 10 proffering these special milkshakes.  (You only have so much input in the family decisions when you’re a kid!)

Memories of post-school road trips are looming large now that it is late June, and those childhood date shakes are naturally springing to my culinary imagination.  As I am trying to limit my consumption of refined sugar these days, I have been riffing on this awesome dairy-free version that was recently posted on the lovely Not Without Salt blog. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Orange-Kissed Seed Crackers

Do you own more cookbooks than you can possibly cook your way through in this lifetime?  I have a large bookshelf devoted entirely to cookbooks, and due to space limitations, I treat myself to a new book only once a year or so. I recently bought Vegetarian Everyday solely for their Orange-Kissed Seed Crackers, a recipe definitely worth breaking my moratorium on cookbook purchases.

These seeded beauties satisfy my cravings for salty crunchy snacks, not to mention that they’re rich in protein AND are gluten-free too.  Even if you binge on these, you’ll still feel more energetic and won't suffer carb-coma as you might after gorging on a big bag of potato chips or a whole sleeve of Ritz crackers.  (Not that I would know anything about that, ahem…)

I’d never made crackers before, but these couldn't be easier.  If you are also a cracker-making novice, here’s the perfect way to start. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fiddlehead Sauté With Shallots and Bacon

This is usually the time of year when Kitchen Fiddler is woefully neglected because the rest of my life goes haywire.  April and May are notoriously busy months for freelance musicians in NYC, and this year is no exception for most of my waking hours are spent with a violin in hand.  (Forget blogging, I'm scrambling to eat proper meals and sleep six hours at night!)  However, today was blissfully free with no daytime commitments, and as I wandered around my neighborhood enjoying the sunshine this morning, I picked up these adorable fiddlehead ferns.  I couldn’t wait to make this easy Fiddlehead Sauté With Shallots and Bacon for lunch, and it was so delightful that I immediately hopped back on my blog to share it with all of you.

Fiddlehead ferns are aptly named since they clearly resemble the scroll of a violin.  My own fiddle is more than happy to provide a visual comparison!

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.