Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mar 27, 2010: Daring Baker's Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

Jennifer from is our host for the March 2010 Daring Bakers challenge! She brings us one of her favorite citrus desserts - Orange Tian. The dessert is made of different layers: a pate sablee with orange marmalade, a flavored whipped cream topped with fresh orange segments and served with a caramel and orange sauce. You build the dessert upside down and then unmold the dessert so that the bottom layer (the orange segments) becomes the top layer.

Recipe Source: Recipe slightly adapted from Alain Ducasse‘s Cooking School in Paris, France (
Stabilized whipped cream (

Note: There are quite a few steps to making this dessert; however a lot of them can be made in advance. The orange marmalade can be made several days ahead of time and the caramel sauce and orange segments preparation should be made the day before you make the dessert. Also, if you have a scale, try and use the weighed measurements as they will be the most accurate.

The recipe can be a little bit tricky to put together, especially the first time. My main tip is to make sure the whipped cream is firm enough when you make it and be sure to leave the desserts to set in the freezer for long enough or they will fall apart when you unmold them.

Orange Marmalade:

1/4 C + 3 T (100 g) Freshly pressed orange juice
1 large orange, sliced
5 g Pectin
granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked

Finely slice the orange. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water and blanch the oranges for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.

[Blanching the orange sliced using a mandolin.]

Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).
[Chopped in a food processor]

Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar . If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

[Weighed out I had 120g of orange peel... so I weighed out 120 g sugar]

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

[All the ingredients in the pan ready to be cooked.]

[Cooked until I could leave a trail on the bottom of the pan.]

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

Pate Sablee:
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough.

[Used the food processor to combine the flour and butter. Next, the egg mixture was added and mixed.]

Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

[The food processor didn't quite ball up the dough so I gave a few kneads by hand to combine.]

[The disk ready for the fridge.]

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

[Baked for 20 minutes.]

[I decided to make a large dessert so I rolled out a square to fit a glass dish.]

Orange Segments:

For this step you will need 8 oranges.

Cut the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl and make sure to keep the juice. Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

Orange Caramel Sauce:
Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.

Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice.

[I always have problems with caramelizing dry sugar... maybe the heat is too high at medium heat.]

[Added the orange juice, but the sugar solidified. Kept stirring until it melted.]

As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

[Tip: Be very careful when making the caramel — if you have never made caramel before, I would suggest making this step while you don’t have to worry about anything else. Bubbling sugar is extremely, extremely hot, so make sure you have a bowl of ice cold water in the kitchen in case anyone gets burnt!]

Cream Layer
Ingredients U.S. Metric Imperial Instructions for Ingredients
heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
1 small glass of hot water
1 tsp Gelatine
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 ½ tablespoons

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl.

Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly (discarding the water) and beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.

[Hmmm... Gelatin mixed in cream. Let's see what will happen.]

[Gelatin dissolved in hot water.]

[Tip: Use an ice cold bowl to make the whipped cream in. You can do this by putting your mixing bowl, cream and beater in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to whipping the cream.]

[Cream whipped and mixed with gelatin. Lastly, a little marmalade is mixed in, 1 1/2 T]

Assembling the Dessert:

Make sure you have some room in your freezer. Ideally, you should be able to fit a small baking sheet or tray of desserts to set in the freezer.

Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Arrange the orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the segments all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top of the dessert. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.

[Putting together the dessert... Orange segments down first.]

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each cookie cutter, add a couple spoonfuls of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

[Next a layer of the cream-gelatin mixture... It looks like a commercially prepared parfait.]

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

[Marmalade is spread onto the cookie]

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

[Invert the cookies to the marmalade touches the cream layer.]

[For the larger dessert, a layer of plastic wrap went on the bottom of a rectangular glass dish. Alternating orange and banana slices formed the bottom layer. I mixed the oranges in the leftover orange juice, reasoning the acidity would minimize banana browning.]

[As with the smaller dessert, cream and a marmalade covered cookie went next.]

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure the dessert will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of a dessert (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and serve immediately.


Starting with the individual dessert, a knife was run along the edge of the ring mold and the dessert was popped out. Dressed with an orange caramel sauce and served.

The Pate Sablee tasted like a shortbread cookie. The cream layers had a course texture with a very faint hint of orange.

Trying to unmold the large dessert was a pain. I left it in the freezer so it was frozen solid. After a few minutes at room temp, I was able to grasp the plastic wrap and plate the dessert.

However, it was still a bit frozen. It looks good. You can see the fine bubbles in the cream layer. I may have overmixed the cream to stiff peaks. The gelatin locked in the larger bubble giving that layer a coarse, dry texture.

I decided to drizzle on the rest of the orange caramel and let it thaw in the refrigerator.

Considering all of the orange used, I thought it would have more of an orange pop! It turned out to be a rather light dessert. The cookie was nice and could be eaten as is.

The orange banana combination actually tasted good. The sweetness of the banana balanced the acidity/tartness of the orange in the dessert.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mar 16, 2010: Tofu Tuesday Allium Pork

Guess what today is? Tuesday!
What do we do on Tuesday? Cook some tofu!

I did a little pre-spring cleaning where I cleaned out the pantry and the refrigerator.
My discoveries my refrigerator had a selection of allium. Leeks, Chinese Chives, Green Onions and Garlic.

Also found was an assortment of Chinese bean sauces. Hoisin sauce, Szechuan Hot Bean Paste and plain Bean Paste.

Not one for wasting ingredients, I improvised a recipe using a portion of fresh ham and, of course, tofu.

Allium Braised Pork with Tofu
2 C Leek, coarse chop and cleaned
1 C Chinese Chives, coarse chop
1/2 C Green Onion, coarse chop
3 Cloves Garlic, smacked with a knife
4 or 5 Ginger slices
2 T Szechuan Hot Bean Paste
1 T Bean Paste
1 T Hoisin Sauce
1 Piece of Rock Sugar
1/2 C Soy Sauce, Regular
1 lb Firm Tofu, cubed
1 to 2 C of stock or water

My mise en place.
The allium. The garlic is in there somewhere hiding.

The bean sauces. The Szechuan hot bean paste (aka Chile Bean Sauce) has a pleasant level of heat with a miso-like aftertaste. This is my first time using this stuff.

Cuved Tofu... ready to go!

1) As with a beef pot roast, I browned the pork on all sides in the dutch oven.
Remove when browned.

2) Another find in my refrigerator, about 1/2 C of diced pancetta.
Lightly cooked to release it's fat. Added the allium to sweat.

3) After sweating the alliums, the rest of the ingredients go in to mix.

4) The pork and soy sauce is added. Additional stock is used to raise the liquid level about 1/2 to 3/4 the way up the pork.

5) Finally the tofu cubes are added.

6) There are many ways to cook this dish, but the objective is to slowly simmer the mixture for a few hours. This can be done on the stove top or in the oven.

I went the oven route. The entire pot was placed in the 250F oven for 3 hours.

The results after 3 hours. The pork is falling off the bone and the tofu absorbed the flavors of the braising liquid.

The braised pork is pulled off the bone and shredded.

Instead of rice... I'm a little burned out on rice, especially after the Risotto challenge.

I opted to serve over noodles.
The noodles are cooked and drained.
While still hot, shredded cabbage and carrots are added plus a 1/2 t of toasted sesame oil.
The residual heat will cook the shredded veggies.

The mixture is spooned over the noodles and served family style.

Bean paste has a miso-like flavoring. The hot bean paste mellowed but still had a little kick. The tofu absorbed a lot of the flavorful liquids.

This all made for a delicious meal.

Changes I would make the next time around... a little less soy sauce and more sugar.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mar 17, 2010: Daring Cooks' Risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

Eleanor and Jess, otherwise known as MelbournefoodGeek and Jessthebaker in the Daring Kitchen spent a whole afternoon on a scorching summers day, experimenting with this months challenge and their stocked freezer is very thankful for it. This month they bring a favourite comfort food. Not only is it naturally gluten free but it is versatile enough to suit everyones taste buds. We bring you risotto!

Mandatory: You MUST make your own stock and the risotto base. The base consists of wine, rice, oil, stock, cheese [actually cheese is not part of the risotto base] and butter. Omit the cheese if using seafood or doing something sweet.

Variations allowed: You can flavour the risotto however you like.

[My comments: This is a two part challenge. The first is to make your own stock and the second part is to make risotto.]

Chicken Stock
1 large chicken 2-3 pounds about 1 kg [A 2 to 3 lbs bird in the US is actually on the small side... lol]
chicken bones 2-3 pounds 1 kg [Fortunately, whole chicken was on special so I purschased a 2 1/2 bird for the stock and a larger bird for the bones and the deboned meat reserved for another use.]
2 onions, roughly diced
1 medium leek - white part only, roughly diced
2 sticks celery, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. white peppercorns ( Any type of whole peppercorn will do)
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried, it doesn't matter.)
peel of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. allspice
[Cinnamon stick, lemon peel and allspice. Hmmm... that's unique!]

[Ingredients ready for chopping. Note... The lemon peel was added later on]


1.Wash the chicken and bones and places in a 5 Litre pot, cover completely with water and bring to a boil.

2.Skim away any scum as it comes to the surface.

[Usually I don't skim, but using two chickens produced a lot more stuff floating on the boiling water.
Note: I used a 7 quart stock pot... the post is near overflowing. I added about 2 to 2.5 quarts of water.]

3.Add the vegetables and bring back to a boil
4.Add the rest remaining ingredients and simmer very gently, uncovered for 1.5 hours

5.Carefully lift out the chicken, set aside. The chicken meat can be removed from the chicken, shredded off and used for other things like soup!

6.Simmer the stock gently for another hour. At , at the end you should have around 2 Liters

7.Carefully ladle the liquid into a fine sieve, the less the bones and vegetables are disturbed in this process the clearer the stock will be.

The stock is now ready for use. Freeze what you don't need for later use.

[I made the stock ahead of time. The best way to store stock in the refrigerator is to pour into a wide pan. I used a roasting pan that would fit in my fridge. By using a wide pan, you have a thinner layer of stock that needs to be cooled and more surface area is exposed to the cool air.

Note: The stock has gelled nicely due to all the goodness in the chicken bones. Also, the fat is easily skimmed off the surface of the cold stock.]

[For the risotto, I made Risotto alla Milanese which is basically a saffron risotto.]

Risotto Base / Risotto alla Milanese
olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml
1 small onion, quatered
rice 14 oz 400g - Any type of risotto rice will do. I use Arborio but the recipe itself says Vialone Nano. Another to look for is Carnaroli. [400 g worked out to 2 C of Arborio]
white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml
chicken or vegetable stock , simmering 2 pints 1 L

[The risotto base and risotto Milanese are very similar so I went ahead and added the saffron to the base. About 1/4 t of saffron is mixed with 1/2 C of hot stock and allowed to steep.]


1.Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion).

[Diced onions are sweated - cooked without browning until translucent]

2.Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.

3.Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.

[After the rice is stirred and coated with oil... the wine is added followed by the saffron infused stock.]

4.Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don't actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.

[Most recipes call for stirring and stirring. I don't know if that's a cooking myth, but I went the route of occasional stirring.]

5.Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.

6.Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step.

7.Repeat, save 100ml for the final stage.

8.Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation.

[Continue cooking until the rice is al dente - firm but not crunchy. It's okay to taste until it's done.
To finish off the risotto alla Milanese - 60 g of cubed butter is added (about 6T) to the cooked risotto.]

[Next, the 1/2 C of shredded parmesan and mixed in... not it's ready to serve.]

The Finished Dish
Traditionally, Risotto Milanese is served with Ossobuco (braised veal shank). However, that's a little difficult to find and pricey. I opted to make a beef pot roast.

Sauteed mushrooms were an an accompaniment. Actually, I could have mixed the mushrooms into the risotto, but opted to use the mushrooms as a garnish.

The beef had a nice savory flavor and the sauteed mushrooms had a very similar beefy, unami flavor which mixed will with the lighter risotto. The flavors did not clash, but melded.

This month's challenge turned out nicely, especially the stock.

I was apprehensive about using cinnamon, lemon and allspice in the stock, but surprisingly the stock turned out very nice. The cinnamon and allspice added a faint spiciness to the broth which provided an extra layer of flavor. Also, no salt was added to the stock, yet it tasted as if salt was used.

The risotto Milanese is based upon a recipe by Mario Batali ( I did make some changes. I used 1/4 t of saffron instead of 1 t. Other than that, the difference between the risotto base and the risotto Milanese are very similar and delicious.

Wait! There's more!

After the saffron risotto, I had more stock leftover so I delved into another basic risotto - Pancetta and pea risotto.

The recipe is a conglomeration of recipes I've seen on the web... the Risotto base (as mentioned by our hostesses) form the root of the recipe.


2 oz (about 1/2 C) Pancetta, diced
2/3 C Peas, I used frozen which were defrosted under warm water.
8 C Broth

4 T Butter

1/2 C Parmesan, grated

The pancetta is cooked along with the onions.

This time around I wanted the risotto to be creamier since I didn't have the gravy from the pot roast complementing the risotto. As a result, the rice absorbed about 8 cups broth.

The peas were added at the end with the butter and parmesan cheese.

This time around the risotto was creamy with the rice al dente.