Sunday, March 28, 2010

Daring Bakers' 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.

I'm finally done with my exams! Well, there's still a lot more over the next few months, but at least i got the big ones out of the way. I can finally start enjoying some overdue, guilt-free cooking and baking that i have put off for weeks... starting with this Orange Tian!

For this months' challenge, Jennifer asked us to assemble our own upside-down dessert called a Tian. Tian can be layered with anything, really-- from fudge to brownies, beef to potatoes. But thank goodness she chose oranges cuz I can't imagine anything looking more healthy and cheerful than a bright citrus tower of vitamin-C! So in attempt to keep it healthy, i decided to make a low-fat version and replaced the whipping cream with yogurt. I added an extra tablespoon of gelatin to make sure it set properly and ended up with something like a yogurt panna cotta--perfectly custardy with no extra baggage! JLo's quite the scruitinizer when it comes to desserts (demanding to know the exact amount of butter, eggs and cream that went in before he decides how much he's going to have), so with a Tian like this, it was good to finally see him ask for seconds for a change!
Thanks again, Jennifer, for sharing this recipe with us!

Orange Tian
For the Pate Sablee:
  • 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (200 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (4 grams)
  • ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, ice cold and cubed (100 grams)
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt (2 grams)
  • 2 medium-sized egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar (80 grams)
  1. Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade [picture 1].
  2. 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 [picture 2].
  3. 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 [picture 3]. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
  5. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.
  6. Using your cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet [picture 4]. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.
For the Orange Marmalade:
  • ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons freshly pressed orange juice (100 grams)
  • 1 large orange [used to make orange slices]
  • Cold water [to cook the orange slices]
  • 5 grams pectin
  • Granulated sugar: use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked
  1. 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 [picture 1].
  2. 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.
  3. Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.
  4. Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor) [picture 2].
  5. 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.
  6. In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin [picture 3]. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes) [picture 4].
  7. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.
For the Orange Segments:
  • 8 oranges
  1. 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.
  2. YouTube link on how to segment an orange:
For the Caramel Sauce:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons orange juice (400 grams)
  1. Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.
  2. Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.
  3. 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.
  4. [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!]
For the Whipped Cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (200 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons of hot water
  • 1 tsp gelatine
  • 1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade (see recipe above)
  1. In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until the gelatine dissolves [picture 1]. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream.
  2. 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. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high [picture 2].
  3. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while beating continuously [picture 3]. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks.
  4. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade [picture 4].
  5. [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.]
Assembling the Dessert:
  1. 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.
  2. Line a small tray or baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone sheet. Lay out 6 cookie cutters onto the parchment paper/silicone.
  3. Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.
  4. Have the marmalade, whipped cream and baked circles of dough ready to use.
  5. 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 [picture 1].
  6. 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 [picture 2].
  7. Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough [picture 3].
  8. 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 [picture 4].
  9. Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.
  10. 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.
Orange Tian

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spinach and Cream Cheese Tart

One of the small joys in life is when you discover lost treasures during Spring cleaning. But with only a small dorm room to dust, to me, that joy comes with cleaning out my mini-fridge. Here's an update on a little something that i literally "dug" out the other day: a spinach and cream cheese tart! The leftover puff pastry made for the September Daring Bakers' challenge has been sitting in the freezer for a while now, and after much contemplation on what to do with the last 2 remaining slices, I decided that a colorful veggie tart seemed like the best way to kick-start the Spring that is finally here. The other ingredients, such as frozen spinach, cream cheese and bacon bits were also conveniently found in my fridge so i threw everything together and out came a delicious puff pastry tart. I was very impressed as this was probably the first time i've baked something without needing a trip to the grocery store, lol-- yay for frozen foods! So whether its your entire kitchen or your fridge, I hope this Doraemon's pocket-like experience of mine can remind you to do some Spring cleaning of your own :) and let me know what you whipped up!

Spinach and Cream Cheese Tart
  • Puff pastry sheets
  • 1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen spinach (whole leaf)
  • 3/4 cups cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup bacon bits, cooked (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 - 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 egg yolk
  1. Squeeze out the excess water from the thawed spinach (or cooked if using fresh spinach) [picture 1].
  2. In a big bowl, mix spinach, cream cheese, bacon, and mozzarella cheese until smooth. Season with salt and pepper [picture 2, 3].
  3. Roll out the puff pastry into any shape you'd like. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top, leaving a 2 centimeter border all around. Top with sliced tomatoes [picture 4].
  4. Brush the border with the egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celcius for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.
Spinach and Cream Cheese Tart

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Daring Cooks' Risotto with Creamy Tomato Sauce

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.

I've been putting off this month's challenge due to all the stress that comes w/ exams, but i finally got down to it last night! It also helped to know that our hosts, Eleanor and Jess, gave us a lot of freedom coming up with our own variations of Risotto... sparing me the panic of looking for ingredients at the last minute. So without the month-long research that I usually take to decide on my challenge variation, i decided to just dive in and give Risotto "Osteria" a try. You see, JLo and I are loyal customers to this pizza delivery/restaurant called "Osteria" near our dorm, and one of their best dishes is their trademark risotto. I tried to recreate the dish from what i could remember and although the taste wasn't 100% identical, I was pretty satisfied with the end result. This risotto is made with chicken, broccoli, marinated red peppers, and mushrooms... then coated with a thick layer of creamy tomato sauce. So if you're ever considering making a tomato-based risotto, be sure to give this Osteria medley a try!

Risotto with Creamy Tomato Sauce
  • Creamy Tomato Sauce:
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • Risotto Base:
  • 60 mL olive oil (2 fluid oz)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 400g Arborio rice (14 oz)
  • 60 mL white wine (2 fluid oz)
  • 1 liter chicken or vegetable stock, simmering [recipe below]
  • Additions:
  • Chicken breasts, cooked
  • Button mushrooms, diced
  • Marinated red peppers, sliced
  • Fresh broccoli, cut into small pieces

Creamy Tomato Sauce
  1. Heat the tomato sauce in a small pot.
  2. Add in the mascarpone cheese and stir until it becomes salmon pink in color.
  3. Season with basil, oregano, sugar, salt, and pepper. Set Aside.
Risotto Base:
  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) [picture 1].
  2. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly [picture 2].
  3. Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
  4. Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two) [picture 3]. Don't actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
  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.
  1. Once the risotto base is done, add in the chicken, mushrooms, red peppers, and broccoli [picture 4].
  2. Pour in the Creamy Tomato Sauce and stir until the liquid is absorbed and vegetables heated through [picture 5, 6].
Risotto with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Chicken Stock
  • 1 large chicken 2-3 pounds (about 1 kg)
  • Chicken bones 2-3 pounds (about 1 kg)
  • 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 teaspoon allspice
  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
  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.

Friday, March 12, 2010


So here I am finally updating on the Limoncello recipe that i used last week. I said "finally" because even though i just finished 2 exams, another shelf exam for OB/GYN is coming up in 2 weeks, gaahhhh. You would think that I'd have at least a week to relax and spend more time cooking, but our OB/GYN rotation has been crazy enough to keep me away from blogging AND studying. Sigh, and it seems like my subconscious has convinced my brain that I won't be able to survive the upcoming test, making it impossible for me to think past the exam date and plan for Spring break... so this probably means that i'll be hermitting at home for that entire week recovering from another traumatic testing experience, ughhhhhhhhh. This year is definitely a tough one.

You're probably think that it's a bad idea to be updating on an alcoholic drink when i sound as stressed as i am. But don't worry, i have the worst alcohol tolerance in the world so I won't be inflicting any more pain on myself than school already has. My alcohol tolerance is so bad that I even have trouble drinking my own Limoncello. A sip of Limoncello causes my neck muscles to ache. One gulp will cause my ears to burn up and my face to glow. Two to three gulps later, i'll be flushed from head to toe with pounding palpitations that can be heard with my ears plugged. Oh well, at least i know i won't be dying from liver diseases in this lifetime, heehee. But even with my alcohol intolerance, i still have plans for my bottle of wonderfully infused lemony goodness. I'm thinking: Limoncello cupcakes, panna cotta, or maybe ice-cream floats? mmmmmmmmmmm YUM! The thought of it just cheered me up a little :) If Spring Break doesn't work out for me, at least i'll have my Limoncello to fall back on, yipeee.

adapted from foodnetwork and Patty of "Not knowing and trusting anyhow"
  • 500ml Vodka
  • 7 large lemons
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 1 - 1 1/3 cups sugar
    [add more or less sugar according to your preference. I use my limoncello for desserts so i made mine sweeter with 1 1/3 cups]
    1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use) [picture 1]. AVOID peeling off the bitter white pith, you only want the yellow zest!
    2. Place the lemon peels in a glass jar (i used the original vodka bottles). Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap (or seal tightly if using original bottles) [picture 2].
    3. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 2-3 months (or at least 2 weeks) in a cool, dark place. Swirl the peel around in the jar every few days.
      ========= 2 - 3 Months later =========

    4. After 2-3 months (or at least 2 weeks), you're ready to make the syrup. Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely [picture 3].
    5. Pour the sugar syrup into the jar with the vodka mixture (you made need to use 2 jars or bottles at this point). Cover and seal tightly [picture 4]. Put the jars back to seep for another 2 weeks in a cool, dry place.
      ======== 2 Weeks later ========

    6. Strain out the lemon peels through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels.
    7. Transfer the limoncello to bottles [picture 5]. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.