Saturday, March 27, 2010

March Daring Bakers Challenge - Orange Tian

This is going to be a long, picture-heavy post, so grab a seat and enjoy!

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.

When this month's challenge was revealed, it was certainly a challenge for me. I had never heard of "tian," and it looked like there were many different components involved for the completion of the dessert. But the description was intriguing, the pictures included for reference appetizing, and, hey, it involves fruit! How bad could it be?

Orange tian is a layered dessert with a cookie base and whipped cream layer, topped with segmented oranges. Oh, and drizzled with caramel. According to the recipe, these are made in ring molds to be individual sized desserts, and according to the challenge, we could be creative and use any citrus fruit we wanted.

All in all, there are five components to this dessert - orange marmalade, which is used to coat the cookie base as well as flavor the whipped cream, pate sablee, which is the cookie base, stabilized whipped cream, orange segments, cut to ensure there is no pith, and caramel sauce.

Man, that is one involved dessert. I guess that is why it is called a challenge!

I knew that I wanted to make a variety of flavors, including the original recipe of orange. Being that it was the challenge for March, the month encompassing St. Patrick's Day, I thought lime might be fun, since it is green. And since it is also the beginning of Spring and strawberries are beginning to go on sale everywhere, well, I wanted to do strawberry, too!

The first step was making the marmalade, something I had never tasted before, much less made. The challenge recipe for orange marmalade called for using the whole orange - rind, pith - everything. Sliced as thinly as possible, the oranges are blanched, which involves them being covered in cold water, which is then brought up to simmer for 10 minutes. The water is then drained and the process is repeated two more times, for a total of three times. This process helps remove the bitterness from the rind and pith. As much as it seems like it would also remove much of the orange flavor, what with the repeated draining of the water, it actually doesn't, and you are left with nearly-bitter-free orange slices. Once cooled, the slices are chopped as finely as possible. Technically, you can use a food processor to accomplish this, but, well, as I have said once or twice before, I don't have a food processor, so I chopped by hand. The chopped oranges are then mixed with sugar, fresh squeezed orange juice and a little bit of fruit pectin and cooked until it all comes together to form a beautiful jam, or, well, marmalade. Little miss helped me squeeze the oranges for the juice, but otherwise, I had to do most of the work on this one, what with the boiling, chopping and cooking.

For the strawberry variety, I made regular strawberry jam, with the recipe found in the box of low-sugar pectin. You can read about that adventure here.

For the lime, I used the exact process as used for the orange, just substituting limes and, well, halving the recipe, since I don't really have much use for lime marmalade outside of this recipe. It was definitely a fun exercise, but I definitely should have used WAY more sugar in the lime marmalade to compensate for the tartness of the limes. The other funny thing about the lime marmalade was that the color did not turn out anything like I'd expected. I'd hoped for, well, lime green. My finished product came out looking more like pickle relish... But it was definitely fun to make the three varieties of jam, and I will definitely be making more jams this year once fruit-picking season starts, so that just might be one of the biggest bonuses of this challenge.

Marmalades complete, the next component that I decided to tackle was the pate sablee. Pate sablee is a pastry, and, at least in my experience with it, is similar to a slightly-more-crumbly sugar cookie. The recipe calls for the dough to be made using a food processor, but you know what I am going to say about that... so I enlisted the help of my ever-ready helper, and then, the help of my KitchenAid mixer. My dough, when prepared using the measurements given in the recipe, was very crumbly, which the recipe said was a possibility. I started adding water slowly, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough just came together. The dough was then refrigerated until it was time for little miss's favorite part - time for the rolling pin and cookie cutters.

Let me back up for a second here. As I mentioned before, the recipe is intended to be made single-serving sized in ring molds or high-sided cookie cutters. Neither of which I had. So I decided to make mine in a cupcake tin. Though the sides are slightly slanted, I thought that would work pretty well. Plus I have a circle cookie cutter that is just about the same size as the top of the cupcake well, so I figured it was a good choice.

Okay, back to the process - rolling and cutting the dough. There was more than enough dough to make the six circles needed for my six-well cupcake tin, so little miss chose to make hearts, also.

The pate sablee baked up beautifully. Like slightly-textured sugar cookies. Of course little miss and I had to taste them once they were cooled, and they were delicious.

The next two components of the dessert, the orange segments and the caramel, were prepared the day before I wanted the dessert to be served. Segmenting the oranges (and limes, and cutting the strawberries) was a pretty straightforward task. While my segments weren't as pretty as the ones done in the demonstration video, I was really pleased by the effort, since I managed to cut them pretty evenly, removing all of the pith and rind. The caramel was a little tricky, and it is always scary to put a pot of sugar on the stove and NOT stir it... but I think it turned out decently, and I was able to store the fruit segments (and slices, for the strawberries) in the caramel overnight to infuse them with the extra sweetness.

The next morning, all that was left to do was to make the whipped cream and assemble the desserts. I was excited to see it all come together. But man, I have to tell you, that day was probably the worst kitchen day in the history of me. I made just about every mistake you can imagine. The first was misreading the recipe for the stabilized whipped cream. I have whipped cream before, many times, and have never had any trouble. But this recipe called for using gelatin to stabilize the whipped cream, something I had never done before. To do so, you dissolve a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin in three tablespoons of hot water, then whip that liquid to the whipped cream to incorporate it. Sounds easy enough, right? Unless you mis-read "teaspoon" as "tablespoon" as the measurement for the gelatin, thus adding three times more gelatin than those poor three tablespoons of water can dissolve. I didn't think it looked right, since I now had a gel rather than a liquid, but tried to persevere, adding the gel to my whipped cream. Yeah. Not so good. Obviously, it didn't incorporate well. At all. So I kept whipping, hoping it would incorporate. So instead of stabilized whipped cream, I kind of wound up with gelatin-chunked butter. Oops. Luckily, I realized my mistake and started over, this time with much better results.

I then divided the cream into three bowls, since it is supposed to be flavored with a bit of the corresponding marmalade flavor of the dessert.

I now had all of the components prepared and was ready to construct.

The tian are actually constructed upside down, and, when ready to serve, flipped out to be right-side up. To make the flipping-out-of-the-pan part a little easier, I lined my cupcake pan with plastic wrap before putting these together, which wound up being a good idea for more than one reason, but I'll get to that in a minute.

First into each well of the pan went the fruit, then the corresponding flavor of whipped cream, then, finally, a marmalade-coated pate sablee cookie is settled on top. It was a little difficult to judge how much whipped cream was going into each portion, but other than that, these came together really nicely. Now it was time to put them in the freezer, so I covered them in more plastic wrap and made some room on one of the freezer shelves. And that is when disaster struck. My beautiful tray of completed tian fell out of the freezer. Onto the floor. I kid you not, I almost cried. As luck would have it, between the plastic wrap covering them and lining the pan, they really didn't have anywhere to go when they fell, so they were fully protected, with only one cookie popping out of place and onto its neighbor in the pan. But, man - talk about upsetting. I had visions of all of that hard work needing to be mopped off of my kitchen floor. Luckily, they were fine.

Crisis averted, I decided to use the leftover components (I had lots extra of everything) and put together one more, though larger, tian, this one combining strawberry and orange. Since I hadn't planned on making this one, I hadn't made a pate sablee cookie large enough to serve as the base for one this size, but I just used the leftover smaller ones and pieced together a workable base.

The individual tians came out very nicely, and we ate them for dessert that night after dinner. The strawberry was probably everyone's favorite, followed very closely by the orange. The lime was no-one's favorite, though I am still glad I tried it. The larger tian actually rested nicely in the freezer until this week, about two weeks after it was originally made. We pulled it out for dessert this week and it was delicious.
Thank you, Jennifer, for a truly refreshing, not to mention challenging, challenge, and for introducing me to this delicious dessert. This is why I love the Daring Kitchen!

Check out the work of some of the other Daring Bakers here.


  1. Nice variations! Good job on the challenge.

  2. I LOVE your little helpers...they are adoreable. Well done on the challenge. Your tians are wonderful. I like the strawberry one too. YUM!!

  3. So many flavours! And how lucky of you to have such devoted helpers :D

  4. Your tians look beautiful! I'm so impressed you made three different flavours. The strawberry one sounds amazing - I think I'll definitely try that one next. Despite the work, they'd make gorgeous dinner party puds.

    My heart skipped a beat when I read that line about the tray falling on the floor. I probably would have cried, so much work, but at least it wasn't too bad. Phew. :)

  5. Great flavours this month! I would have had to eat one of each, so it's probably good that I stuck with one flavour!

  6. Strawberry would be so good. Great job- nice flavors.

  7. wow 3 kinds of marmalades! yummy!

  8. nice photos, great to see the process! interesting twist you did this month :) i did orange cranberry. i'm super impressed by your tians

  9. Fantastic Shell! I sooo wish I could be an extra taste tester for ya ;) Oh and can't help but notice that your little helper is a kid!! What happened to the toddler one?? :)

  10. I thought about doing a strawberry lemonade version but just stuck with orange...I bet the strawberry was delicious! Glad y'all liked it. And such fun to have a little helper!

  11. My lime marmalade looked more like pickle relish too! Once they were boiled down three times they lost all their vibrant color. I added extra sugar and it was still not great tasting. Pretty though!

    Your tians look great! I think I would have broken down crying if mine fell out of the freezer too. That is a lot of hard work. Great job!

  12. You did a fantastic job with this challenge. I stopped by just to say hello but stayed far longer than I planned. I really like your blog and will be back often.

  13. Stabilized whipping cream is the best- just don't overdo the gelatin!:) Good idea using the muffin tin.Isn't there a 3 second rule when things fall on the floor??
    Thanks for visiting my site

  14. Wow! Great job. What wonderful helpers you have! I'm late on this months challenge! Oh well.

  15. So ambitious to try three versions and they all came out beautifully!

  16. Great little helper there! I would have had a heart attack if I'd dropped something like that. Glad everything worked out fine! I think I might try a berry version sometime too.

  17. Great job...looks awesome!

    I have an early Easter gift for you...Come see on my blog!

  18. Your sous chef is adorable! Great job on the tians! I'll also be saving mine in the freezer for when a sweet tooth craving hits =)

  19. Wow! You made three beautiful varieties! Great work. It's bad when you read a recipe incorrectly especially if it involves gelatine! You must have wondered what was going on!

  20. Love the idea of the strawberry one. We had ours last night, and the first thing I said was that next time it's going to be with strawberry!! Your tian's look amazing, and I just love your little kitchen help - cooking with little ones is the best!! Nice job on the challenge :)

  21. Your tians looks absolutely delicious! I love your strawberry version:)

  22. Your little helpers are absolute darlings. Love your different variations. My heart dropped when I read about it falling on the floor but am really pleased it turned out well. It was certainly an enjoyable challenge.

  23. I love the flavours you made! What fun to make a strawberry one =D.

  24. Love all three of your tians, but I have to say the strawberry is the one for me! Your little sous chefs are adorable..adore all the photos of them :) glad your tians were saved from obliteration! Frozen stuff rocks lol


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