Archive for March, 2010

With being so busy this past month with the cake decorating contest I barely had time to even think about this months Bakers Challenge. Thankfully, it was surprisingly simple to put together, which was a great relief . I finished the cake last week but then was de-stressing by baking cookies and suddenly remembered that the 27th was fast approaching, yikes!

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. There are a few elements to put together, but they can be made in advance and then all put together in the end. A  Tian is simply a shallow layered dish, usually vegetables, but in this case, sweet.  Jennifer chose a citrus base, which I followed, with only a slight variation. For this recipe you will need marmalade, a pate sable cookie base (sable is “sand” in French), whipped cream, fruit, and a caramel sauce.

I chose mandarin oranges for my marmalade, with a splash of Grand Marnier for some extra oomph. I normally hate orange marmalade but this was actually quite delicious. Next I paired it with star anise, a wonderful Asian spice reminiscent of licorice. It can be overpowering though, so use sparingly. I ground a star pod with a mortar and pestle into a powder and added it to my cookie dough and then threw 3 stars into my orange caramel sauce while it was cooking.  This was a  really beautiful dessert to make and all in all, very simple. Great Choice Jennifer!

Equipment required:
• Cookie cutters . Ideally, you should have about 6 cookie cutters to build the desserts in and cut the circles of dough.  The cookie cutters will be the size of your final dessert, so they should be the size of an individually sized tart mold. If you don’t have round cookie cutters you could use an individually sized cheesecake mold without its base. I don’t have 6 cutters of the same size so I just made little molds out of acetate.
• A food processor (although the dough could be made by hand too)
• A stand-up or hand mixer
• Parchment paper or a silpat mat
• A baking sheet
• A rolling-pin

I found it really simple to just use my digital scale to weigh out all of the ingredients, so if you have one break it out now…

For the Pate Sablee: Please watch your measurements, this entire  recipe is in imperial weight

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
1 star anise, ground to a powder (optional)

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. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

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. These can be made at least 3 days in advance or even longer if you put them in the freezer.

For the Marmalade:

Freshly pressed orange juice ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams
1 large orange used to make orange slices (or 2 mandarins)
cold water to cook the orange slices
pectin 5 grams (in Canada and the States you can easily buy pectin in the supermarket)
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.

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).

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 measuring cup and use the same amount of 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).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. Again, this can be made in advance.

For the Orange Segments:(this will be for the top layer of the dessert)

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.

For the Caramel:

granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams
3 star anise (optional)

Place the sugar and orange juice (and star anise if you are using it) in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it. Bring it to a boil for 2 minutes and then take 1/2 of the mixture and pour over your reserved orange slices.

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 medium/low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 15 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!]

For the Whipped Cream:

heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 tsp Gelatine
1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar
orange marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatine and hot water, stirring well until all of the gelatine dissolves. Let the gelatine cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream.  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  and  whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatine slowly while 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.

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, or in my case, acetate molds, 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 each other 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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Whew… so last night we dropped off our cake at Market Mall in Calgary. It will be on display until Saturday, March 20th as part of the Calgary Ronald McDonald House 25th anniversary cake decorating competition. I am very lucky to have been part of the team with Estelle and Kathy, two other members from The Calgary Sugarcraft Guild. We are representing the Guild, an organization I am so proud to be a part of. What’s better than promoting cake decorating?

It was such fun creating this work of art with them. While it took probably 80 hours worth of work to complete, it was a delight  to have the chance to make something on this scale and to have fun with my teammates along the way. We would love to win the people’s choice award, so we will keep our fingers crossed until Saturday….

set up in the mall, through plexiglass

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On the dinner menu tonight is pulled pork and whenever I make that I always make cornbread to go along with it. As soon as I started mixing the ingredients I thought of my motherin-law Vera, who LOVES my cornbread. The funny thing about it is that it didn’t seem like that long ago when she said that she didn’t like cornbread,” never have, never will”. My husband kept insisting that she would change her mind once she tried mine. And she did .The same thing went for brussel sprouts, but that’s another recipe. The reason she never liked cornbread was that it was too dry, and I agree with her on that. I can’t stand dry cornbread either. This version is very moist and a little sweet. You can always add some minced jalapeno pepper or red pepper to this if you like, both are nice additions. We love to have this with  a little butter and some honey- it is so fantastic! So if you’re like my mother-in-law and  don’t like cornbread, please try this recipe . I guarantee that you will change your mind. I’m sure my husband is biased but he says it’s the best cornbread he has ever had.


Preheat your oven to 425 F. Grease an 8×8 inch pan.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl:
1 1/4 C stone-ground cornmeal
3/4 C All purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk the wet ingredients together in another bowl:
3/4 C buttermilk
1/2 C milk
1 can (398 ml) creamed corn
2 eggs
2 tbsp canola oil

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened.

Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and it is golden brown on top.

Serve hot with butter and honey.

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