Daring Bakers Challenge : Orange Tian


(Orange ‘Tian’ – hazelnut sable, lemon curd, apple mint)

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.

You know what they say : sometimes the simplest things are the best, and it doesn’t get any simpler than oranges, whipped cream and pastry. On paper, this sounds like an unexciting, rather basic dessert. Having now tasted my assembled version of the orange tian, I can certainly see its appeal. The burst of flavour from the juicy orange segments draped in slightly bitter orange caramel, offset the sweet richness of the whipped cream (folded through with homemade marmalade) and pastry. The whole is understated, but well balanced. It’s the kind of tricky, subtle balance that many of us bakers strive to achieve but don’t always succeed in accomplishing. It’s like knowing how many swear words to insert into Al Swearengen’s dialogue without making him sound too ridiculous. Or how many ruffles you can fit onto a dress before you get panned on Go Fug Yourself.


I must admit, I like adding ruffles to my desserts. I ruffled this dessert up with the addition of lemon curd and little white-green apple mint leaves, which have a flavour I would liken to minty olives (predominantly mint, with a finish that is grassy and very much like extra virgin olive oil). I also ruffled the end result with some green tea froth (as pictured below), but decided in the end that it was one ruffle too many.

My favourite components from the recipe provided were the homemade marmalade and the whipped cream. The whipped cream was stabilised with gelatine and flavoured with a small amount of the marmalade. I altered the recipe slightly to include some yogurt and the end result was quite light and refreshing. The marmalade, my first attempt at making one, was very easy to put together and since I didn’t use much of it in my plated dish, I now have a nice small container of marmalade to use in other things. I’m already considering my breakfast tomorrow, and thinking of a breakfast-inspired dessert.

All in all, an enjoyable little treat (perfect for the current weather too!), with many thanks to Jennifer. If you’d like any of the recipes, you can get them from her blog.


(..with green tea)

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Once more, with passion.


(Passionfruit custard with candied ginger boterkoek)

A few days ago, I was given a bag of passionfruit, freshly picked from a friend’s backyard. Edible gifts like these are my favourite thing to receive. I often ‘pay it forward’ by baking with these gifts which are then given away to other people.

These passionfruit were especially good – large, heavy fruit with shiny skins and a really sweet, sharp aroma that lifted into the air when you cut into one. I’m not a fan of eating passionfruit ‘neat’ – something about it’s acidity does not agree with me unfortunately. Combined with dairy products or baked in cakes and cookies however, it becomes a pleasant, perfumed flavour that I would happily enjoy any day.

I love pairing passionfruit with white chocolate ganache, vanilla ice-cream, pineapple bavarois, coconut pannacotta or even served simply as a passionfruit curd tart (caramelise each individual slice with some icing sugar and a blowtorch, for that extra special touch). Passionfruit also goes well with floral flavours like violet and lavender, citrus fruits such as yuzu, mandarin, lemon and lime, and spices like star anise and tonka bean. Serve with nasturtium petals or borage, if you can source any.


(Passionfruit custard with sake and lavender)

With the passionfruit I was given, I decided to make a custard. Something about the silky, soothing nature of custards really appeals to me at the moment. If my life were an ad, there would be bluebirds chirping in the background and butterflies fluttering at the edges of my vision as I savour each spoonful.


Granted, this custard is more of a set cream, but it has the texture and lazy flow of a custard, and eats like one, so I’m sticking with the name. This custard is insanely good with ginger boterkoek, or for something a little more fancy, it can also be dressed up with tapioca pearls, sake bubbles and twice-baked lavender shortbread.


(For those moments where you need a little peace and quiet..)

Passionfruit Custard :

415g pouring cream (35% fat)
50g European-style yogurt
185g skim milk
120g passionfruit juice (strained pulp from approximately 6 large passionfruit)
70g caster sugar
2 1/2 leaves gold-strength gelatine, soaked in iced water until soft and pliable

Warm the cream, yogurt, milk, passionfruit juice and sugar in a pan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine, and add it to the cream mixture. Whisk this gently until dissolved, then strain the mixture into a bowl. Allow to cool before pouring it into your desired containers. Allow the custards to chill overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Candied Ginger Boterkoek :
(Boterkoek is a Dutch buttery shortcake. You can alter the flavourings to suit your preferences. This recipe is from Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra)

150g caster sugar
250g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest of 1/4 lemon
200g butter, softened
1 egg yolk
a little beaten egg, for glazing
100g stem (preserved) ginger, drained and chopped
75g fine dessicated coconut

55g blanched whole almonds
55g skinned hazelnuts

Mix the caster sugar, flour, salt and lemon zest together in a large bowl. Add the softened butter and egg yolk and knead until everything is well mixed in. Knead in the ginger and coconut. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator overnight.

Next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and leave to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Grease a 24 cm/9 inch round tin and dust with flour.

Knead the dough very briefly, then shape it into a large disc and put it in the tin. Use your hand to flatten it as evenly as possible to fit the tin. Brush with beaten egg. If you are using almonds or hazelnuts, press them into the surface. Otherwise, score a plaid pattern onto the surface with a fork.

Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Boterkoek should never be hard of crisp, so this should be baked only until just done. It will be soft when it comes out of the oven. Leave to cool until lukewarm in the tin, then carefully turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place so that the butter doesn’t go rancid. It will keep for at least 1 week but is at its best after 24 hours.

Twice-baked lavender shortbread :
(based on a recipe from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)

170g unsalted butter, melted and still warm
5 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
190g plain flour
1 1/4 teaspoons dried lavender buds

Line a 7 x 10 inch pan with baking paper.

In a bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, lavender and salt. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Spread the dough evenly in the pan. Let it rest overnight on the kitchen counter (don’t refrigerate).

Preheat the oven to 150’C. Bake the shortbread for 45 mins, then remove the pan from the oven. While the shortbread is still warm, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut the shortbread into the desired shapes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then lift the cut pieces onto a baking lined tray, positioning them slightly apart so that they bake evenly. Return the shortbread pieces to the oven for an additional 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a rack.

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For the love of friends


(Sticky ginger, golden syrup and yogurt cake)

This post had a beginning, but I decided to truncate it and concentrate on my main objective instead, which is to write this in appreciation of friends who have been supportive and helpful of late. You all know you who are, and since I’m not very good at expressing myself in person, I have decided to say it with another thing that I love : yogurt.


(Yogurt lavender cake)

Full fat, European-style cow’s milk yogurt, which I tend to always keep a carton of in my fridge. If ever I needed to put forward a case for the planet-threatening, methane-belching cow, bovine yogurt would form one of my principle arguments. Granted, far more environmentally friendly four-footed creatures have graced this planet and yielded us many pleasures in a 125ml easy-peel tub. Sheep’s milk yogurt for example, which is very flavoursome and can also be used in all these instances. I guess I just have a soft spot for something I grew up eating so regularly – who, as a kid, didn’t lick the smear of yogurt off the yogurt tub lid?

As B is intolerant of most dairy products except yogurt, I often use it as a substitute for cream, buttermilk or sour cream in certain recipes. Along with a dash of rice vinegar, yogurt is my not-so-secret-ingredient in homemade potato salad and coleslaw. For baking, I sometimes have to adjust quantities, or alter the baking time slightly when substituting with yogurt. I rarely have a problem with the end result and in fact take pleasure in knowing that I’ve actually made my cake marginally healthier.


(Sour cherry and yogurt cheesecake with green tea)

The sticky ginger cake recipe (originally with sour cream) comes from Belinda Jeffery’s book. It is one of the most fantastically moist, heart-warming cakes your fork will ever meet. Belinda says it is the cake you must make, out of the entire book, and I couldn’t agree more.

The yogurt lavender cake is based on a recipe from this book and the cheesecake is from this book, which I aim to write more about soon as it is one of my current favourites. Below is the recipe for the green tea cookies which aren’t actually part of the original cheesecake recipe, but which also feature in the book and are the best green tea cookies I’ve tasted to date.

Green Tea Sable Cookies :
(makes about 50; recipe from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

240g pastry flour (chilled)
15g green tea powder (matcha powder)
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
130g icing sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks

Sift flour and green tea powder twice. Set aside.

Beat butter, icing sugar and salt until soft and creamy. Add egg yolks and mix well. Add flour and green tea powder mixture and fold in with a spatula. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Place both portions in two large pieces of parchment paper. Shape into logs about 3.5cm in diameter. Wrap logs with parchment paper and refrigerate until firm. If not using immediately, wrap with cling film and freeze. Cookie dough can be kept for up to 2 months in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 150’C. Cut logs into 7mm thick rounds. Place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes, then remove and leave to cool on wire rack before serving. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

(Optional presentation : Prior to baking the cookies, you can dip the edges of each sliced cookie in granulated sugar. Also if you wish, you can brush a little egg white over each cookie and scatter with a few green tea leaves on top.)

[Note : To use as a garnish for the yogurt cheesecake above, I crumbled the sable dough on a tray before baking].

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