Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers March Challenge

I have a fantasy that you've been waiting for this post with bated breath ever since I indicated, way back at the beginning of March, that I had joined the Daring Bakers cabal. Please don't disabuse me. For the uninitiated, I offer this brief summary of the mechanics of the thing: On the first of each month, the DBers--a shadowy and mysterious group into which unsuspecting (but hopeful) novice DBers are from time to time inducted--post a new challenge. Since this was my first challenge, I can't really say for sure whether there is any theme or consistency with these challenges, though perhaps time will reveal a code of some sort. We'll see. Dan Brown and I will keep you posted.  Get it? Dan Brown. Daring Bakers?

The challenge for this, my maiden Daring Bakers voyage, is called a Tian. What made this dessert, in effect, challenging, were the various components that you had to make in order to have participated properly. These were as follows: 1) a citrus marmelade, 2) a pate sablee, which is french for rich pastry crust, 3) a stabilized whipped cream, 4) segmented citrus fruit, and 4) a caramel topping. As a vegan, the most problematic element here should be obvious. My old nemesis: whipped cream. It's incredibly difficult to come up with a finished product that sufficiently recreates the airy fattiness of dairy whipped cream. I have posted already about my trials and tribulations as I strike out on (not exactly uncharted) territory for the perfect vegan whipped cream. I believe I mentioned, for example, that the silken tofu based whipped creams are total bullshit. They might make passable pudding and quite excellent fruit dip. But whipped cream? No way. Then again, this kind of attitude might be what C was referring to when he told me I was hypercritical. If you are a generous reader, though, perhaps you will accept my hypercriticality (having a PhD entitles me to make up words) as something I submit in service to you. Thus, perhaps you won't have to go down those disappointing paths, futilely whipping silken tofu with maple syrup, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, or anything else, only to watch it be, unmistakeably, silken tofu whipped with maple syrup, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, or anything else.

I did have some luck with the Soyatoo, however, when I made C's T-Day celebration cake. A lot of people complain about Soyatoo's aftertaste. I don't mind the beaniness, so much, but I was sort of put off by the mouthfeel of the stuff. I think maybe the high concentration of palm oil kind of ruins it, you know? Please understand, though, I'm not saying I don't like it. When I saw this challenge, though, I took it as an opportunity to surpass my (more or less) success of my previous whipped cream adventures.               

In the course of these new explorations, I discovered what I now believe is the absolute best vegan whipped cream. My days of messing around with complicated recipes, and silken tofu, and boxes of Soyatoo are at an end. Of course, this isn't exactly news. If you do a google search for coconut milk whipped cream, you'll end up with a number of hits. Most of these advocate a combination of coconut milk, powdered sugar, and soymilk powder. Because I needed to create a stabilized whipped cream for this recipe, I wanted to make sure my final product wouldn't wuss out. And frankly, most of the photos I've seen of coconut whipped cream make it look pretty wussy. It's melting all over the place, and generally puddling rather than holding up under the kind of scrutiny I expect my desserts to be able to face. (see comment about hypercriticality, above)  I decided to experiment combining my method for whipped cream with a different base substance: coconut milk instead of Soyatoo. Please keep my fussiness in mind when I tell you that I am very pleased with the result.

These photos illustrate basically the various components and construction of the tian. The classic tians are built in individual portions, and the directions indicated that we use small ring molds or cookie cutters. Of course, I have neither of these things. After a sleepless night of fretting about making the tian family sized, using a springform pan or a large loaf pan, and worrying about how to adjust the recipe measurements, I came up with the perfect idea. I would make my own ring molds. This I did with a bit of thin cardboard and some aluminum foil. I had a few minutes of trepidation that the dessert would end up sticking to the foil, but it absolutely did not. I was vindicated. My molds worked perfectly.

You build a tian upside down. At the bottom of the mold, you arrange your segmented oranges, covered with a bit of caramel. On top of that you put a layer of stabilized whipped cream. Then the pate sablee with a thick layer of marmelade. The whole thing goes in the freezer for a little while, then gets inverted onto a plate and drizzled with caramel. I liked it quite a bit, though if I had it to do over, I'd use a bit less whipped cream, and I'd play around with the citrus fruit instead of going straight orange.

I haven't gone into much detail here, but if you'd like more info about any step, let me know. I'm friendly. Kind of.


b3carmain said...

You totally had me at 'whipped cream' and then.... nothing?! WTF? Are you holding out on releasing the recipe for a copyright?? Perhaps there is some sort of series of vegan foodie codes that must be solved to prove my worthiness?
Vegan Squared ROCKS! (but where's the fuckin recipe??)

Marla said...

I was trying to gauge the level of interest in the whipped cream recipe, secretly hoping that my silent readership would clamor for it. I will put you squarely on the clamor side.

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