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.

A quivering, glistening yolk, shortly before its demise

You may have noticed I’ve been conspicuously… um… silent lately. Yes, my friends, I am a Very Bad Blogger. *slaps my own wrist* I could spout all sorts of lovely excuses, but to tell you the honest truth, I’m kinda lazy. SHOCKING! I know, right? So I totally bailed on the DB challenge last month despite it being something very exciting and delicious (tiramisu! yum! and my fiance is STILL begging me to make it for him…). Mostly it was from the horrifying experience of trying to make my own mascarpone cheese – if any of you know me and my hatred of cheese, you’ll understand. BUT I WAS DARING! I tried, even though the smell of the cream heating and curdling on the stove almost made me vomit. I couldn’t bring myself to use the stuff when it was done. Sigh…

So THIS month I see the challenge and am left, well, a bit baffled. First of all, it was a word I’d never seen or heard before (what the heck is a “tian” anyway? really?). Then when I started looking further I just couldn’t help but think “okay, so it’s a cookie with jam, whipped cream, fruit and caramel on top? What’s the big deal? Needless to say, I was not particularly inspired to action. This is why I didn’t get off my fat ass to do the darn thing until the day the challenge was due. Will I never learn??? This is ALWAYS a recipe for disaster!

What ensued was one part FAIL, one part WTF, and one part WHY BOTHER? And while much of this was probably My Own Fault, I can honestly say I feel that the recipe and instructions were partly to blame as well.  First of all, the disjointed recipe/assembly instructions were often vague and definitely contradicted themselves at times. Second, though I took some small liberties with the recipe (subbing sliced strawberries for orange segments because really, who the fark wants to spend their Saturday peeling and segmenting a buttload of oranges?), many of the elements just turned out strange and/or didn’t work at all. The orange caramel sauce? Um, not so much. More like a thin, watery caramel-like orange juice, and don’t even get me started on the creepy brown color! The Pate Sablee was, to my palate, rather dry and tasteless. And the orange marmalade? Well… um… *shuffles feet with a hangdog expression on my face*… ALL RIGHT I ADMIT IT! I BOUGHT MARMALADE AT THE DARN SUPERMARKET! The thought of spending all day blanching the same little orange bits three times in three different pots of water to make the marmalade just made me shudder. I’ve personally never even seen a marmalade recipe that was that persnickety and fussy. And for fark’s sake, marmalade from the store has always tasted just dandy to me! The one other alteration I made was to make one large (enter the trusty springform pan!) instead of a bazillion small cookie-sized desserts. Because really, my kitchen is ridonkulously well-stocked to the point of obscenity… but even I don’t have enough cookie cutters/crumpet rings/ramekins/whatchamacalits to make a bunch of these things. And they told me I COULD do the one-big-dessert concept, so no biggie, right?

Okay, enough with the flagellation, self- and otherwise. I’m not going to spell out the entire recipe here on my blog – if you want it there are plenty of other sites willing to indulge you. Basically, in the bottom of some variety of vessel you put down some fruit, cover it with whipped cream stabilized with gelatin, then top it with the cookie bit you previously baked and shove it all in the freezer to set. Turn it upside to unearth the dessert (like a flan!) and then marvel in its delicious glory. Unless you’re me. All Ican really say is this: “meh”

Though the dough for the pate sablee came together beautifully, as previously mentioned, the resulting cookie was pretty dry and tasteless.

Who’d have thought that butter, sugar and flour could go so horribly awry?

My strawberries, sadly, had ZERO flavor whatsoever (Damn you early-season strawberries! I know it’s barely Springtime, but still, the grocery store taunts me with these first berries of the season… which tasted like nuthin). The caramel sauce never came together and persistently SEPARATED on me, leaving an orange pulpy layer on top which was not appetizing looking in the slightest. And even the damn whipped cream was tasteless! SERIOUSLY! How does that happen? I even added a smidge of vanilla to it, in vain. The tiny bit of sugar didn’t do much for the flavor of the cream. And the whole gelatin nonsense? Half of it stuck to the bottom of the cup I’d bloomed it in, and the other half ended up like snotty bits of rubber cement that dried in my whipped cream. These creamy jello boogers were mostly covered up by the chunks of marmalade I “folded” into the whipped cream (um… yeah… not so easy to fold a solid chunk-o-marmalade into soft and delicate whipped cream).

By this point in the process I’d also managed to slosh the not-quite-caramel sauce all over myself and the kitchen by accident, so I was not exactly in the best of moods. Once I slathered the giant cookie bit with marmalade, I looked down and said to myself “WHY AM I DOING THIS AGAIN? I DON’T EVEN WANT TO EAT IT ANYMORE!”

Just do yourself a favor and stop here. No, really.

But no, I soldiered on. I plopped that jammy cookie puck down on top of the lumpy cream and tasteless strawberries, wrapped it all in clingfilm and set it in the freezer to set. I’d meant to take it to a party that night as a potluck offering. I didn’t even want to bring it – I could FEEL the FAIL emanating from the damn thing. The sad voice of my dessert fail taunted me from the freezer as I walked out the door… we ended up stopping on the way to bring pizza.

When I did eventually unearth the dessert it was hard as a rock and not exactly very appetizing (yum! it’s ice cream, literally. cream that is now ice. woo hoo!). Even after letting it thaw through, it was never anything more than “meh.” After about an hour on the counter defrosting, it was soggy. And NOBODY likes a soggy cookie, no matter how much tasteless clumpy whipped cream and sad strawberry-like fruits it is covered with.

Fail, faily McFailersons. I’ve seen others do some lovely things with this recipe, and I’m sure there’s some goodness in there, but I just can’t help but feel like I lost a page of instructions along the way. You know, the one that tells you how to make it delicious?

*shrug*

Life goes on, I suppose.

BUT NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS! The next couple of months promise to be exciting ones here in the burning kitchen. Why, you ask? Because there is not one, but TWO wedding cakes in its future. One of which will, in fact, be my own. No, I’ve never made a wedding cake before. But if there’s one thing I love, it’s a challenge, and I’ve ALWAYS wanted to make one. Whenever I tell someone I’m making my own wedding cake they look at me like I’m crazy. For the record, yes, I AM crazy. But I’m a crazy broad that makes damn good cake, and why would I want anything less? So yes, cake #1 is for one of my bridesmaids who is getting herself hitched in April. Yay practice! And then on June 12 I’ll be that crazy ass bride wearing a plastic poncho over my dress to protect it from the buttercream while I stack my cake tiers. And you, my dear readers, have a first-row seat.