Friday, June 26, 2009

How to Slice an Orange

Yeah, I know - what fool doesn't know how to slice an orange? I submit that the fool writing this post did not know how to properly slice an orange PAPER THIN. Why would you want a paper thin slice of orange, you say? Well, maybe if you were trying to recreate the Fromage Blanc Souffle Glace dessert you had at CityZen. Which is what I tried to do. Suffice it to say that you can spend an entire blog post on the orange, and save the rest of the dessert for another post.

I have to admit, I, like most inexperienced orange slicers, approached this task with little concern. How difficult could it be? All you need is an extremely sharp knife and steady hands. Wrong. Ok, so if that doesn't work, then all you need is a mandoline that can slice to 1/16th inch, and you're golden. Well almost.

I honestly didn't research the science behind citrus pulp, but I'm sure someone has, so if you are interested, then Google it. I like "figurin" stuff out. The primary problem with the mandoline procedure is that the pulp of the orange is not stiff enough to be smoothly sliced by the mandoline. For instance, a pear or an apple, with a much more dense cellular makeup, will easily slice paper thin and smooth with a mandoline. Large, open-celled citrus fruit does not.

So how do you solve this problem? Well, my first thought was the freezer. It worked. But, you need to par-freeze (not sure if I just made that term up, but it works) the orange, then slice it. If it's too frozen, then the mandoline will have a difficult time cutting through the frozen liquid in the pulp. I par-froze my orange for a little less than two hours, but your times may vary, depending upon how efficient your freezer is, and whether you actually close the freezer door all the way. Some members of my household have difficulty with that.

Once you have the paper-thin slice you are looking for, then you need to move on to the crispy factor. This is no easy task either. My experiment involved a simple syrup with a dash of Gran Marnier for sweetness. I dropped the slices into simmering syrup for about 10 minutes. After removal and patting dry, I placed them on a Silpat, and proceeded to dehydrate the slices.

After burning the first batch, I determined that low and slow was the way to go. It took about two hours in a 250 degree electric oven to get close to the result I was looking for. I think I ran out of time before I actually achieved my goal. Next time I might try the gas oven (dry heat) or (gulp) try the microwave. I know the microwave may sound un-professional, but based on the results of re-heating a chicken dinner in the microwave, I'm sure it would dehydrate quicker.

And while you are attempting this ridiculous task, keep in mind that it has relatively little to do with the flavor of the CityZen Dreamsicle. It's a garnish - although an impressive one. I'm sure some people ordering the Dreamsicle even toss it to the side, without ever tasting it. What a shame.


OG said...

Big question, without having eaten it, it looks to me to be a combination of dried and candied, more the former than the latter. I would say use a meat slicer since it's serrated, go thin, throw it on the silpat, cover with a bunch of sugar, and dehydrate in a warming oven for a few hours. I bet it thins out during the process.

JW said...

"Par-freezing" is probably the only way to accomplish a sufficiently thin slice of citrus fruit...

As for dehydrating, I've used 2 methods for other things in the past that worked reasonably well. I always use parchment, I guess silpat would work OK, but it seems the parchment takes up more of the excess moisture (could be my imagination). For the drying process, you could start in a 300 degree oven and simply turn it off and "dehydrate" for about an hour, but what may work better is ~175 with the convection on for about 3 hours. Another trick may be to dust with confectioners sugar instead of granulated sugar.

MAB said...

OG - you are correct that it is more dried than candied. It had a sweetness to it, but was crunchy like a wafer (at CityZen, that is). Mine was more candied, and needed to release more moisture. I'm assuming that it needed more sweetness from sugar, but I'm not certain. A meat slicer would be an excellent choice, but not something I wanted to invest in for this experiment.

JW - I used the convection for two hours at 250 without burning, but still not dehydrated enough. I'm thinking 175 for four or more hours. It seems the slower, the better. Parchment may also be an option.

The other option is that I go to DC 4 to 5 times a year, so I should just go eat there again and ask them how they do it.

OG said...

did you try to use a tomato knife? it usually can cut stuff with thick skin pretty thin. The recipes and videos for orange confit show the pulp and pith to be a much different color than what you got at cityzen. also, if they're molecular gastronomists, they may have used an antigriddle and flash freeze dried it immediately prior to serving. it would be the fastest way, but I don't know how it would react to the temperature change.

OG said...

MAB try the serrated knife and a little practice, and you'll get it. Dehydrate it with a little sugar, maybe confectioners, or granulated to give the sweetness, but not enough to confit.