Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - Danish Braid

Here we are again - another tasty Daring Bakers Challenge! This month's challenge is the Danish Braid! This month's recipe was by DB members Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'? . The recipe is from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking. I don't have this book, but if the other recipes are as easy to follow, I should look into it!

Here are some facts about Danish dough:
• Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet and is yeast-leavened, however, where as puff pastry is not.
• The process of making Danish dough is less complex than that of puff pastry, but equally as important to achieve best results, and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general.
• Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

I put this one off till 2 days before the deadline - I was feeling nervous about the project - I thought all the new techniques would be too difficult. I haven't made anything with yeast in a long time, and I'm not a good dough roller. But as with last month's challenge, I was surprised with how easily I was able to make this! I also enjoyed being creative with the filling! I used an almond cream and cherry filling. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to make, so I just searched the internet for recipes that had ingredients I was currently stocked up with. (This is partly why I didn't use the apple filling - no apples left!) I had some fresh black cherries, and I had leftover almond meal from last month's challenge. I found this recipe for Almond Cream (and I may make the entire recipe soon - looks tasty!), and this recipe for the cherry filling.

So- here is the recipe as it was given to me. I'll include the apple filling recipe I was given too - it looks like a tasty filling too!

• Laminated dough – is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough
• Detrempe – ball of dough
• Beurrage – butter block
• Turn – each “fold & roll” of the dough produces a single turn in a 3-step process where the dough is folded exactly like a business letter in 3 columns. Each single turn creates 3 layers with this method.

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Directions if you don't have a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

(Look how beautiful the dough is - flecks of orange zest and black vanilla seeds)
(You can see some of the butter squirting out of the dough after the first turn. I just smeared it back on the dough before folding it again.)

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Almond Cream
- makes about 1 1/4 cups -
Ingredients :
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg, at room temperature

Working in a food processor, put the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the workbowl. Process until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended. Add the flour and cornstarch, process, then add the egg. Process for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is homogeneous. Scrape the almond cream into a container and either use immediately or refrigerate until firm. (Keeping: The almond cream can be packed airtight and kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator, then beat it with a spatula or spoon to bring back its original consistency.)

Cherry Filling
1 pound bag frozen pitted cherries, or pound fresh pitted cherries
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp lemon juice

Place cherries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized pan. Heat on medium until cherries begin to release their liquid. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce to a simmer and heat until cherry mixture has thickened.

I pitted the cherries by hand after cutting them in half. Luckily I have this great kitchen scale to weigh the cherries - thanks to my good friend Lili who gave it to me for my b'day!

This is what my hands looked like after the cherries!
Apple Filling
Makes enough for two braids
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Danish Braid
Makes enough for 2 large braids *
1 recipe Danish Dough (see above)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see above)
For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
*I cut the dough in half before beginning these directions, then followed the directions for each half of the dough. The size was smaller, but I made sure it was 1/ inch thick.

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
I made indentations in the dough before I began cutting to make sure the cuts would be even and would leave enough room for the filling.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.
(I did this AFTER the proofing. See picture below)
Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours **, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
**Proofing Temperature For Fresh Dough (room temp) For Refrigerated Dough
Degrees F Degrees C
70 ~ 21 1-1/2 to 2 hrs. 2-1/2 to 3 hrs.
75 ~ 24 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hrs. 2 to 2-1/2hrs.
80 ~ 27 1 to 1-1/4 hrs. 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.
85 ~ 29 45 min. to 1 hr. 1 to 1-1/2 hrs.
90 ~ 32 45 min. 1 hr.
This was our temp, and the dough was refrigerated overnight, so I proofed mine for a little over 2 hours.

And I did the egg wash AFTER the proofing - I didn't like the thought of the egg sitting on the dough for 2 hours!
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.
This braid was looser - it looked at bit like a ribcage. We ate this one today!
This braid was perfect! I'm very pleased with how it turned out!
Of course I sample the braid today. I loved it. I really enjoyed the orange and cardamom flavor, and I thought the filling I made turned out well. I think it could have used some more filling, but I was afraid of it getting messy and bubbling out. Next time I'll add more filling for sure!
Be sure to check out all the other amazing Daring Bakers versions of the Danish Braid by visiting the Daring Bakers Blogroll!
One final note: The flavoring of the dough was pretty strong, and my husband is apparantely not such a fan of the orange/cardamom combination, so sadly he did not enjoy my fine creation. I'm not going to take it personally (or I'm trying not to anyway!), because I know that taste is very subjective. Oh well, more for me....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


We returned last week after a 2 1/2 week vacation touring the east coast. I'm thrilled and overwhelmed with the amount of comments I got on my Daring Bakers post, and I promise that in the next week I'll check out all the commenters blogs and leave comments on them! I had so much fun making the cake, writing the blog, and waiting to post it on the assigned date! It was like homework, but with cake! I can't wait to make this month's challenge - tune in to find out what it is!!

During our trip, we visited Banner Elk, NC; Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA (staying with a friend in Woburn, MA); New York City, NY (staying in North Bergen, NJ); Alexandria, VA; Richmond, VA (for my husband to run a race); and South Riding, VA. We stayed with friends part of the time, and hotels part of the time. I cooked only once during the trip, and that was in Banner Elk, NC. We were staying in a condo with my husband's family, and I made Pea Dumplings one night for a birthday celebration dinner. I also attempted to make Chocolate Chip cookies while we were there, but somehow managed to ruin all 3 batches! I didn't take into account the high altitude, so I burned 2 batches, and when I realized what I was doing and tried to lower the temp and the cooking time, this is what I produced:

After that, we decided to buy cupcakes for our birthday celebration dinner!

We ate out a lot during out trip. Here are some of the places we dined:

Stonewall's in Banner Elk, NC
(It was pretty good food, good service, but WAY overpriced for what we got. Of course, my generous in-laws footed the bill for dinner, but I still think it was too much!)

Banner Elk Cafe in Banner Elk, NC

(A nice outdoor dining area, good food, fun atmosphere. Kurt ordered a gigantic burger - so I had to get a picture of him eating it!)

Jim's Steaks in Philadelphia

(Of course we had to have the obligitory Cheesesteaks! Well, I had a cheese hoagie, but my husband LOVED the cheesesteak!)

Triumph Brewing Company in Philadelphia, PA
(Tasty beers and a great menu - with very reasonable prices. We loved it!)

Joe's American Bar and Grill on the waterfront in Boston, MA

(Good food, gorgeous location on the waterfront, but I got a terrible sunburn on my back and shoulders eating outside!)

(Sooo good! I had the marguerita pizza, which had a really delicious sauce and fresh mozzerella on top. Mmmmm - I've been dreaming about it ever since! We also shared a huge caprese salad with tons of crispy, fresh ingredients.)

Heartland Brewery in the Empire State Building in NYC
(Yes, we like the microbrew pubs! This one had some good beer, and good food, but a bit pricey for what we got!But what else would we expect from a restaurant in the Empire State Building??)

(Another good pizza place! I have to learn what makes NY style pizza so good!)

Sweetwater Tavern in Fairfax, VA

(Good big salads, unfortunately didn't get to enjoy any beer)

PF Changs in Richmond, VA

(I know I don't need to say anything about this place - we all know and love it. It was a great pre-race meal for Scott! And I enjoyed an Asian Pear Mojito there - yum!)

J. Pauls in Baltimore, MD

(We went after a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium, and we all had huge tasty salads for lunch on the harbour - mine was a great Vegetable Cobb Salad. I've never had a Cobb before, and it was really beautiful!)

In addition to the restaurants we visited, we were treated to some yummy homemade food by our hosts and hostesses too.

My friend Stephanie in Boston made us some delicious blueberry pancakes and some super cute bug shaped muffins (made in a bug shaped cupcake pan of course). She also made some delicious queso and guacamole. We also ordered some subs to go from a local restaurant near her house (Andrea's? not sure of the name), where I consumed the biggest, most delicious Eggplant Parmesan Sub I've ever had!

Our friend Roseann and Drew in Alexandria made us a delicious dinner the night we stayed with them. They made kebabs - veggie ones for me (very kind of them), and meat ones for the rest of the group. (To be honest, I didn't even pay attention to the meat so I'm not sure what it was - how self centered of me!) They also picked up some tasty deserts from Trader Joe's - ice cream sandwiches and opera cake (the coffee and chocolate kind). Yum!

In South Riding, we were treated to some authentic Peruvian cuisine from Rocio. One evening she made us some potatoes with spicy cream sauce. It was soooo good! I'm pretty sure it's called Papas a la Huancaina, because this recipe I found online looks exactly like what she made. I'll be trying out the recipe myself this summer. Her sister came over and made some ceviche for the meat eaters. (I enjoyed some fresh queso blanco slices with corn and sweet potato instead.) I might be too afraid to make this myself - especially since I wouldn't be eating it. They served it with corn and cold slices of cooked sweet potato. Then that evening, Rocio made a chicken with rice dish. The chicken was skinless thighs, pan fried in oil, maybe rubbed with some spices? Not sure (again - so self centered!) The rice was very similar to a rice pulao I might make in Indian cooking. I think it had garlic, turmeric, and maybe onion too, which she pureed, then cooked a little before adding rice, liquid, and some veggies like corn, peas, and carrots. It was delicious! She made the chicken separately (thanks for thinking of the high maintenance vegetarian!!), but will usually cook them together for a little while, to allow the chicken to flavor the rice. Our gracious hostess and host also had a kegerator, which was filled with a delicious wheat beer - citrusy, and yummy! (But bad for my reflux.)

All in all, considering we(myself, my husband, and my 2 children) were in close proximity to one another for 2 weeks straight, we had a great time! We saw some great cities, caught up with some good friends, and had lots of good family time - which is nice because my husband will be deploying again in a few weeks. (He'll only be gone for a few months again, which is sooo much better than what many people in the military - and most of my military friends - have to go through with deployments.) I'm glad we went, and I'm really glad we're home!