Saturday, June 28, 2008

Danish Braid - The Daring Bakers

For this month's challenge Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking? chose a Danish Braid.

I have never tried anything so ambitious before but as usual, my Saturday morning was very pleasant. With the help of my trusty Kitchen Aid the dough came together nicely and I set about doing the butter block and then the 1st turn. Oh, expletives ....This dough is not funny! A floppy, icky buttery mess sat on my kitchen counter and got stuck to it. Finally, by using a ruler and a dough scraper and many shakings of flour I managed to get it into a rectangular form of sorts, with bobbles of patched-up bits all over the place. I made the turn as best I could and put it in the fridge. Turn 2 was no better! I really, really want to learn how to make these wonderful pastries, but my word, the road is hard!

Later: Turns 3 and 4 - a bit better but I'm still spitting bullets about the dough. I wonder if a large marble pastry board would stop the stickiness - in any case, I need an excuse to buy another kitchen item! Well, at least I don't have to worry about it until tomorrow morning. Maybe the filling and baking part will be easier, maybe.

Sunday, posting day. Whew! I have crossed the finishing line. All is forgotten; all is forgiven. I have 2 nice braids with the apple filling, waiting to cool and 16 little baby turnovers with apricot preserves in them. The pastry feels soft and bouncy to the touch and the aroma in my kitchen is delightful. Was it worth a weekend of nervousness? In many ways, yes, as I have achieved the challenge and learned a lot. In other ways, no, as Danish from Lefske's Danish pastry bakery near me tastes divine, but that is copping out. I just need to learn to handle the dough better and I will feel confident about making these pastries.

I think the office team will enjoy the braid and the turnovers tomorrow. No more baking this week - need a little bit of a rest.

Kelly and Ben provided us with the recipe from, "Secrets of Baking,"by Sherry Yard, a book which, needless to say, is on my Wishlist now. Here's the recipe:

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.

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.
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.

Makes enough for two braids
Ingredients4 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
1/2 cup of plumped raisins - my addition

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.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

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.
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.

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.
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.

A Sherrytrifle tip: I read that leaving dough to proof in the oven with just the oven light on helps the dough to rise - I tried it - it worked beautifully!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Quintuple Chocolate BrowniesTuesdays with Dorie - Rewind

I decided on a re-wind this week as I did not really fancy the Mixed Berry Cobbler, so I picked the Quintuple Chocolate Brownies . How deliciously decadent to have five types of chocolate on the table: Dutch Process Cocoa, Callebaut Plain Chocolate,Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, Callebaut Milk Chocolate and Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. Made me shiver with delight.

The brownies were fun to make; I had everything mise en place for a change (my usual style is to muddle through and reach for ingredients as I need them, but I didn't want any mix-ups with all this wonderful chocolate).

Everything went smoothly and I came up with a nice gooey brownie batter. Just popped the pan in the oven and went to drink coffee and watch, "The Mutiny on the Bounty," with Charles Laughton and Clarke Gable on TCM. I just love the old classics. Checked my brownies after 35 mins. as stated in the recipe but the batter was still runny, so ended up baking them for about 45 mins. Fortunately a couple of bits broke off as I was turning the square so I ate them. Very delicious!

This is a deep, dark, dinner-party brownie. It would be wonderful as a dessert to end a fine meal, with a dollop of whipped cream, or even more decadent, a dollop of Devonshire clotted cream. The white chocolate glaze provides a nice sweet contrast to the dark chocolate flavor - perfect brownies! I am so pleased I tried these for a re-wind.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Puffs Not the Ring - Tuesdays with Dorie

First, let me introduce you to the loveliest little cream puff of them all, Phoebe (also known as "The Princess Fluffy"). She was featured in one of my early blogs but she wasn't really on stage like now. As for the Cream Puffs I baked, I don't believe what I did this morning! I took photographs of a nicely risen, cute cream puff, filled with pastry cream and topped with Dorie's "Chocolate Ganache Glaze" but forgot to put the camera chip back in my camera. So no pastry photo this week - Boo Hoo!!

This was my first Choux Pastry adventure and the first time I have ever used a pastry bag and tips. It was all very exciting and satisfying at the end of the day but there were a few trip-ups along the way. My chocolate pastry cream from Dorie's book just wouldn't set so I ended up ditching it and using another recipe for vanilla pastry cream. That one came out fine. I'm going to use the pastry cream method used by Judy of Judy's Gross Eats next time, with Dorie's ingredients - sounds really easy.

Then my first batch of puffs (I was too nervous about the choux pastry challenge to try the ring) came out really small and looked like snails, so I tried again and this time I piped them much bigger, about four coils. Using a pastry bag was great fun. I left them to bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes without looking in the oven - what a delight when I checked them out - there they were, glistening, a nice pale honey color and really fat and puffed up. I did the drying out thing with the oven door kept ajar with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes, then put these cuties out to cool.In the morning I filled them with the pastry cream and drizzled them with the chocolate and believed I had taken a photo.

My office pals were very impressed; I mean, how French. There were 15 puffs to start with - a few people had two each, so only one lonely little one remained in the fridge when I left for home. Thank you so much Caroline of A Consuming Passion for this great pick.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Toasted Almond Flakes

These cupcakes are very good indeed - they are based on a recipe I found on Epicurious for, "White chocolate cupcakes with candied kumquats." Well, needless to say, I couldn't find kumquats when I needed them so opted for something simple - just a ganache and almonds for the topping.

The white chocolate gives the cupcakes a lovely light pound cake consistency and they taste really good - sweet but not too sweet. Here's my adapted recipe:

White Chocolate Cupcakes

8 ounces high-quality white chocolate (I used my favorite - Ghirardelli chips)
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 and one-half sticks)of unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
3 large egg whites


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line three 6-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Place white chocolate in metal bowl set over pan of barely simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth, adding about 2 Tablespoons cream if the chocolate seems to be sticking and not melting properly. Stir very slowly, constantly. Remove from stove.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and vanilla in large bowl until blended. Add hot white chocolate to sugar mixture; stir to combine. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with coconut milk in 2 additions, beating batter very slowly just to combine between additions.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg white mixture into batter in 3 additions.

Divide batter among muffin cups (about 1/4 cup each). Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 33 minutes (original recipe said 25 minutes). Cool completely. Can be made one day ahead. Store in airtight contrainer at room temperature.

Decorate with a dark chocolate ganache and sliced, toasted almonds.

Enjoy - it makes 18 cupcakes so there's quite a few to spare.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spicy Turmeric Chicken

This is a crockpot recipe from the recently published, "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker - Recipes for Entertaining," by Beth Hensperger, available from The heat in NY is steaming - pedestrians have a desperate, sweaty look on their faces and my walk to the supermarket was in tortoise-time. What a perfect day to use my old crockpot; it can sit there for a few hours and cook my dinner - no oven, no range, no opening the oven door to see if it's done. So I have decided to make Beth's Spicy Turmeric Chicken. All I need to do is remove the chicken skin, cover with her Turmeric Marinade, which I made ahead, turn on and forget about it.

Here's the recipe (slightly adapted):

Spicy Turmeric Chicken

Pack of chicken legs and thighs (about 8 pieces)

Turmeric Marinade

1 Tbs. ground cumin seeds
1/2 Tbs. paprika
1 Tbs. ground turmeric
1/2 teasp. cayenne pepper
1 teasp. black pepper
1-1/2 teasp. salt
rounded tsp. of bottled garlic
6 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used orange juice - will see how it turns out; I didn't have any lemon juice.)

Coat the inside of the crock with nonstick cooking spray.

To make the marinade, combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl or a small food processor. Be warned: The turmeric leaves a yellow stain behind, so use glass or stainless steel implements if you do not want your dishes yellowed. Please also note that this dish will stain a light-colored crock.

Remove the skin from the chicken pieces. Wash and dry the chicken pieces thoroughly.
Apply the marinade generously. Your hands will stain yellow, so use disposable plastic gloves. Place the chicken pieces in the slow cooker, with no liquid. Cover and cook on Low for about 5 hours, or until the meat pulls easily away from the bones. The cooking juices can be reduced or served as is.

Later - Have just sat down to dine - it is delicious. Certainly spicy as it says but tender and tasty. I had to shut Mystery out of the room so he didn't come to help me eat my dinner.

Regarding crockpots, I have also come across a super site for crockpot dishes:A Year of CrockPotting.

Here the blogger, Stephanie, has ingeniously developed a crockpot recipe for each day of the year - my next fancy is a dish of "Mongolian Beef" from her blog.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

La Palette's Strawberry Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

Marie of A Year at Oak Cottagehas chosen this week's lovely summer tart - La Palette's Strawberry Tart. Great choice, Marie; good strawberries are gorgeous right now. I purchased mine at Citarella in the West Village in New York - this is an upscale food paradise, worth making a special trip to.

Another skills building lesson from Dorie - this time for the Sweet Tart Dough . I followed the recipe exactly except maybe I pressed down on the dough in the tart pan a bit too heavily, also the tart took almost 20 minutes after I took off the foil to get to a mellow shortbread color. What a relief to be able to turn the oven off - at 375 degrees F on the hottest and most airless day here in New York baking was not the usual fun. Supposedly the heatwave will lift in a couple of days.

I shook about 2 teaspoons of sugar on the strawberries and sprinkled them with a tablespoon of Cognac - I didn't have any of the liquers in Dorie's recipe. Tomorrow before work I'll whip the cream and off we'll go. I won't serve it until about 11:00am -it will be lovely for that third pot of coffee we make around then.

Next day: Almost ready to go but not quite: Oh dear! The whipped cream was ever so slightly off. I cut, photographed and ate one slice of pie - the shortbread crust is absolutely delicious, a definite "make again" for all sorts of pies but I can't take the pie to work because of the cream. It's the weather, even with the fridge. I won't put cognac on the strawberries again - they would have been nicer their natural sweet selves, but one lives and learns. I would make this again for an "at home" dessert, with the changes.

I guess "Cake Day" as my co-workers call Tuesday, will have to be put back until later in the week - I'll make another Dorie cake that can withstand traveling and the subway. Perhaps the Perfect Pound Cake.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

French Chocolate Brownies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Easy to make, easy to bake, luverly cake! (Oh, such poetry!) Dorie's French Chocolate Brownies, chosen for us by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook is an absolute find. It's the sort of recipe one can run up in almost no time with not too much effort and the results are wonderful. I used the Ghirardelli Extra Bittersweet chocolate slabs - I prefer the slabs to chips as they seem to melt more smoothly and more glossily; added a tablespoon of rum and a half cup of walnuts to the mix and left out the raisin-flame lighting stage. They baked for just over an hour (about 63 mins.) before coming out beautifully. I now have my Brownie recipe for keeps and will make these over and over. Took them to the Office today, as usual, and they disappeared like hot cakes, well, like good brownies. I'm giving the recipe to a co-worker who has previously only experienced box brownies. His children (not too young - early teens) will be able to make them, but I'll change the instructions to melting the chocolate and butter in the microwave.

This post is a a couple of days late, but am I pleased to be posting at all! My computer hard drive crashed last week. Thank goodness my warranty was still good so a technician came to my house to replace the hard drive. Many tech. support hours later I am now restored to life.

Here's Dorie's recipe:

French Chocolate Brownies- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden (exchanged for 1/2 cup walnuts)
1 1/2 tablespoons water (omit)
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum (one Tbs.)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

[Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.] - omitted this part.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.