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!


Sarah said...

Glad to see I wasn't the only one waiting until the last minute to finish up. Yours turned out great!

rainbowbrown said...

Gotta love learning experiences like these. I bet it tasted real good.

Lorrie said...

Your coworkers will love you for feeding them your danish!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful job! Too bad the dough gave you such trouble!

Susie Homemaker said...

my second batch ( i loved the first so much!) was a kind of buttery mess ike you said yours was...m,aybe it is the temperature of the room? My second batch I made at my parents house and it is quite a bit warmer there...maybe??) but go ahead and buy more kitchen gear...i'm all for that!!

breadchick said...

Yea this dough was really soft and required even us experienced dough working mavens to find interesting ways to work with the dough.

The oven light is wonderful proofing tool and glad you discovered it. If your oven doesn't have a light, a pan of warm water will also work.

I'm sure your office mates are going to love the danish!

HoneyB said...

I too only baked mine today and I'm ready to go out and get more butter so I can make another batch of dough for my brother's visit home this week! Great job!

Jaime said...

good job!

sorry the process wasn't so smooth for you but the end result looks fabulous! i used a silicone mat and had no sticking issues (though i did dust the mat with flour each time)

Shari said...

Your co-workers are lucky!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Jacque said...

I agree with you about needing a rest. I always feel a little spent after a Daring Bakers post... it's tough to get the TWD recipe made that week for some reason.

Aaaanyway, I'll bet if you tried this again it would go much smoother. My hat's off to you for plugging through it. You were rewarded in the end with a beautiful braid.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

You did a great job! I bet that braid tasted wonderful!



Natalie... said...

My dough at first was also soo sticky! I had to add heaps of flour to get it to release my hands and the working surface!!
Your braids still look brillant!!

Ann said...

Great-looking braid! And think of all you've accomplished!
Ann at Redacted Recipes

Rebecca of "Ezra Pound Cake" said...

So glad you stuck with the dough. ;)


How To Eat A Cupcake said...

I'm gonna try that oven light trick next time I need dough to rise! Mine didn't rise at all just sitting on the counter.

Dianne's Dishes said...

Sorry the dough gave you issues. Your final braid looks fabulous though!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

I feel your pain, the danish gave me quite a hissy fit too, but the end product was so delicious, all was forgiven!