Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers & The Danish Braid



I've said it before, and I'll say it again: what I love most about the Daring Bakers is that each month's challenge pushes me beyond my comfort zone and forces me to question my notions of baking and what I can do.

Preconceived notions about this challenge?
1) Making a laminated dough is difficult.
2) I don't like danish.

Realities realized after completing the challenge?

1) Making a laminated dough -- at least from this recipe -- is well within my ability! Sure, the instructions are lengthy, but the steps are fairly easy. The most important skill is patience: waiting for the dough to come together, waiting for the dough to rest or rise, waiting to roll and re-roll between turns and -- the most difficult to wait for -- waiting for the danish to cool so it can be eaten without burning my mouth!

2) I hadn't eaten real danish before. I love to eat real danish! The baked dough has the perfect chew, run through with flavor -- butter, vanilla, cardamom, orange -- so scrumptious! And the apple filling is to die for. Make sure you use Fuji apples; their taste and texture hold up well through the sauteeing and baking for a final result that is amazing.

So thank you Kelly and Ben for hosting this month's Daring Bakers challenge and, once again, pushing me to learn more about baking (and a little more about myself, too).

Check out the loooooooong list of Daring Bakers at the Daring Bakers Blog Roll!


Note: watching the danish braid video on this page (featuring Julia Child and Beatrice Ojakangas) really helped me visualize how to construct the braid. I highly recommend taking a look!

Danish Braid

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough, enough for two braids

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 Tablespoon vanilla extract
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

DOUGH
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.

Without 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.

BUTTER BLOCK
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.

APPLE FILLING
Makes enough for two braids

Ingredients
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

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

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.

21 comments:

Peabody said...

Glad you learned to like danish. I find that all baking is actually easy...it's just that it takes so much time that it scares people.

DaviMack said...

Oh, I definitely agree on you assessment: I must not have ever had a real Danish before, either, 'cause these are quite dangerous! Glad yours turned out!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Laura, I love how your braid looks everything stayed intact, beautiful!!

sleepingbearinthekitchen said...

"...what I love most about the Daring Bakers is that each month's challenge pushes me beyond my comfort zone and forces me to question my notions of baking and what I can do." Spot on!!! Altho, one other aspect is even better....getting to know all the wonderful folks that are a part of this group!! :-)

Jenny said...

Beautiful job on your braid! This was a fun challenge.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I am so with you on those pre-conceived notions and breaking them apart - REAL Danish is delicious!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I know it's silly Laura but we do get all those ideas. Then we try. Then we just have to stand back and smile: I did that! And it's so good!
Your 'braid' is loverly!

breadchick said...

YOWZA Honey!!! That is one huge braid!!! I agree that the best part of DB is baking the things we would never try. OK, that really isn't the best part. The best part is baking things I wouldn't normally try with people like you :-)

You bring the Danish, I'll bring the bread and we'll meet at an upstate vineyard very soon OK?

glamah16 said...

Your help togeter prefectly. It is better than those cheap danishes floating around . Nice to be able to make something way better.

kitten said...

your braid looks gorgeous and i agree with you completely...

Ben said...

When I started making puff pastry so many years ago I thought it was the most difficult thing on earth, but then we come to the realization that it's all in our heads, right :-p That's a gorgeous braid. Thank you for baking with us :)

Erin said...

Your braid looks beautiful! I'm glad you tried it and realized you like Danish.

Lore said...

Perfect braid! You've done a great job.

Lorrie said...

you did an amazing job, your braid looks so yummy!

Claire said...

I was concerned about the laminated bread, too...but concur with your revelation, it's really not so bad! I enjoyed making this one. Great job on yours!

Shayne said...

so happy to hear that you got so much out of this month's challenge.

Faery said...

Your braid is beautiful I love the golden brown color it makes the braid look more delicious

Katie B. said...

I wasn't sure I'd like danish either, but like you, I was pleasantly surprised!! I'm glad we're both converts! :)

Dolores said...

As you discovered here, there is *nothing* quite like homemade danish. Great job... beautiful braid!

Debyi said...

Great job on this challenge. It looks absolutely wonderful! Yum.

Tracy said...

Great job on the braid!

I decided to take the summer off from the Daring Bakers. I can't bring myself to spend significant time in the kitchen in summer ... the season is just too short...