Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Baker's June Challenge - Danish Braid

This month the Daring Bakers challenge was a Danish Braid chosen by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'?. Making pastry dough before always seemed so time consuming. But, being a member of The Daring Bakers is supposed to broaden my culinary skills and I think this recipe did just that.

Here’s some information about the dough:
* Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered dough’s 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 dough’s in general.
* Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

What really excited me most about this challenge is that we were able to pick our own fillings. And, since it is the beginning of summer in these parts the fresh fruit filling options were endless.

In making this pastry I also incorporated another recipe: Pastry Cream. I made the pastry cream recipe out of the Baking with Dorie cookbook by Dorie Greenspan. The cream did not take that long to make, perhaps 10-15 minutes. But, you have to be dedicated to making only that cream for those 15 minutes because it requires a lot of whisking over the heat to make sure nothing burns. I made it a few days before I was ready to make the braids and kept it in the fridge.

I also made a fresh rhubarb filling and fresh cherry filling in the other. Didn’t really use a recipe here. Just put the fruit in a saucepan, added some sugar, a squirt of lemon juice and a touch of vanilla. Let the fruit come to a boil and then thicken. My cherry filling didn’t thicken as much as I liked, so in the end I mixed some cornstarch with water and poured that it. (Note: for the novice baker... never, ever put cornstarch straight into a sauce. You will never get the clumps of cornstarch to dissolve. Always dissolve it with a little water first.)

I made my dough on a Sunday and my filling the next Monday. Only problem was that the week I picked to bake this it was well over 100 degrees for five days straight! Not exactly when I want to be turning my oven on. But, the dough kept fine for a few days in the fridge until the temperature dropped a little bit.

I made two different braids: rhubarb and pastry cream, and cherries and pastry cream. I would definitely recommend dividing the dough and making two. Mine were quite long and I couldn’t imagine what size cookie sheet would be needed to cook one large braid. To make two: make the dough as described below. Cut the dough in half right before the instructions tell you to roll it out and put down the filling. Here's what one looked like halfway through the process:

I took these into work and they were gone in no time. They took a bit of work and definitely some planning, but I would most definitely make them again.

Please check back soon for Shirlie's take on Danish Bread.

Recipe follows after the jump.


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.

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.

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 2 large braids

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.


Cynthia's Blog said...

But did you have fun? Your braid was so pretty.

maybelles parents said...

looked good. surprised from the name of your blog that you didn't put in basil.

Shari said...

Your filling sounds delicious!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Rebecca said...

Oh, those fillings sound amazing!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

What beautiful danish you made! I used a fresh cherry filling too and loved it!

breadchick said...

That danish looks heavenly. Well done!!!