Saturday, June 28, 2008

Daring Bakers June Challenge - Danish Braids!

My first month as a Daring Baker and I find “Danish Braid” staring back at me on my computer screen on June 1st courtesy of Kelly at Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking? I couldn’t believe it, I had been debating on buying one of the pastry textbooks from Friberg or the CIA just for this very dough recipe, but never pulled the trigger because there are other things that have higher priority (kitchen scale, in particular).

I have to admit, my first attempt at puff pastry (un-yeasted) nearly a year ago was a failure. The folded block resides in the door of my freezer, taunting me as a reminder of my previous, somewhat cavalier attitude toward pastry dough. I mean, how hard could it be to turn butter into a flour-dough to create flaky buttery layers??? After all, I mastered sourdough starters and choux the first time I attempted them? I was quickly humbled, but I kept my disaster of a first try so that it could keep motivating me each time I opened the freezer until I gathered the inspiration to master the technique, after which time I could pitch it in honor of success (unless anyone can tell me what to do with it!).

After the initial shock, then joy, then worry, I reviewed the ingredients. Three of the ingredients were something I would have had in my pantry (or access to) in Ohio, but haven’t had a reason to restock in Alaska until now. First, I normally use salted butter for everything, cutting down salt requirements in the recipes I use to account for this. However, puff pastry dough recipes I have come across don’t usually have added salt. This means a dedicated butter purchase. Secondly, two spices in particular were not cooperating. The cardamom I found was odorless and tasteless, and the vanilla beans were $6.50 each – yes for normal bourbon beans – at that price they should be guilded. The $15.99 I spent for the cardamom was a bust, so I wasn’t willing to throw away more money on beans that may be the odorless and tasteless as well. Thanks to Kelly and Gabi for recommending two great vendors for baking ingredients – read HERE for more!

So how did I do? Well before June ends tommorow, I will have made 10, yes – TEN, Danish braids. (There's several posts that lay testament to my freak compulsive cooking nature - please don't be surprised!) My first two attempts were completed prior to my spice order arriving, they were potato, egg, ham, and cheese x 2 and strawberry almond x 2 (one each per attempt). The second time I tried it, I cut back on the sugar so that the savory Danish wasn’t so sweet.

Here's how the dough looked (rolled out with the butter mixture spread over 2/3):

First fold:

Second fold (aka full turn!):

The dough was allowed to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. The turn process was repeated for a total of 4 turns before the dough was put to rest in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours.

The egg, ham, and potato filling:

Cutting the dough at an angle will help the braid not open up like a rib-cage during baking because each dough cut is held down by the another braided on top:

Strawberry Almond and Blue Berry filled braids - unbaked:

Here's a side view of the the blueberry before baking:

I followed the proportion of fruit to sugar from the Danish Braid Recipe from Cooking with Julia for the strawberry blueberry, and apricot fillings. I used frozen berries and fresh apricots, respectively. The recipe can be found courtesy of Mean Chef's site here for those interested. For the almond part I made almond paste following the 1 cup nuts, 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, and one egg white, lightly beaten recipe I learned as a little girl. Literally any nut can be made into a sweet nut paste using the proportions above.

The remaining 3 attempts (2 braids each) included 3 blueberry, 1 strawberry almond, 1 apricot, and 1 cheese. I made the cheese filling using a block of cream cheese, a cup of sour cream, one egg, vanilla, and enough sugar to taste, depending on how sweet you want it to be. The difference in the flavor of the dough with the cardamom and vanilla bean were amazing. Part of the reason for making so many was due to my addiction to how this dough smelled!

A gallery of finished Danish Braids!


Top of a blueberry danish braid:


Close-up of the flaky-ness of a strawberry-almond:

A slice of egg, ham, and cheese:

A pair of braids! Blueberry and cheese:

A whole ham, egg, and cheese braid, great for lunch too:

One of the reasons I think my previous attempt at puff pastry failed was the butter oozed out and the turning never really came together. That method required wrapping the flour dough around the butter like an envelope then rolling out. This method put the butter on 2 thirds of the length of the rolled out dough and then called for folding it up like a business letter – I truly believe the difference facilitated success 100%! After three successful attempts at this recipe, I mustered up enough courage to go for broke and even try croissants! Maybe someday I will attempt the other turning method again, just to prove to myself that I can do it, but until that time, this recipe will be in my baking arsenal for years to come. The filling combinations are endless (check out the blogroll for what other fellow Daring Bakers did this month!).

Here's the recipe used (Danish Braid from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking):

DANISH DOUGH -- Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients -- 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

Ingredients --For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Instructions - Detrempe:
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.

Instructions - Beurrage

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.

Instructions - Putting it all together

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Some suggestions to make things easier:

1. Don’t expect to be able to make this in one day, unless you are planning to make it for dessert after dinner.

2. Split the process into 2 days – make and turn the dough on Day 1 store in fridge for next day or freeze for several days later; roll, fill, braid, and bake on Day two (if you want it fresh from the oven in the morning, you’ll need to give yourself at least 3 hours, depending on the temperature available to proof.

3. We made our own fillings for this challenge, but you could save time by using pre-made fillings or mixing berry jams with ‘dry’ fruit like apples or pears. I even saw in the grocery store, pre-mixed cheesecake filling!

4. Don’t be afraid to make the braid the night before – warm Danishes are rarely available at a bakery (unless you are lucky enough to be the baker!) and are most often at warm room temperature when sold.

Thanks to this challenge, I can cross puff pastry off my ‘need to try’ list! I am totally sold on this recipe and truly believe if you take the time to read the recipe, break it into easy sections over several days, anyone can have success with it! Thank you Daring Bakers! THANK YOU!!!


Michelle said...

Fabulous braids and your filling looks just scrumptious!

Welcome to Daring Bakers!

Anonymous said...

My husband saw your picture of the savory one and said we had to try that combination next time around. Awesome job!

breadchick said...

Wow! Those 10 braids are just stunning!! Welcome to Daring Bakers and great job on your challenge.

Susie Homemaker said...

You made SOOO many - and they are all GREAT! Love the savory option...with potatoes? YUM YUM YUM! Great idea!

~Amber~ said...

Congratulations on completing your first successful DB challenge. Your braids are absolutely lovely. That egg, ham and potato one sounds amazing!

Lorrie said...

I love your fillings, you really did an amazing job!

Barbara said...

Your braids turned out great! Great variety of fillings.

Anonymous said...

TEN BRAIDS!!! You win. Amazing. I would love to try the apricot filling. Oh, and your braiding technique looks perfect. Well done and Welcome!

Sarah said...

Ten braids??!! Holy cow! But beautiful, yummy braids at that! I am so making this again for the holidays . . . and I think that next time I'm also going to throw in a savory. Thanks for the inspiration!!


PS - I'm so interested in knowing where you are in AK . . . I'm from Kenai, myself! :)

Ben said...

If you were still living in Ohio you could've sent me one of those ten braids you made. That is amazing! Hehe

Thank you for baking with us :)

HoneyB said...

Congrats on your first challenge! You did an awesome job. I really need to try a savory filling now! (um, and chocolate! :p)

Chef Ashbabe said...

Well, for your first challenge you did a really great job! Great pics and details.
I was tagged earlier today, and I am spreading the love to you. The meme is on my blog at this link
It's all in good fun, you can play along as you wish. Have a Great day!

bethany said...

These look great!!! Yum. They were surely fun to eat weren't they :)

silverrock said...

Woah! You went all out on this challenge. Making 3 different braids! Although the strawberry almond and blueberry ones look delicious, I think I realy like the idea of the savory braid. Ham and eggs... yum, maybe I'll make that for lunch today?!

BTW, Great job on your first DB challenge! Keep it up :)

Amelia Bedielia said...

Thanks for the great comments guys!

momquixote, susie, amber & silverrock - the egg, ham, potato one was my favorite by far! I did cheat with the potatoes though, used refrigerated hash browns!

Ben - if I were still in OH, I am sure you'd have to beat back all my former co-workers for a chance at some of the danish! I know it didn't last long here, one guy took half of one and ate it on the spot!

Sarah - I am in Dutch Harbor! Way Way WAY out in the middle of no where!

Ashley - thanks for the nice words and for the meme - I'll get to it later today! I just moved to swing shift (noon-midnight), so I'll probably need something to fill time later in the evening!

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous that you made ten braids...I'm still kicking myself for not making a WHOLE lot of extra dough when I made mine (shoot!)...awesome job, everything looks so delicious...the potato...the apricot...everything. I too lived in fear of the electricity going out during fierce weather - but I lucked out there :)

Anonymous said...

Ok, I just made reference to the electricity going out and realized that I read that on someone else's blog, apologies. I'm really not crazy, just a clutz.

CindyRuth said...

Just discovered your blog-I also live in AK (Eagle River). I am joining Daring Bakers beginning next month. Your braids look wonderful-can't believe you made 10! And I thought I was obsessive sometimes. I think it's hard to find some ingredients in Anchorage, but I guess hearing that you're in Dutch I shouldn't even think that at all. Looking forward to reading your blog in the future!

Amelia Bedielia said...

Hi Cindy! Thanks for the kudos :). It's nice to hear from other AK folks out there. It definitely is an adventure trying to find ingredients that aren't crazy expensive, out dated, or both! Glad you could join the DB - its been fun so far!

Sara said...

Wow, they all look great! I especially like the savory one. I'll have to give that a try.

Liliana said...

Wow! ten braids! Makes me want to make more! Great job!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous braids and some great fillings too :)

Anonymous said...

Throw away that butter block in the freezer you got it it down times 10!!! And isn't it easy how obsessive it becomes, I managed 6 myself. Great first challenge, welcome and You Go Girl!!!!!

Anne said...

You made so many! I particularly am impressed by the savory one, how creative!

Jen Yu said...

yummmmm! I love the eggs, ham and cheese! They both look great, but I have to say the savories are really my favorites :) Great job!

Anjanette said...

Overachiever! Just kidding. Everyone of them braids look scrumptious. Congrats on the first DB challenge. It was mine as well!

Claire said...

ALL of these look and sound FANTASTIC! I especially like the blueberry and the egg ones. Great job!

Lunch Buckets said...

Welcome to group! I'd say you really nailed this challenge!`

Dolores said...

TEN braids?!? I'd say "welcome to the insanity," but I believe you just raised it to a whole new level.

That said, both of your savory breakfast braids are now on my "to try" list. I may end up making ten myself... by Christmas. :)

Great job, and welcome aboard!