Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Baker's June Challenge: Danish Braid

This was my second Daring Bakers Challenge and I was really excited to see what this month would have in store. Last month's Opera Cake was a very challenging task, and in comparison this month's task didn't seem too daunting... so I pressed on. In fact, I was so eager to complete this challenge that I started and finished it on the day the challenge was originally posted on the DB forum... this was awesome because it meant I could start the month off on a great note, but also sad because it meant I would have to find other good recipes/things to do with the rest of the month.

Anyways, on with the challenge, I was excited that I would be able to put my newly aquired yeast-baking skills to good use (I use to be hopeless with yeast, but now yeast and I have become very good friends :P). I followed the recipe exactly as posted, but seeing as how the braid dough would make enough for 2 braids and the DB recipe only gave one filling option, I was free to play around a bit with the spare braid. So, one of the pastries was filled with the DB apple filling and my experimental pastry was filled with blueberry preserves and cream cheese. Both of them were equally delicious, and my sister who is in love with blueberries really enjoyed the blueberry cream cheese filling.

The Danish Braid
So, this challenge entails making and working with yeasted laminated dough. The original recipe comes from Sherry Yard's "The Secrets of Baking" and is titled "Danish Braid"

Cool To Know:
• Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs 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 doughs in general.
• Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

• Laminated dough – is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough
• Detrempe – ball of dough
• Beurrage – butter block
• Turn – each “fold & roll” of the dough produces a single turn in a 3-step process where the dough is folded exactly like a business letter in 3 columns. Each single turn creates 3 layers with this method.

Baking Notes:
• Use well-chilled ingredients. This includes flour if your kitchen temperature is above 70 degrees F (~ 21 degrees C).

• It is recommended that long, continuous strokes be used to roll the dough rather than short, jerky strokes to make sure the butter block is evenly distributed.

• The 30-minute rest/cooling period for the dough between turns is crucial to re-chill the butter and allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
• Excess flour accumulated on the surface of the dough after turns should be brushed off as pockets of flour can interfere with the rise.

• Yard calls for a “controlled 90 degree F environment” for proofing the constructed braid. Please refer to this chart to assist you in this stage of the challenge:
• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.

Additional Resources:
Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs (Video cut for a Danish Pastry Braid by Beatrice Ojakangas who is the featured baker of the Danish Braid recipe in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.)

The Recipe

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

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

Dough Directions:

1. With standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.
2. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well.
3. 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.
4. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
6. Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.
7. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.
8. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even.
9. 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.
10. 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 Directions:

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)

- 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

Filling Directions:

1. Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.
2. 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. (Fuji apples will be caramelized, but still retain their shape!)
3. 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 cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet.
4. 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)

- 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

Braid Directions:

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.

This challenge was really quite fun. It didn't take as long as I had thought it would, and the time spent waiting between turns of the butter-block passed by very quickly. The orange zest and the cardammom in the danish dough added a wonderful aroma to a very rich and flakey pastry. Even if there wasn't any filling, I would be content to eat the dough all by itself.

The additional resources really helped with the assembly of the braid. And after looking through the method, and reading about the steps it took no time at all to put the braid together. The puff pastry was nice and flakey and so very buttery. As for the filling, I think I could have chopped the apples into smaller pieces; it may make it easier to fold the braid without having apple chunks pop out. The blueberry-cream cheese filling was very smooth in texture and allowed for the braid to made quite tight, with no filling leakage.

Overall, this challenge was a success. I will definitely be making this recipe again, but will probably half it because two braids was way to much pastry for my family to consume. Hooray for DBers and congrats to all who completed this month's challenge!


Kheedci said...

HAHAHHAA! I can see that you are online. Hope you win the challenge, Good luck! :)

kat said...

yum, the blueberry cream cheese sounds so good! congrats on getting through the challenge beautifully

Jen (Modern Beet) said...

ooh -- blueberry + cream sounds delicious! nice work!

Ruth said...

Looks good. Your blueberry cream cheese inspires me to try different fillings in mine!

MaryMary said...

Oh yum! That looks fabulous...I love your braid. Hopefully the next challenge will be just as unique!

jillian said...

Your braid looks great! Thanks for checking out my blog- baking in a group is really fun :)

bunny said...

your right yeast is your friend cause you made a terrific braid!!

Dana McCauley said...

I'm with you. I enjoyed this challenge so much more than the Opera Cake.

Nice job on your braids!

Anonymous said...

Great job! I love blueberries too, and that's definitely a filling I will try in future! I see we were thinking along the same lines in making cute little proofing charts - you know what they say about great minds... :)

Jaime said...

wow, you made it on the day the challenge was posted?! way to go! it looks great!

Michelle said...

Gorgeous Braid and I wish I had a piece right now too!

BTW, you've been tagged! Please visit my blog to find out the meme rules in my post titled "I've been tagged again". Have a great day! Michelle

Cupcake Aficionado said...

Your braid turned out so well. I'm beginning to think I'm braid-challenged. :) Good job on Danish.. it looks wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Lovely braids and a great write up :)

Rebecca said...

You did it THE FIRST DAY? I baked mine on the last, so I guess we ran the gamut. ;)

Lucy said...

Congrat's on this wonderful challenge, and what a great filling choice you have there, Beautifully done !!


Amy said...

Oooh! Yours sounds delicious!

Holly said...

Looks fantastic!

Shari said...

Great job on your danish braid. Blueberry cream cheese filling sounds delicious!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

breadchick said...

Well done on your challenge this month!

Jj said...

Ashamed to admit it, but I've always shied away from baking with yeast - have done it but not often. However, you've refreshed my motivation, thanks! :)

Pam said...

Your blueberry filling sounds great! The braids looks delicious.

kellypea said...

Sorry it took so long for me to get here and drool over your Braid. Your blueberry cream cheese combo sounds AMAZING! And I agree with you -- I could have eaten that dough with nothing in it at all. Congrats on an excellent job. Can't wait to see your Gateau...