Danish Braids: Daring Bakers June Challenge
Call me Murphy because if anything could go wrong, it already has. You know when you get to the end of a very long post and you see that spinning wheel? The one that indicates that something’s not quite right with your browser? Yes. That would be me about 3 minutes ago. And now I’m supposed to start over because the whole freaking thing is gonzo. *sob* It all happened when I clicked on that link for the Daring Bakers Blogroll…Can you believe it?
It’s 12:46 am, and it’s posting day for the Daring Bakers, something I can’t wait for each month. And this month in particular, since I’m one of the hosts, you’d think I’d have things all wrapped up. I’ve had Danish Braid on the brain for about three months now, from thinking about choosing the recipe, to choosing it, to testing it, and baking it four different ways…and now it’s time to raise the curtain and what do you think?
My browser quits on me and my post is lost. Crappity crap crap. It’s kind of like not showing up for your own party.
It’s bad enough living in the farthest Southwest corner of the U.S. and always, always, always being the very last to be able to post, counting the minutes until midnight, barely waiting for my time to let it rip. But have my browser quit on me? That’s just wrong.
Ahhhhh…..I guess I should have written this post a month ago, right? Set it to fly when the clock hit midnight? But no.
I’ve had Italy on my brain along with Danish Braid, because we’re leaving in two days. Two. So this is my punishment for not being ready.
Nevertheless, it’s time to give this another go. To write again that which has been lost. Right?
Um, nope. I have no energy at this point. Forgive me.
With what little grace I have at this point (like, ZERO?), it is so important to me to say thank you to Ben of What’s Cooking? for being my co-host for this month’s Daring Baker Challenge. THANK YOU BEN! I know Ben would have more dignity than I do right now. *sigh* Right Ben?
Okay, enough of the melodrama and on with the pastry.
Danish Braid anyone?
This completely fabulous recipe is Sherry Yard’s from The Secrets of Baking, and what a lovely recipe it is. Cardamom, orange, vanilla…and lots of options for making it your own. If you’ve ever wondered about whether you could make pastry, this is the recipe for you to try. But I’m biased. I could have eaten all of it myself.
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.
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.
Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
For the butter block (Beurrage)
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
¼ 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
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into Â¼-inch pieces
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 – 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and saute 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.
- I made two braids: one with apple filling, and the other with a combination of strawberry jam & pastry cream. I took the jam & pastry recipes from the Beatrice Ojakangas recipe for Danish Braid in Baking with Julia. They are quickly and easily made in the microwave and were very good.
- I also made Danish Envelopes folded two ways. Each had the apples described above, but also with a filling of 8 oz. cream cheese, 1/4 c. demerara, 1/2 egg, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla well mixed and dolloped onto the apples. I sprinkled chopped pecans over the filling, baked them, and then drizzled dulce de leche over the top. Mmmm….
- Speaking of those apples — they’re delicious. This would make a beautiful pie filling or ice cream topping, or…add some nuts and just enjoy.
- The egg wash for the top of the braid will produce a very brown crust, so be prepared.
- Absolutely read the recipe several times before you begin. The recipe is very straight forward unless it’s not carefully read.
- Make sure you don’t cheat on the 30 minute refrigeration times between turns. The gluten needs to rest, and the butter to chill.
- If your kitchen is above 80 degrees F, the butter will most likely pose a problem, so make sure all your ingredients are cold to begin with, and if need be, refrigerate when necessary along the way to keep things cold.
- Make sure the “fringe” on the dough for the braid isn’t cut too long or the filling will ooze out during the proof time, or even worse, during baking. Hmmm…did I do this?
- I used green cardamom pods for this — about 16. It’s time consuming to crack them and grind the seeds, but worth it. The dough is very aromatic, and the pastry very special.
Please take time to visit the other Daring Bakers to see their sweet and savory, nutty, fruity Danish Braids. They’re amazing, as always, and far more entertaining than I am at this point.
Somebody needs to hose me down.
And here’s a quick look at round two with my Danish Envelopes. To get the rounded ones, I placed them in a Texas style muffin pan and wrapped the corners up over the filling. Cute little things if I might say so myself. Wish I had one right now, and I’d drown my sorrows in that yummy pastry.
Look how much nicer my dough was the next time. All straight and perfect! Such lovely dough to work with. Okay, forget hosing me down. Just wrap me in this dough, and I’ll be happy.