A Very Daring...Braid!

>> Sunday, June 29, 2008

Well its 9:47 0n a Sunday night and I just walked in the door and realized...yikes, I didn't post my Daring bakers! Luckily I still have about a few more hours to get it done...so here it goes.
This months challenge is something I had always thought about making. It was filed in the back of my mind in the "someday file". But thanks to the Daring bakers, Danish Braid can now be stored in the "I did it!" file. Actually the "I did it and loved it and will be doing it again" file.
Danish pastry is considered a laminated dough, which is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough. The same idea is used for croissants and puffed pastry.
The challenge was to make at least one danish braid and than we could do what we wanted with the remaining dough. We could also make the recommended apple filling or we could come up with our own homemade fillings. I chose to make little pastries using rhubarb, blueberries, pastry cream, almond paste and of course chocolate. I was able to create some delightful little treats.
The braid was blueberry and pastry cream (my favorite). And the pastries were a combination of almond paste and chocolate, rhubarb jam and almond paste, some just chocolate, some just jam, and some just almond paste. They were all delightful. Don't be afraid to experiment a little.

Here is the original recipe given to us by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’?
The cardamom and the orange zest give an amazing flavor to the dough.

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.

chocolate almond croissants

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.

dough after its first turn

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

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.

fresh blueberry jam and pastry cream 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

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.

blueberry jam pastry with coffee glaze

These are the fillings I used for my braid and pastries.

Rhubarb Jam

Pastry Cream

Blueberry Jam
Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

2 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 -2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, scraped

Stir berries , sugar, and vanilla bean in a large microwave safe bowl. Put bowl in microwave and cook for 10 minutes. Take out and stir. Continue cooking until most of the juice is gone, about 8 more minutes. Remove vanilla bean. Stir in lemon juice and let cool. Can be refrigerated for up to a week.

chocolate almond pastry drizzled with chocolate

Almond paste
Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 lg. egg white, lightly beaten

Put the almonds, sugar and butter in food processor. Process until mixture is finely ground. Add the almond extract and 2 tablespoons of beaten egg white and mix until fully combined. Can be kept in fridge for one week.

coffee glaze
Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

3 tablespoons strong cold coffee
1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted.

mix sugar and coffee together and drizzle over pastries after they are baked.

Come see all the other daring braids!!!


The color alone will make you swoon...

>> Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rhubarb is one of those things I do not have much experience with. I never really had it growing up and honestly I never really wanted too. But as of late I have been reading a lot about this seasonal vegetable and I became intrigued. And yes, I did confirm that rhubarb is indeed a vegetable, though many people commonly mistake it for a fruit. Good to know! It kind of goes along with that whole avocado thing. I had no idea it was actually a fruit!

Anyway, back to rhubarb. I picked up a bunch at my favorite local farmers market (I'm so excited it is time for farmers markets again!) and brought it home and let it sit on my counter for a few days until I turned it into luscious rhubarb jam. Its slightly tart flavor was an unexpected delight. I can see why it is commonly paired with strawberries, each bringing its own distinctiveness to the other for a lovely balance.

So when I saw this recipe in Martha Stewart I knew rhubarb would be a welcome flavor squished between two buttery layers of soft cookie dough. Their sugared cookie tops add a nice contrasting crunch to the soft tart centers that lay just below.

Rhubarb Jam
adapted from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

This jam could not be any easier to make and the color alone will leave you wanting to make more.

1 lb. rhubarb, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Put rhubarb, sugar, water and scraped vanilla bean (along with scraped seeds) into a medium sized sauce pan. Simmer over low heat until rhubarb softens and melts. remove vanilla bean and cool to room temp. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to a week.

Do yourself a favor and go pick up some rhurarb while you still can!

Now Tishy, dont you think its time for another post???


Happy 20th Birthday Buddy!

>> Thursday, June 05, 2008


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