Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers June Challenge- Danish Braid!!!

Delicious flaky savory meal
This months challenge ...drum roll please...
da da da da da da dum psh!
is hosted by our lovely friends
Kelly of
Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’?
I was sad to miss last months challenge with the opera cake, and thought that this month I wouldn't be able to participate either. I'm getting married in two weeks and still have tons to plan, and on top of that dealing with some major health problems. So needless to say I though there was no energy or time for this months challenge no matter how enticing or exciting.
Then a few weeks ago I was resting at home and realized that it was probably the only weekend in the whole month I had nothing planned. Perfect time to try the challenge. So I pushed up my sleeves, brought out my daring and decided to try what I have never tried before. Yes my friend the Danish braid. I've never made danish dough and was a bit nervous reading the recipe. It talks about folding the dough with butter. I mean folding dough that's so foreign. I'm used to giving it a vigorous kneading, not a gentle fold and roll. Definitely was
shivering in my apron strings.

The rules for this month were as follows:

• Use the recipe as written to make Danish dough and create at least one Danish Braid. The recipe will allow you to make two full braids unless you choose to make only half the dough.
• Fill the Danish Braid with the apple filling provided and/or any other filling as long as it is something you make yourself from scratch.
After reading some of the others attempts I decided to use the recipe as written and make three smaller braids since there is only me and my sweetheart to feed.
I made two dessert and one savory braids. I was most nervous that I would somehow braid it wrong and that it would unwind and look like the rib cage of a zombie. (some people had this problem and though it looked kind of monster movie cool, I wanted to impress my honey.) Unfortunately due to my hands being covered in flour and butter I didn't get any pictures of just the danish dough process. I did watch the YouTube video posted with the recipe and it helped me immensely. Here is my pictures for assembling and baking the braids.

1. Savory Braid with pizza sauce, fresh sliced mushrooms, and country sausage, all sprinkled with some parsley and basil.

I cut the dough rectangle into equal thirds. Then rolled one out and sliced in upward diagonals. Those became my braid. Then down the center put my filling and sprinkled the herbs all over the inside.

I think the mushrooms looks so tasty laid out like that. I stole a few to munch on raw while assembling the braid.

I tucked in the top and then criss crossing braiding the sides. I made sure they reached all the way across and tucked them in a bit into the opposite side. I think this made it more secure, and helped it not unravel during baking.

Isn't it a cute little braid?

Here is the first one (savory) out of the oven. I was so excited because it was a nice golden color, and the entire house smelled so amazingly delicious. My honey came home and the first thing he said was "wow hun it smells so tasty in here, I can't wait to try it"
That always makes me want to bake more and more!

Another because I just can't get enough of seeing this braid.

Next came the two dessert braids. I put these together while the savory one was raising and then baking. The recipe called for an apple filling which I thought sounded nice and traditional. David requested a strawberry cream cheese one too. I decided to do both and please us both.

2. Sweet Strawberry with sweetened cream cheese.

The cream cheese I mixed with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a cup of powdered sugar. I also added some vanilla extract and orange extract for flavoring.

David helped out by slicing the strawberries super thin. I sprinkled them with some cinnamon and sugar and layered them on top of the spread of sweetened cream cheese.

Here you can see I brought the bottom up so the filling won't fall out. Then started braiding down from the top, alternating bringing each strip across.

Fresh out of the oven you could see a bit of the sweet strawberry oozing at the top. It looked so tempting.

Also before baking it I sprinkled a little of the powdered sugar on top so it would bake into the dough. It added a nice sweetness to the outside of each bite as well.

3. Sweet Apple and Oats filling, over sweetened Ricotta cheese.

The apple mixture I simmered together. I decided I wanted to add something different. So I added a cup of raw oats to the mix. The apples are called "pink" apples which have a really nice tart flavor without the after taste that many of the tart green apples have. I highly recommend them.

It thickened up nice like a toffee. I think I might make the mixture just with the oats sometime and lay it out in a pan to harden. Me and David snacked on the oat taffy chunks while waiting for the pizza braid to finish baking.

after letting the mixture completely cool in the fridge I took pieces of the very sticky mix and put them down the center for filling.

The apple mixture is on top of some ricotta cheese that i added lemon juice and powdered sugar to. I also added a bit of the vanilla extract, and some corn starch to thicken it.
Tucked in the top and bottom of the braid.

And began to braid down from the top. You'll also notice I've sprinkled cinnamon sugar all over the inside of the braid.

I had a little extra dough I cut off from one of the lopsided pieces. I made a cute little croissant with it. The apple braid smelled like fresh apple pie.
It was very tempting.

I love the golden color that the dough turns after it is baked.
All the braids had such a moist flakiness to them, and the fillings were super tasty.

Here was our dinner that night. The tasty pizza sausage braid, some fresh grapes, and a salad topped with cottage and mozzarella cheese with a tad of ranch.
When all is said and done I would say that this recipe is absolutely worth trying. I very much plan to do it again and experiment with different fillings and perhaps shapes too. Try making some traditional danishes. One of the great things about the danish dough is that you can make extra and freeze it for up to a month. It does take quite a bit of time to make the danish dough, but is not hard at all.
I thought mine tasted even better then what you get at the grocery bakery. David loved it and said it's probably his new second favorite dinner right below the stuffed acorn squash.

and here is the recipe for your enjoyment

Danish Braid:

For Your Consideration:

• This recipe calls for a standing mixer with fitted attachments, but it can easily be made without one. Ben says, "Do not fear if you don't own a standing mixer. I have been making puff pastry by hand for many years and the technique for Danish pastry is very similar and not too difficult." Look for the alternate directions in the recipe as appropriate.
Yard recommends the following:
• 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:

Proofing Temperature For Fresh Dough
(room temp) For Refrigerated Dough
Degrees F Degrees C
70 ~ 21 1-1/2 to 2 hrs. 2-1/2 to 3 hrs.
75 ~ 24 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hrs. 2 to 2-1/2 hrs.
80 ~ 27 1 to 1-1/4 hrs. 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.
85 ~ 29 45 min. to 1 hr. 1 to 1-1/2 hrs.
90 ~ 32 45 min. 1 hr.

• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.
• Ben on Cardamom: It can be very expensive as some stores, but if you have an Indian store nearby, it can be considerably less expensive than at your local grocery store. If you can't find it or it is still cost prohibitive, then you can use a substitute. Many people would say that there is no substitute for the unique flavor of cardamom and it is better to leave it out. But I've found out that combining cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in equal portions words pretty well. Of course, it doesn't come close to the cardamom taste, but it worked just fine for one of my test batches.
• Kelly's Two Cents: I had some green cardamom pods on hand and used 16, cracking and emptying the contents into a grinder to get the quantity called for in the recipe for the dough. The quantity barely put a dent in my 1 oz. bottle. If you don't have an Indian store near by, you may consider on-line spice retailers like … -and-black or
Yes, there's postage involved, but you'll have cardamom for many other
recipes for a fraction of the cost, even with postage.

Additional Resources:

Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There are a variety of filling recipes that work quite well for Danish Braid.

Danish Pastry technique on YouTube. … re=related Interesting general information on laminated dough (not specific to our recipe or Danish Braids). – 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. Great information.

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 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.

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.

ofing 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.