I swear I’ll do it every month and every month I still find myself daringly baking away through the last week prior to posting. Maybe just a bad habit I guess, but these challenges continue to challenge themselves and the time they are taking to complete. All fine and good if I’d not been away leaving me, to my surprise, without many of the key ingredients, like say, um, flour.
Getting my elbows deep in to the pastry for the Danish Braid challenge hosted up by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’?, I realized I had to make a decision between the dribble of milk in my morning coffee or in the dough. Also, I didn’t have an orange, and had to sift out the bran from my whole wheat to make up for the other 2 cups of that missing flour. Brilliant.
Day two into the challenge I had to finally decide on a filling for the Danish Braid. Thankfully I’d had a general idea, which my pantry was able to make up for with the ingredients I had on hand. Since I’d never made a Danish Braid, I wanted to read up on what might be a classic filling and pair with something seasonal.
I went for a frangipane with fresh raspberries. At first I was thinking of childhood memories and thought that an almond based custard might be not quite my speed but when I blitzed it up and taste tested it, I had to keep reminding myself of the raw egg in the mix to keep my fingers out of the bowl.
To proof my braided dough faster, I covered it and put it into the shade of the muggy summer day. I baked and rotated leaving my house to smell like a hot buttery heaven. The pools of melted butter under the golden braid urged me to eagerly lift the pan from the heat of the oven. I photographed to resist the temptation of diving in, getting my fingers burned and brew a fresh cup of coffee.
Excitedly, I chose my props; plates, napkin and garnish. I sliced in to set up my next set of shots and my coffee break – only to find a gooey, yeasty dough waiting, unbaked surrounding the almond and berry filling. I thought I’d read the method wrong, but no. I thought it could have been my substitutions or my choice of filling, but I’d noticed others had softly filled their braids before me… Back to the pseudo drawing board and into the oven, tented in foil, it went again.
Time consuming, yes but it’s given my promise and a glimpse in to the flaky world of croissants and other puff pastries. Plus it was just in time to greet my Mom who was getting out of the hospital and sick of bad food.
(Full of substitutions)
For the dough (Detrempe):
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk, I only had 1%
1/3 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange, finely grated, optional – I skipped it.
3/4 tsp ground cardamom, optional – at least in my case
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, you guessed it – I didn’t have one
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice, optional – I replaced it with more milk
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup All Purpose & 2-1/2 cups well sifted whole wheat
1 tsp salt
For the butter block (Beurrage):
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, mine was organic goat butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
For the egg wash:
1 large egg, well beaten
To make the dough:
Combine yeast and milk in a bowl of a stand mixer on low speed or a with a whisk.
Add sugar, vanilla extract, (orange zest, orange juice cardamom, vanilla seeds, if using) and eggs; mixing well.
Sift flours and add in batches, along with the salt.
When the ingredients have been incorporated, knead the dough until it becomes smooth, around 5 to 7 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is sticky.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To make the butter block:
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.
After the detrempe (dough) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Spray cooking oil 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.
Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400°F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
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°F, (I didn’t & left it at 400ºF) and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. (Check the center for doneness and return, rotated for another 5 minutes, tented in foil, if necessary.)
Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.