Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

My 2nd round with the Daring Bakers.

Well I know this recipe is difficult and I saw a lot of people were having problems with it so I thought uh, oh maybe I should start now so if I screw it up I have time to try again before the posting day.

So I reach into the fridge to get the butter out to let it start to soften. The butter is towards the back of the shelf so I am reaching back to get it when my arm brushes against the orange juice. Well the orange juice bottle fell and the cap of the bottle broke and orange juice splattered everywhere. I mean everywhere. This is how my adventure started.

I cleaned up the mess and put the butter in the bowl of my stand mixer to soften. I add the flour and figure I'll let it sit until it softens. That's when I realized I could do that in another bowl and make the yeast dough in the mixer while the butter is softening. So I transfer it out and start the dough. That went relatively smoothly. I had cardamom seeds so I ground those up for this. My milk was a couple days past the sell by date but it smelled OK I guess. At that point I wasn't going to run out and get milk so I figured it would be fine.

I ended up needing close to a half a cup more flour than the recipe called for because the dough was uber sticky. I kept adding flour until it pulled away from the sides of the mixer, like any regular yeast dough. Hopefully that was the right thing to do.

The dough looked OK so I put it on a layer of plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to cool while I played with the butter. Nothing much exciting happened there. I got the dough out start rolling it out and to start laminating it. It resisted the rolling but I had 2 layers of plastic wrap so in the end I won. I put the butter on and did the first turn. It looks like a lot of butter.

It sat in the fridge for a half an hour and I did the next turn. The butter seeped out in a lot of places but yay for plastic wrap saving the day and I got all the butter to stay in somewhere. I did the 3rd turn and decided i needed to go to bed. I figured letting it firm up overnight might help the butter firm up more and make the 4th turn easier to keep the butter in.

I split the dough and went to roll it out to make the braid. It ended up ridiculously thin and I was still a few inches under the 15x20 they said. My pan is only 14x18 anyway so that's as far as I could go. With all the rolling the butter ended up softening up a bit so I put the whole thing back in the fridge before braiding. Well I tried to braid a bit and realized that was failing miserably so I stuck it in the fridge with the hopes that would help. It did. Yay I had a good idea and it actually worked.

So I finish braiding it. It's almost 9 at night on Thursday at which point I realize this isn't really a good stopping point because the elderberry jam that I decided was going to be my filling was starting to seep out between the strands of the braid. I was going to have to proof it and bake it that night.

The proofing is supposed to take 2 hours at 90 degrees and more if it is colder. While I was glad it wasn't 90 degrees in my apt for my comfort, this was not good for my braid, especially since I wanted to get to sleep not too late that night. I decided to proof it in the oven. I put the pan in the oven and turned the oven on at 150 for like 5 minutes. Then I turned the oven off and let it sit without opening the oven.

In hindsight that was a stupid idea. With all the butter and all that was in there it was a really stupid idea. This is the pool of butter it was sitting in when I opened up the oven an hour later. See? Not my brightest moment. And the pan and oven were still warm so obviously that 150 degree thing didn't work out so well.

Well everything was already in it so there was no point in tossing it now. I brushed some of the butter that seeped out onto the top, sprinkled with sugar and into the 400 degree oven it went.

So the butter and the jam seeped out horribly. It's not awful, just not like really good. The bottom ended up soaked in the butter and jam that seeped out which made it kinda hard and almost crisp-cookie like. The top still had some of that flaky doughy-ness to it, I think like the whole thing was supposed to.

The cardamom and orange flavors are very unique. They have a very distinc taste without being overpowering. Just sort of perfumey or something like that. I'll leave the flowery descriptions to people who do that stuff well.

Although I wasn't thrilled with it, apparently my coworkers were. I brought it in at 7:40, sent an email at 7:55 and the whole thing was gone at 8:10. I think they were excited about the elderberries.

So I used the rest of the dough to make 2 smaller braids. I learned, at least a little this time. I made another elderberry one and a cream cheese filled one. To roll it out, I dusted the surface with flour, which helped keep it from sticking too badly to the plastic wrap I had on it. Then pull the edge of the braid up enough to try to keep the filling in. That worked with the elderberry one, the cream cheese one... I hadn't learned yet.

The elderberry filling, again was just the elderberry jam. The cream cheese one I fudged the filling. I had some cream cheese. For some reason I had thought it was OK to freeze cream cheese... not so much. It was a bit grainy and runny but I figured it'll be inside the pastry (ha!) so as long as it tastes OK it'll be fine. I added some sugar and lemon juice and put it in the braid. It started seeping out pretty much right away but I thought, oh well, better that than the butter from my first attempt.

See the seepage? The elderberry one, on the otherhand looked pretty good.

Well I forgot the whole egg wash thing... again... but they still came out OK. I also forgot to sprinkle on the almonds I wanted on the cream cheese one... I thought of it as I set it on the cooling rack.

The elderberry one is kind of pretty, except the part where I realized the towel I was using to take the pan out of the oven was slightly damp.... One of these days I will learn not to dry my hands on the towel I am using to fish stuff out of the oven..... The cream cheese one will still taste good, hopefully...

Overall, I don't think this recipe is all that difficult... not any more difficult than my cinnamon buns, anyway. Sure there's some waiting and chilling of dough but there is always other stuff to do around the house when the dough is chilling.

Here is the original recipe... obviously I failed at following parts of it but I got the gist anyway.

“Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking


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.

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.


Ann said...

Awesome to have kept going like that! great results!

Fran Z said...

Good baking! Yes, the elderberry one looks yummy! The cheese prob tasted good!

Lorrie said...

you really did a great job, your danish looks so delicious. yay for not giving up, you should be really proud!

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Oh dear, I think we've all had days like that. The end ones look good though, well done.

Susie Homemaker said...

Oh that sucks about spilling the juice! What a Mess! I would probably have given up - but you didn'tand I think your results are just great!
-Susan of

Amy said...

Yes, I bet the cream cheese one will be good. I made one with CC and peaches and it was great

breadchick said...

That is the first Elderberry filling I've seen all day! Way to finish the challenge and well done!

Claire said...

I don't think you failed at's just the was things go sometimes! Looks great and your tasters obviously enjoyed it.