Sunday, June 29, 2008

FINALLY.......Danish! (June DB Challenge)

Okay finally I not only have my kitchen back, but I have time to bake. The past few weekends have been so busy with outside work to do, I haven't had any chance to bake anything. But I was determined to bake this weekend. And what did I bake? DANISH! Yes, actual homemade danish.
Crazy right? Danish falls into the laminated dough category. Laminated doughs contain 'butter blocks' and require turns and rests and are generally thought to be labor intensive. Well not so much. At least not to me. I guess labor intensive is relative. Anyway...time consuming? Yes, absolutely. Two days time consuming. So, why danish? Because it was the June challenge from the Daring Bakers. The Daring Bakers is the group I told you about when I made the Cheesecake Pops. Well, I'm finally a member. (Yea!) I actually signed up for the May challenge, but that's when the unexpected renovation in the kitchen occurred and I wasn't able to complete the challenge. And post date for the challenge is today, so I had to bake this weekend. This month's challenge was hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'? The recipe is "Danish Braid" from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking. I made an Almond Peach Danish and a Tart Cherry Cream Cheese Danish.

First up, the Almond Peach. I used the Almond Cream from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Lovely. There's no other way to describe it. It's super easy and super quick to put together. And you can use it in so many different desserts. The peaches...I used frozen. The fresh peaches at the grocery weren't ripe enough. I sauteed them, straight from the freezer, in a bit of butter. I added a sprinkle of cinnamon and drizzled honey to sweeten them a bit. And a little bit of cornstarch to thicken the juices. I'd give you measurements, but I didn't measure. I just winged it. Try it, it's fun. Anyway, I cooked all of that until it reduced and put it in a container to cool. I gotta say, the peach danish was my favorite. The almond with the peach was wonderful. And I drizzled more honey over the sliced almonds right before baking. Yum! My favorite primarily because I'm not a cherry lover. But also because it came off without a hitch....I wouldn't change a thing.

Next up, the Tart Cherry Cream Cheese. More winging it....which may have been the problem. Hey, I just said it was fun, I didn't say it always worked out. So, I saw a basic cream cheese filling recipe on the DB site and I checked out more from various other sites. All were basically the same: cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla. Well, I only used one package of cream cheese, which wasn't nearly enough I don't think. The filling never really thickened up even after sitting in the fridge overnight. So, it was a bit runny and I couldn't use a bunch of it or it would've just oozed out. As you can see from the picture you can't really see any cream cheese. I think it soaked into the dough, or just mixed with the cherry filling. Live and learn. For the cherry filling I used a bag of frozen, unsweetened tart cherries. I threw those into a saucepan with a splash of orange juice (lots of pulp, mmm), about a half cup of sugar, a sprinkle of cornstarch and a bit of almond extract. After that cooked down over medium heat and thickened I added a bit more sugar at the suggestion of Mark. I could've added more, given the final product. The idea was that we wanted to keep the cherries tart, because we would have a cream cheese layer that was sweetened as well. And we didn't want it all to be too sweet. But since the cream cheese layer all but disappeared, the tart cherries seemed a bit too tart. But that's where the icing comes in. After cutting into the danish and tasting, I added a simple powdered sugar icing to get that sweetness to balance the tart. I know I nitpicked this one, but after all is said and done, it was very tasty. It's dough, and cherries and can't really go wrong with that.

This has been a very long post, but I'm not done yet. There's just so much to talk about this challenge. So, I've been yammering on about the fillings. But the star of this challenge is the dough. As I said earlier, danish is a laminated dough. This is my first time trying a laminated dough. Like others, I think I stayed away because I thought it would be too much work. And again, it was time consuming, but I didn't think it was too difficult. I did have the help of a standing mixer, but others did it by hand. Now, could be that this Sherry Yard recipe is just a winner and other recipes are kinda difficult. When I get another two days to spend on something like this, maybe I'll try another recipe and compare. But until then, I will enjoy the fact that I just made danish y'all! And it was layered and flaky and tender and just all around yummy. It smelled like a real bakery in here. I imagine if I had used the cardamom the recipe called for (I didn't) it would've smelled even more heavenly. But what can I say, cardamom is very expensive and I'm not too sure what it even tastes like. But Mark gave me the impression that I wouldn't like it, so I left it out, which was allowed in the challenge. Again, after all is said and done, it was tasty, even without cardamom. So, here are the recipes and a few more pictures. Don't let the lengthy instructions scare you away. Read through it and you'll realize it's not that daunting. Just take it all step by step and you'll soon have homemade danish too!


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 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough
2 cups filling, jam, or preserves

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.


Lorrie said...

peaches, almond cream, really good ideas it looks so delicious.

Speedbump Kitchen said...

Congratulations on a completed challenge! I almost skipped the cardamom too until I found a handful of whole pods in my "stinky spice box" (so named because stinky spices like curry and cloves go in there and I put them far away in the laundry room). They are really pungent when first ground, but the final product was nice and mild..although I only used half the amount.

Ben said...

That tart cherry cream cheese sounds so GOOOD! Thank you for baking with us :)

Melikay said...

Anj..this looks soooo amazing! I will definitely have to give this one a try!


breadchick said...

Well done on your challenge. I especially love the tart cherry filling.

Jj said...

The Danish braid sounds wonderful - and very versatile, thanks!

Debyi said...

Your braid fillings sound delicious and your braid looks so good! Great job!