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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - Danish Braid (1 Sweet & 1 Savory)

This month was a great challenge. I'd definitely say it's my second favorite, only rivaled by the Perfect Party Cake. I was extremely intimidated when I found out that the challenge involved making your own puff pastry... AND also using yeast. I'd never done either, and I had just recently seen the episode of Good Eats about puff pastry. Alton Brown made it clear that making your own puff pastry is a hassle. So, after reading the recipe about 10 times I finally mustered up enough courage to get started. I knew I didn't want to do the apple filling, and Bing cherries were on sale... How convenient! I looked up a recipe for cherry filling and made that 2 days ahead of time. It's supposed to be for pies, but if you drain off most of the liquid and pulse it in a food processor, it makes a great filling for the danish. The next day I got started on the dough, but not before reading other people's stories on the DB forum. A lot of people were saying that their dough was really sticky, their yeast wasn't activating, their braid wasn't rising... UH OH! I was really scared! But alas, my dough situation went smoothly. My only problem was that I had to add 1/4 cup more flour before I could knead the dough, because it was quite sticky. Here's the whole story of my Cherry Cheese Braid!
UPDATE: I used the 2nd half of my dough to make a savory Spinach & Feta Braid! Pictures and recipe are at the bottom! :)

Ingredients for the dough and the butter block.

Pouring the milk into the yeast.

Yeast mixture ready for flour to be added.

Adding flour 1 cup at a time.

It was REALLY sticky so I added 1/4 cup more flour.

Kneaded and ready to rest overnight in the fridge.

Butter mixture ready to go on the dough.

Butter spread onto the dough (This was tricky, I had to use my hands).

Folded in thirds for the 1st turn.

2nd turn.

By the 3rd turn, you could see butter through the thin layers of dough.

After the 4th turn, it stayed overnight in the fridge.

Rolled out, but nowhere near 15x20!

Cherry filling added.

Cream cheese filling on top.

The braiding was the most fun part! :)

The braid ready to be proofed.

After 2 hours, it's supposed to be doubled in volume... well... it wasn't.
But I threw it in the oven anyway.

My Cherry Cheese Braid is finally finished!

It's not very flaky...

But it's EXTREMELY delicious!!!

Thanks so much to Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’ for choosing a great recipe! My notes are in orange italics.

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough (Enough for TWO braids)

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (This is 1 packet + part of another packet)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated (omit)
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (omit)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (increase to 2 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped (omit)
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (substitute water)
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(water). 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 (I had to add 1/4 cup more). 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 (The butter stuck to the dough and was pulling the dough all over the floured surface. I had to use my fingers to smear the butter around). 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.

APPLE FILLING (I used cherry filling and cream cheese filling; Both recipes are right below this)
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.

CHERRY FILLING (recipe from cooksrecipes.com)
Makes enough for 1 braid; Can be made a few days in advance.

4 cups Bing cherries, rinsed, stemmed and pitted
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine cherries, sugar and lemon juice in a mixing bowl, stir and let sit for at least 6 hours, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Drain off and reserve cherry syrup.
Combine a small amount of syrup to cornstarch to make a paste, then whisk cornstarch paste back into syrup. Pour mixture into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sauce thickens (about 5 minutes). Stir in the drained cherries and almond extract. Cool, and store in sterilized, airtight jars or freeze in heavy freezer bags. (I kept mine in a glass bowl, covered with plastic wrap for 2 days before using it.)
(Before using in the braid, drain most of the liquid off the cherries (reserve liquid as a delicious topping on ice cream!), and pulse cherries in a food processor until desired consistency. I left mine kinda chunky.)

CREAM CHEESE FILLING (my own recipe)
Makes enough for 1 braid; Make right before you're ready to assemble the braid.

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 egg, separated
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put cream cheese, egg yolk, and sugar into a bowl and mix until well combined. Stir in vanilla. Save egg white to brush on top of the braid.

Divide your Danish dough into 2 equal sections. Save the other half for another braid or other Danish pastries.
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 (Mine was 1/4 inch thick, but a few inches smaller than 15x20). 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 (My cuts were less than 5 inches long). 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.
4. Whisk the egg white from the cream cheese filling and lightly brush it on the top of the braid. Sprinkle coarse sugar on top.

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 (Mine didn't double in volume, but it was very VERY soft 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 (Mine was very brown, but did not taste burned at all). 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.

Don't forget the savory Spinach & Feta Braid! My cousin, Stephanie C., and I created this with the 2nd half of the dough. Yeah, I know the dough had vanilla in it, but you could barely taste it. I think the proofing step did nothing for this braid. It didn't double in volume. It was exactly the same, but the dough was softer because it came up to room temp. However, while it was proofing, the spinach let out a lot of moisture, soaking the entire bottom of the braid in green spinach juice. No worries though! It came out very VERY tasty!

Filling recipe courtesy of Perfect Greek, A Collection Of Over 100 Essential Recipes from Parragon Publishing.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 lb 4 oz/1 kg fresh young spinach leaves, washed OR 1 lb 2 oz/500 g frozen spinach (We used 2 10 oz packages of frozen spinach. Make sure you drain it VERY well!)
4 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (from my herb garden! yay!)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (also from my herb garden!)
3 eggs, beaten
7 oz/200g authentic Greek feta cheese (We used an 8 oz package, but next time I think I'll use a bit more. Here's a tip to save $$: Look for feta cheese in the refrigerated case with the Kraft parmesan cheese and the Bertolli refrigerated products. It's A LOT cheaper than getting it in the case with the exotic cheeses!)
salt and pepper (We used about a pinch of each... NOT ENOUGH! I suggest using 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper)

1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, and fry until softened. Add the fresh spinach if using, with only the water clinging to the leaves after washing, or the frozen spinach and cook for 2-5 minutes, until just wilted. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2. When the mixture has cooled, add the parsley, dill, and eggs. Crumble in the cheese, season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Mixture is ready to be used in the braid!


JaySpice said...

Awesome. Looks good. My braid is still in the frige. I want to nom nom nom the spinach one.

Ann said...

Lovely braid!

Annina said...

looks do delicious! made my with an apple-cinnamon filling... but omg.. want a bite of your spinach one! will have to try this ... my one is resting for 2 hours before it goes to the oven! ;) greetings, ann

CookiePie said...

Ooooooh - these both look so good! I couldn't choose, I would have to have one of each!

Natalie... said...

This looks excellent! I bet your cherry filling was gorgeous :).

Sara said...

Yum, these look soooooo delicious!

Kimberly said...

Oh my gosh... those look so good! I wish I had a piece of the cherry one right now to go with my coffee. Yum!

Tanya said...

I'm totally in love with the spinach braid. That looks so delicious. My braid didn't double in volume either, but it still came out fantastic. Great job!

jillian said...

Your spinach and feta braid makes me wish that I had made a savory one too!

ingegerd said...

its look so yummy!!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

they look awesome! spinach and feta was an amazing idea, i'm sure--i'd look a piece of that!

Natashya said...

What a great idea to do one sweet and one savoury. I love both of them, good work!

Lorrie said...

both of your braids look so good! i love the spinach, great idea.

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Well done, looks good. I filled mine with cherries too. The savoury one looks delcious as well!

Harmony said...

Cherry and cream, yummy.

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

Beautiful braids! I see they got eaten pretty quickly.

Sandie said...

I like the spinach and feta tart, great job!

Patrizia said...

How dare you, my mouth is now watering like crazy!

giz said...

Both your fillings look really good to me. I wanted to try a savory but for some silly reason thought it would taste too sweet. The spinach one would make a fabulous lunch.

Susie Homemaker said...

how awesome! yours looks perfect, whether they are "flaky" or not... Great Job!
-Susan of http://doughmesstic.blogspot.com

Janna said...

I love the daring bakers. I am just not that daring...yet.
I love the idea of the spinach filled braid. Looks so tasty!

the southern hostess said...

This looks so good. Good call with the spinach and feta too. I bet it was wonderful! By the way, I have Cuisinart's ice cream maker. I've only used it twice, but so far I love it.

Anonymous said...

These look so good, I've never considered making my own puff pastery before but now I want to. A good way to get frozen spinach to drain is with a linen towel. Put the thawed spinach in the towel and wrap it up and wring it our like you would do with a wet towel. All the water will come out and the spinach will be safe inside the towel. It will temporarily turn your towel green though so make sure you don't use too nice of a one!

L.E.R said...

They both look so delicious! You should try one with an apple/poppy seed filling, that would be wonderful as well. Flaky or not, I would eat both the cherry and the spinach :)
-Lucie from http://bilingualbutter.blogspot.com

breadchick said...

I love all the sweet and savory combinations! Well done on this challenge!!

Tempered Woman said...

Mine wouldn't roll out that big either! I'm starting to think it was a conspiracy, uh huh.
I noticed in the directions that it didn't mention making sure the milk was warm enough to actually *activate* the yeast. I warmed the milk and let the yeast take some time to bubble after mixing. Then gradually fed it with sugar. This should help with getting the dough to rise.
I LOVE the spinach feta, that looks so freaking good. Wish I had made a savory, but maybe next time, right?

madcapcupcake said...

I love cherry, and I so wanted to try making a spinach savoury braid - they look absolutely delicious!

Rebecca said...

These fillings sound delicious! After seeing all the sweet braids, that spinach and feta is hitting the spot.

Gigi said...

Great job on your braids. The spinach looks delicious!

Pinky said...

Well they may not have been as flaky as you wanted, but both versions look super yummy!
Now I crave cherry danish...

dlb said...

goodness, these look like a lot of work, but the end result is fabulous! good job!

Jen Yu said...

Alright! Another savory braid! *high five* I love the savory ideas folks have done. This one sounds awesome. They both look terrific. Great job on your challenge :)

CookiePie said...

Both of your braids look great! I love the spinach and feta idea... and cherry-cheese is my all-time favorite Danish flavor -- yours looks especially delicious!

Sherry Trifle - Lovely Cats said...

Beautiful braid and delicious fillings.

Claire said...

That spinach one looks SO SO good! Great job!