This months Daring Bakers Challenge of a Danish Braid has been my favourite so far. I love love loved it!!!!! We made danish pastry which was something I had never done before and it was fantastically exciting to watch it take shape and then produce something as delicious as an apple strudel inspired danish braid. I also made fresh croissants which my husband was VERY excited about and croissants are one of my favourite foods all fresh and warm from the oven with a wonderful flakiness and the scent of cardamom and orange wafting through the house on the warm breeze (sounds all tropical doesn't it, not near it though just a day of no rain but no summer sunshine here in the Emerald Isle).
I made a couple of changes to the recipe to make it my own but not straying too far from the original so here they are:
- I used 2 medium eggs and 1 egg yolk instead of 2 large eggs
- I added a whole tsp of cardamom as I love it so much I just couldn't help myself
- I had no vanilla pods so I just used the vanilla extract
- I needed to add at least another 1/2 cup of flour as my dough was super sticky, this may have been due to the changing of the eggs but it all worked out fine in the end and the dough was a dream to work with
- I added All Spice to my apple filling as opposed to cinnamon and vanilla, for those of you who don't have All Spice as I'm not sure it it's an Irish thing or an international/european thing it's a pre-blended mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves
- I also added 125g sultanas to my apple mixture.
- I used a sugar almond crunch on top of my braid as my husband thinks he "doesn't like" nuts but I use them all the time without telling him and he never leaves anything behind!!!
I made my braid with the aid of the wonderful photos from Comida De Mama and found them extremely helpful in pointing me in the right direction in terms of tucking in the end etc, the YouTube video that Kelly posted was also very helpful in terms of advice in keeping the dough rectangular etc.
The pastry was in a word - Divine, I love cardamom and it gave the dough (and the kitchen) the most amazing scent. I think my pastry cooked very well and was flaky and not too crispy and I could really see the layers which was pretty impressive (I thought anyway).
Thank you so much to Kelly and Ben for hosting this months challenge, it's been the most enjoyable and most challenging challenge for me so far and I loved every single second of this, I will definitely be making this again as it's such a versatile dough and I even have the leftovers defrosting down stairs at the moment for todays dessert.
Just to advise you, I have kitchen measuring cups and use them anytime the recipe says cups, apologies to anyone who doesn't have these to hand but as far as I know there's 8 ounces in 1 cup and I'd go with this, so after all that here's the recipe:
Danish Braid inspired by 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.
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.
Also make sure you check out the other Daring Bakers challenges on the Daring Baker Blogroll here
*Update*: I also made my version of mille feuille using the very end of my pastry, filled with a lemon curd cream (using the recipe from here with the juice of 2 lemons and the zest of 1), sweetened with 1 tbsp honey and whipped and as many strawberries as I could fit in, in a word DIVINE!!!