I have seen quite a few bloggers that are members of The Daring Bakers. Initially, I did not know what it was. Curiousity got the better of me and I found out that they(now we) are a group that bakes. There's a challenge every month to complete. This month's challenge was a Danish Pastry Braid.
I was excited when I received the email. But as I was reading the recipe, I started dreading it. I doubted myself. I have not baked such elaborate pastry before. Imagine, the pastry involved making it, put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then rolling and folding and back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. Repeat the last step another 3 times. Then back in the fridge for 5 hours. Then rolling it and make the braid and other pastries. Then proof it for 2 hours before baking. But I suppose that is why it is call a challenge. And I suppose I'll learn something new. Da..da..da.. always look at the bright side of life da..da..da.
As it turns out, I surprised myself. The braid turned out delicious and no drama making the pastry except the long process.
The challenge was to make a braid which is I filled with apple filling. Then with the rest of the pastry I made a assorted Danish Pastry. The other two fillings are custard and black sesame seed paste. They are all delicious.
This is the recipe (you have been warned):-
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 or 225 grams) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1. Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.
2. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.
3. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
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 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.
3. Spread the butter evenly over two thirds of the dough, the left side (ie 12 x 13 inches). Fold the left dough 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. The dough now measures roughly 6 x 13 inches.
4. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 more times but without the butter. The 6 x 13 inches dough should be rolled to 18 x 13 inches dough. So the width becomes the length. After every rolling and folding, the dough has to be refrigerated for 30 minutes.
6. 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, I used granny smith
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
1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes.
2. Then add the all the other ingredients 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.
3. 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.
Be patient if you want to try this recipe.