June Daring Bakers Challenge!

This month’s challenge was to make a danish braid. A little bit more straightforward than last month’s Opera Cake, but still a challenge as not only does making a danish require making a dough similar in process to a puff pastry, it’s also a yeast dough. Yeast seems to scare quite a few people. But not me. What scares me is my Kitchen Aid dough hook. Now I love my pink lady and, in the past, I have said I would more than happily run away with it if only it would ask me. But I would definitely make it choose – it could have me or the dough hook. Not both. When I use the dough hook, my dough always, always comes out tough and then proceeds to not rise. So I was a little wary of doing this the easy way.

But let’s face it, those of you who know me, know I’m all about doing things the easy way. 😉

And it worked! The dough was very tough to begin with and I wasn’t sure that my mixer was actually strong enough to keep going, but I thought ‘I always worry that I’m over-dough-hooking the dough, maybe I’m under-dough-hooking the dough’ and let it go on its merry way. Now I won’t say that the dough did not seem a little on the tough side, but in the end, whatever I did worked.

The recipe we were given made enough danish dough for two braids, so I went with a cherry filling (with a cream cheese filling that I forgot to take a picture of):

and the apple filling provided in the recipe (along with an almond pastry cream which I again neglected to take a picture of):

Then you roll out the dough, put your fillings in the middle, cut the edges into strips, and braid away!

Then they sit for TWO HOURS to rise (I don’t know how anybody actually manages to make this for breakfast).

(That’s before the rise on the left and after on the right.) Then into the oven for about a half an hour apiece. The cherry-filled one ended up being less aesthetically pleasing than the apple one – I think I cut the strips on the left side a little bit narrower than those on the right and they sort of expanded and pulled apart a little bit during baking. But it still tastes yummy!

And now a couple of close-up… The cherry and cream cheese braid:

And the apple and almond pastry cream braid:

We’ll see how well they hold up. Right now they are terribly delicious – maybe even one of my best kitchen creations – they’re just a bit warm, the outside is a little bit crunchy, and the inside is chewy and sweet. Yum!

The only drawback is that it did take me three days to make it. I made the dough on Friday, the fillings on Saturday, and then put everything together and baked on Sunday. That and I now have rather an abundance of apple filling, cherry filling, pastry cream, and cream cheese filling. I haven’t quite decided how to use it up yet – more danish? Pies? Something else?

This challenge was really fun and I’m very, very proud of the way the braids turned out. Even though it was time-consuming, I would definitely make it again, although it does require planning ahead. Again, click on the Daring Bakers logo up at the top of this post to go to the master blogroll of participants to see what everybody else has been baking up!

ETA: Having made a lackluster version of this using a dough recipe from Martha Stewart (in an attempt to use up the rest of the fillings), I feel obligated to post the far superior Daring Bakers version…


DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients
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

DOUGH
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.

BUTTER BLOCK
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.

APPLE FILLING
Makes enough for two braids

Ingredients
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.

ALMOND PASTRY CREAM
From the Joy of Baking
1 1/4 cups soy milk
A healthy splash of vanilla
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
Scant 3 tablespoons cornstarch
A healthy splash of almond extract

Mix the sugar and the egg yolks. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla on medium heat until boiling (though now that I think of it, since I used vanilla extract, I probably should have added it after this stage with the almond extract). Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling.

Place the egg mixture back in the saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture for another 30-60 seconds until it becomes very thick and hard to stir (this happened almost immediately for me).

Remove from heat and whisk in the almond extract. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap and let cool. If not using right away, refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Beat before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

CHERRY FILLING
From Diana’s Kitchen
2 cups fresh pitted cherries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cook 2 cups of fresh pitted cherries in 1/2 cup of water for 10 minutes. Mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add to cherries and cook until thickened.

CHEESE DANISH FILLING
From Barefoot Contessa via More Than Burnt Toast

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 T ricotta cheese (I used extra cream cheese)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 – 1 T grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
*************************
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese & sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and cream together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don’t whip!

DANISH BRAID
Makes enough for 2 large braids

Ingredients
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.

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11 thoughts on “June Daring Bakers Challenge!

  1. I’m happy this month’s challenge worked out well. Those braids look delicious.
    Yes, the braids tend to open up in the oven if the strips aren’t long enough.

  2. Your fillings look and sound sooo wonderfully yummy I wish I could have a piece of both of your braids!!! those cherries just look amazing!!!!
    Congratulations on a challenge VERY WELL done!!! ^_^

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