Daring Bakers June Challenge: Danish Braid

This month marked my initiation into the Daring Bakers clan and this month’s challenge turned out to be, for me, a bit of a baptism by fire. June’s challenge was to make a Danish Braid (filled with your choice of filling) and it was hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking?. When I saw what the challenge was going to be for my first month I was a little scared to tell you the truth and I had to keep reminding myself that Daring Bakers is all about leaving your comfort zone and making things you wouldn’t normally make. The Danish Braid could have any filling you wanted really, but since this was my first challenge I stuck with the apple filling that came with the recipe because I was scared I’d stuff it up. 🙂

Kneading the Dough

The dough itself was fairly easy to make although I don’t own a stand mixer so I just had to make it the old fashioned way with my fingers. That was alright but there were a few mishaps during the mixing with the liquid escaping and running all over the kitchen bench and me having to build little flour walls to stop it. The only complaint I have about the dough is the fact that you have to chill it for 30 minutes between each turn and for 5 hours (or overnight) after the final turn….but that’s only because I’m really impatient and I kept checking the time constantly when it was in the fridge. Spreading the beurrage onto the dough was another tricky bit as it got everywhere, especially when I was rolling it after it had been folded together for the first time. It kept bursting out of the dough, but that was ok because I just scraped it up and dumped it back on top of it again.

I put the waiting to good use though and I made the apple A fireman leaping into action!filling while I was waiting for the dough to chill. But then something really exciting happened and one of the houses behind my parents house (where I was making the braid) set on fire! So the braid was abandoned and me and my sister ran to watch the firemen. The place was completely gutted and there was a car on the lawn so apparently the firemen were worried there was someone in there but it was alright. Although, according to the news, there is a man missing.

Anyway, back to the baking. Once the dough had chilled for five hours it was time to get it out of the fridge and roll it out again into a big rectangle. That took a while and my arms were sore after all the kneading and rolling but that’s more to do with me being lazy and not exercising than it is to do with the dough. The dough was lovely and very well behaved. Once I’d got it into a big rectangle, I cut it into two smaller ones since I had decided to make two smaller braids – one for my parents and one for me and Michael.

Then it was time for cutting and filling the braid. This part was definitely the easiest bit of the whole thing since it was just making sure there was the same amount of strips on each side and dumping a whole lot of apple and cinnamon filling in the middle. The actual braiding was a little more difficult as I couldn’t quite keep the whole thing together and it kept unfurling whenever I turned my back. So after wrestling with it for a while I gave up and started on the second braid….which actually turned out worse since I made the cuts too long and it didn’t give a solid base for the filling but it’s alright. The first one turned out ok. The recipe was fairly easy to follow and I think I’ll be trying it again at some point.

There are heaps of sexy looking braids out there and I advise you to go check them out! Either click around on the blogroll or just try a google search. I am particularly fond of Fanny’s Danish Braid with Vanilla Custard and chocolate chips over at foodbeam. I think I might have to give that one a try next time I do this. 🙂

Recipe:

Danish Dough:

Makes 2 1/2 pounds of dough

For the dough (detrempe):

1 ounce of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast

1/2 cup of whole milk

1/3 cup of sugar

Zest of one orange, finely grated

3/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom (I left this out since I’m not really a fan of it but it’s up to you)

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1/2 a vanilla bean, split and scraped

2 large eggs, chilled

1/4 cup of fresh orange juice

3 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of salt

For the butter block (Beurrage):

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup of 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.

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.

Happy Braiding! 🙂

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June 30, 2008. Tags: , , , . Baking, Daring Bakers, June.

8 Comments

  1. madcapCupcake replied:

    Looks delicious 🙂

  2. boringhistorygirl replied:

    i love a recipe that involves firemen. mmmmmmm…. firemen!

  3. fanny replied:

    thank you so much for the heads up. your braid looks so beautiful; with a delicious golden hue.

    xx fanny

  4. City the NZCQ replied:

    awesome, it looks yummy! You’re a braver baker than me! I’m yet to give a Daring Bakers Challenge a go but maybe I should stop being such a wussy!

  5. Ben replied:

    Welcome to the clan! You did a great job and your pics look delicious. Thank you for baking with us 🙂

  6. Lisa replied:

    I have apron envy. Welcome to the group 🙂

  7. shellyfish replied:

    Welcome to the DBers- and what a cooking adventure! You braid looks lovely, and I too love your apron!

  8. Debyi replied:

    Your braid looks delicious! Wow, what an exciting day of braid making. Great job.

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