Sunday, June 29, 2008

June Daring Bakers Challenge-- Danish Braid

This month’s Daring Bakers recipe was chosen by Kelly and Ben. The challenging recipe they chose was for “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking cookbook.

I didn’t know it at first, but soon realized that I would have a Love/Hate relationship with this challenge.

I love that I have succeeded with my first two Daring Baker challenges and headed into this one thinking I would be just as victorious.

I hate that I was wrong.

I loved the recipe when I first read it…. It wasn’t too long, wasn’t too short, didn’t sound too confusing, nor did it call for ingredients that I would have a hard time finding.

I hate apple.

I love that I could choose a filling of my choice if I didn’t want to make apple.

I hate that I didn't choose two different fillings for my braids.

I love that the recipe has instructions for making it with a stand mixer and without a stand mixer.

I hate that I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t have a stand mixer.

I love that the stand mixer I had my eye on at the store was on sale the week I wanted to bake my challenge.

I hate that it was “out of stock” when I arrived at the store with cash-in-hand. (lame)

I love the fact that I’ve never minded kneading dough by hand.

I hate the fact that I know longer like kneading dough by hand after this challenge.

I love how I thought that my big center island countertop would work as my “work surface” when I made a fountain out of the sifted ingredients.

I hate how my fountain wasn’t deep enough and the liquid ingredients broke through the walls of my fountain and spread out in all directions faster than I could scrape it all back together.

I love that I thought to use tape on my counter to form a square the size I needed my dough to be to use as a guide as I rolled.

I hated rolling cold, hard dough to be the size I taped out onto my counter.

I loved the burn in my biceps as I rolled (and kneaded!).

I hated the burn in my biceps as I rolled (and kneaded!).

I loved finding an easy recipe for pastry cream.

I hated that my pastry cream had a few teeny tiny lumps in it that I couldn’t get out for the life of me.

I loved filling the dough and braiding it.

I hated that the part I was looking forward to the most took the least amount of time.

I loved the idea of making little Danish doughnuts (Danuts?) with the dough for the 2nd braid.

I hated that they were hard to fill and pinch and seal.

I loved the smell of it all while it was baking.

I hated that I made it around dinner time so the smell didn’t last for long.

I loved the look of the Danish and the Daunts (hehe) when I drizzled a little chocolate glaze over them.

I hated the citrus taste from the orange juice/zest (I wish I had left that out).

I love that this challenge is over!

(and now, one more thing I hate that I just realized looking at someone else‘s challenge photos….. I tri-folded my dough the wrong way… I folded the long sides… not the short sides. No wonder why mine kept getting longer and longer every time I did a turn!)

Here is the recipe with some pictures. I will also include the recipe for the pastry cream that I made and for the chocolate drizzle. Be sure to check out other challenge creations at the Daring Bakers Blogroll.


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


With a standing mixer:

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:
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. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain.

4. 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.

5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 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 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. (Cut your dough in half before refrigerating the dough the final time)

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

1. Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.

2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 to 8 minutes.

3. 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. )

4. 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.

(Putting it all together)
Makes enough for 2 large braids


1 recipe Danish Dough (see above)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see above)

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

My bigger braid didn't braid as neatly as it should have. There were a few gaps that I tried to cover by folding the flap over and up a tad-- I thought if the filling was exposed, it would ooze out. It wouldn't. I should have just braided it normal. :(

Egg Wash

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. 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.

4. 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.


I skipped the apple filling and used this pastry cream:

Pastry Cream


6 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup sugar
A vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
The yolks of 6 very fresh eggs
2 cups whole milk
A pinch of salt

Pastry Cream is not difficult to make, though it does require care and attention lest it curdle. It is suggested that you use a copper pot because it conducts heat better. Also noted is that the cream should be transferred to a bowl as soon as it's ready, because it will continue to cook in the pot.

The quantities given above can easily be expanded or reduced.

Set all but 1/2 cup of the milk to warm over a slow burner with the vanilla bean. In the meantime, lightly whisk the yolks in a bowl to break them. Strain the flour into the bowl, whisking gently, and making sure that no lumps form. Whisk in the sugar too, and then the remaining half cup of milk, keeping a wary eye for lumps.

By this time the milk on the stove will be about ready to boil. Fish out and discard the vanilla bean, and slowly whisk the milk into the egg-and-milk mixture. Return the cream to the pot and the pot to the fire, and continue cooking over a low flame, stirring gently, until it barely reaches a slow boil. Count to 120 while stirring constantly and it's done. (Note -- depending on your eggs and milk it may thicken to the proper consistency before it boils. If it reaches roughly the consistency of commercially prepared plain yogurt of the sort that will pour from the cup it's done).

Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool, gently stirring it often to keep a skin from forming across top.

Chocolate Drizzle

In a microwavable bowl, combine 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips with 2 tsp of shortening.

Heat on high for 45 seconds. Stir. Continue heating at 10 second intervals if needed, until smooth and creamy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Zebra Nipples

Okay, so that isn't the real name for these oh-so-yummy-and-even-easier-to-make treats. In fact, I don't even know the name of them.... my mom made them a few years ago at Christmas time and used red and green M&M's. I've been hooked ever since. The first time I made them, my husband looked at them and said they looked like Zebra Nipples. They have just sort of adopted that as their name! A friend of mine calls them Zebra Kisses. That's pretty cute and creative, too. And probably more appropriate for serving them to children, hehe.


Waffle weaved pretzels
1 bag of Hershey's Hugs (no nuts)
1 bag of plain M&M's (the seasonal ones are great for festive occasions)
Parchment paper


1. Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

2. Place waffle weave small pretzels on parchment paper (although regular and round ones work, too... I think the waffle weave is just for looks and kinda holds it all in).

3. Place one unwrapped Hershey's Hug on each pretzel.

4. Bake at 170 for about 4.5 minutes. Remove from oven and promptly place a holiday colored M&M on each Hug and squish down.

The baking time will vary. You don't want the Hug to just sink in at the tip when you push the M&M into it, you want the whole thing to ooze down, so it is kind of rounded... but not ooze off the pretzel, either.

5. Put the cookie sheet in the fridge for a bit to allow the candy to harden back up.

6. Enjoy!

****These freeze well if you stack them with wax/parchment paper between the layers****

****Try using different flavors of Kisses... I have a friend that loves them with the Candy Cane Kisses and another friend that loves them with the Chocolate Mint Kisses. With all of the variety's of Hershey's Kisses, you're bound to find a combination you love!****

Here are the Candy Cane Kisses made by my good friend Shiela last Christmas. Didn't they turn out cute? Of course, now my husband has named hers, too.... he thinks they look like blood-shot cartoon eyes!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


For the topping
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 cups 1-inch chunks fresh pineapple (about 1 pineapple)

For the cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk


Make the topping:
In a small bowl stir together well the butter and the brown sugar and spread the mixture evenly in a well-buttered 9- by 2-inch round cake pan. Pat the pineapple very dry between several thicknesses of paper towel and arrange it evenly on the sugar mixture.

Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the cinnamon.

In another bowl with an electric mixer cream the butter with the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture alternately in batches with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly, and bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, run a thin knife around the edge, and invert the cake onto a plate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cookie Bouquet

My son accidentally hit a neighbor-girl in the head with a baseball bat last night, giving her a nice shiner. Today we decided to bake her some cookies to help her feel a bit better. I just baked Nestle Toll House Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies and placed the dough rounds on a clean lollipop stick right on the cookie sheet, prior to baking.

While the cookies cooled, I wrapped some cute paper around an empty juice container. Then I placed a few decorative rocks and stuck a piece of floral foam inside the container. The rocks helped put some weight on the bottom of the "vase."

When the cookies were cooled, I wrapped some curly ribbon around each stick and pushed them into the foam.

I thought a cookie bouquet would be cuter to present to a little girl than just a plain plate of cookies. In fact, she loved it so much that when I gave it to her, she hugged it and kissed each cookie individually! (I guess that way she knew that nobody else would eat any!)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole (or Hotdish as we say in Minnesota)

This was a recipe I tried out for Father's Day. The recipe comes from my friend Robin. I changed the recipe to fit our needs quite a bit, so I'll include both recipes (mine is in green). It tasted pretty good... a lot less eggy than I thought it would be. The next time I make it, I'll use less potatoes so I get more eggness in it.
It certainly was nice waking up and having breakfast hot and ready!

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole

1 (28 oz.) Bag Ore-Ida Frozen Potatoes O'Brien, thawed slightly (I just used Southern Style Hash Browns-- I knew my kids wouldn't touch it if it had peppers in it and mine weren't slightly thawed)
1/2 Cup Diced Onion
1 Pound Lean Ham, diced ( I used 1 lb bacon, diced, uncooked)
2 Cups Fat Free Shredded Cheddar Cheese (Mine wasn't fat free... I don't believe in fat free... :) )
1 Cup Skim Milk (I used 1% milk)
3 Cups Egg Substitute (I substituted the substitute with 1 dozen real eggs)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper (this seemed like a lot... I used only 1/2 tsp and it still was peppery)

Spray crockpot with non-stick cooking spray.

You will make three layers. Place 1/3 of the potatoes into the bottom of the crockpot, followed by 1/3 of the onions, 1/3 of the ham and 1/3 of the cheese.

Repeat this step two more times ending with the layer of cheese.

Beat together the egg substitute, milk, salt and pepper; pour it over the layers in the crockpot.

Here it is when I first added all the ingredients. The egg is in there, too... but it can't be seen. I was worried about that, but it fluffed right up by morning.

Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours overnight.

Here it is in the morning when I woke up:

Cut into 8 wedges when ready to serve. (my five year old thought we were having birthday cake for breakfast!)

*I actually just placed a cutting board over the top of my crock pot and flipped it out onto that before slicing it. And I did originally cut it into 8 wedges, but they are HUGE wedges! So you can slice it even smaller and get at least 16 servings out of this.

I'll make it again but will use the potatoes that are requested next time. I think the Potatoes O'Brien would make it taste fantastic!

Sliced (imagine how pretty it would be if I had used the potatoes with peppers in it! Oh the colors!!) :

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Elephant Ears

Yum. If you like sugar and if you like pastries... this is your thing. These really do taste just like Elephant Ears you would get at a bakery, although they are more like baby elephant ears since they are much smaller. I think there is an entire jungle of earless elephants somewhere out there from what I've eaten tonight alone.... they are so good and dangerously easy.

What you need:

Puff pastry
Granulated sugar
Parchment paper

What you do:

1. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of sugar over your workstation. Roll out the puff pastry to about 10X12 inches. Sprinkle another 1/4 cup of sugar (and spices if using) over the dough.

2. Roll up the left vertical side inward, stopping in the middle of the dough. Roll up the right side of the dough. The two rolls should be meeting at the middle and touching. Press the two sides together gently and let the dough chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Repeat with any more puff pastry you may have.

3. Starting at one end, cut off pieces of the log, in slices about 1/2 inch in thickness. Lightly sprinkle sugar onto each side. Pinch and press the sides of the two rolls together to ensure that they don't unroll during baking. Place on large parchment lined baking sheets, or a baking sheet lined with a Silpat. They will increase size dramatically, so leave plenty of room between each cookie and only bake a dozen at a time.

4. Set the tray in the middle of the oven. Bake at 400° for about 10-15 minutes or until the sugar has caramelized. Allow them to cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Mosaic Table

I tried my hand at creating a mosaic table top with some plates that I had that were chipped around the edges. They were a Christmas gift to me from my brother-in-law one year and seeing that he came up with the gift idea and went out on his own and selected a pattern, I couldn't just toss them out as they became tattered and worn. So I decided to try to preserve them by gluing them haphazardly to a table.

I found this tutitorial handy, but sort of went on my own as well.

What you need:

A table
80-grit sandpaper
Glass plates
A hammer
A big towel
Tile grout
A sponge
A trowel
Construction adhesive (I used something my neighbor had... PS200 something or other... I'll find out the exact name, but it was used to adhere flooring or something)

What I did:

1. Scuff up the table with sandpaper. This will help adhere the pieces to the table.

2. In an area that can be swept up easily (I went outside), lay a towel on the ground. Place a plate on one half of the towel and cover with the other half of the towel.

3. Use the hammer to break the dishes into small workable pieces. You can use a tile cutter as well, but I didn't.

* I did find that if I wanted to break a particular piece at a certain point, I would place the piece over the cracks in a sidewalk and would then gently hammer it until it broke. (you know, those cracks in sidewalks that are cut intentionally to allow for contracting and stuff?)

4. Sand down any sharp edges (I really didn't do this part.... I figured the grout would cover it).

5. Start placing the pieces onto the table, trying various patterns, finding where the pieces can fit together, but still leaving about 1/4 inch between the pieces.

6. Begin to glue the pieces to the table with the construction adhesive, working with just a few pieces at a time. I just used a toothpick to dab a little dot of glue on the bottom of each piece.

* The instructions I linked above say to lay it all out on a piece of paper first, and I started to do that and quickly realized I would never get the pieces transferred to the table in the exact same pattern, so I just worked out the pattern in little blocks right there on the actual table itself. I would lay about 10 pieces down and then would go back and glue them. Then I would lay 10 more down, and so on and so on. The picture below is actually one I took as I was piecing them together before moving to the table.

7. I found working in a ring worked best, rather than working from one side to the other.

8. Mix sanded grout according to the label instructions. Using the trowel, spread the grout over the table evenly—filling the spaces between the tiles. (I didn't get a picture here because this part was sort of messy and I didn't want to stop and take a picture and have the grout start setting up before I was done! But it's as easy as it sounds... mix up grout and spread over table. Done.)

9. Using a damp sponge, wipe off any excess grout. Wait for a cloudy haze to cover the plates, and then wipe again. Buff the plate pieces with a dry cloth.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Seed Shapes

We grew some alfalfa from seeds without using any dirt. It's great for adding to salads-- it has sort of a sweet pea taste. The kids didn't care about eating it, but loved growing it.

What you need:

Paper towels
A plate
Cookie Cutters
A bowl of water
Cress or Alfalfa seeds

What you do:

1. Pile 10 paper towels onto a large flat plate or a plastic tray.

2. Using a spoon, put water on the paper towels until they are soaking wet.

3. Lay some cookie cutters on the towels and spread them out.

4. Carefully sprinkle lots of cress or alfalfa into each shape.

5. Spread the seeds to fill each shape. Hold the cutter as you do it.

6. Lift the cutters off the towel. Put the plate in a light place (but not directly in front of a window).

7. Using a spoon, water around the seeds carefully every day. Don't put water on the seeds.

8. When the plants are as long as your little finger, you can cut them and eat them.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Best Ever Banana Bread

This is another recipe from my dear friend Gretchen. She shared this recipe a couple of years ago and I've never made any other recipe since. Sometimes I use a bundt pan to make it and sometimes I use 2 loaf pans. It just depends on how I'm feeling on that particular day.


1 cup mashed bananas (I used 3 medium bananas)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1 1/3 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 9x13 inch pan, or two 7x3 inch loaf pans*.

Combine banana and sour cream. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and banana mixture. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; stir into the banana mixture.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan or pans.

Bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

*I used a bundt pan, and greased it, then dusted with cinnamon and sugar. It made the crust DIVINE.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

End of the Year Teacher Appreciation Gift

This is what we are giving my daughter's teacher on the last day of school. Just a little token to say thank you.

It's just a cute little tin pail I got in the dollar section of Target, filled with new pens and highlighters and #2 pencils and some Crayola markers tucked in back. Also tucked in there is a gift card to Office Max. On the front, I stuck a few Marble Magnets that we made a few weeks ago. I twisted some pipe cleaners around a few of the pencils and glued on some googly eyes to make it even more whimsical.

Super easy and super cheap and I'm sure it'll be super appreciated come next school year!