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.


coco said...

Excellent looking Danish!

enza said...

I love your job!
a great one and I had a funny moment reading your amazing post

Robyn said...

Your post was hilarious! Too bad the store was out of stand mixers, I hope you asked for a rain check!

If it's any consolation, your Danishes looked great.

Megan said...

I love how your braid turned out!
I hate when stores are out of stock of something.

Lorrie said...

Your braid looks delicious. Your love/hate list is so funny!

Rigby said...

Your post is wonderful--although I'm sorry you had such a love/hate relationship with the dough. Everything you made came out lovely!

Natashya said...

They turned out a beautiful shade of brown. Look tasty too. I liked your hate/love set up. It reminds me of the Simpsons - that's good/that's bad - "the frogurt is also cursed".

bonnie said...

pastry cream~ yum.
great job!

All Things Jennifer said...

Nope not the only one without a standing mixer (waves!!!)

I like how you did the roundup. :)
I hate that you went to the store to buy a mixer and they were out!

The Food Duo: C + C Cooking Factory said...

Great post!! Your braids look great!

breadchick said...

I'd say even with the "wrong way fold", your danish looks very lovely indeed. Hope you got your stand mixer!

Angela said...

Your Danish look fantastic! I loved your post, too--very funny!

Angela@ A Spoonful of Sugar

Lucy said...

Looks amazing! and funny too!

MaryMary said...

Funny! And I love the chocolate drizzle...wish I'd thought of that. Cheers.

Natalie... said...

Hehe yes a very love/hate relationship! My fountain did the same as well I had to attempt to scoop everything up, I also dont have a stand mixer! It sucks doesnt it! I really need to buy one at some point.
Anyway your braids look gorgeous and I bet the pastry cream filling was delish!

Marye said...

O.k..well I LOVE it. Great job!

Jen Yu said...

Awww, I really like the way you posted this :) I'm really impressed with how lovely your braids turned out. They look delicious!

CookiePie said...

Great post! So funny and honest. Your braids and pastries came out beautiful - doesn't matter how you rolled them!

Anonymous said...

I adored your post! I'm glad I'm not the only one that goes through a love/hate relationship with my baking. Your danish looks fantastic though, so you can rest easy knowing that :)

Claire said...

Cute danuts! :-) I love them. Great job...despite the love/hate relationship!

Lauren said...

Yum, your braid looks amazing. I love the chocolate on top! (also, I don't have a stand mixer either, we will be okay.=D)

Lunch Buckets said...

I loved your post. I hated that you missed out on your stand mixer. I love that I have a stand mixer. I hate that I am too cheap to buy a 15 dollar dough hook for it.

ingegerd said...

its looking good!!yummy!

Andrea said...

Oh what a funny post! Your braids look great, especially with that chocolate drizzle. Yum!

Jigginjessica said...

Pastry creme and chocolate? I'm in! Great job!