Sunday 29 June 2008

Daring Bakers June Challenge – Danish Braid

This months challenge was chosen by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking? I was excited to see they chose “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking, as Danish pastry is something I have always wanted to try making but never got round to. The unusual thing about Danish pastry compared to other types of pastry is that it involves yeast, which gives the pastries their lovely taste and texture.

The pastry recipe we were given makes quite a large amount and we were instructed to use half of it to make a large Danish Braid and the other half we were allowed to use as we wished. I decided to make lots of little individual pastries.

The pastry was slightly sticky but quite easy to work with. It involves rolling out and layering with lots of slivers of butter before folding up, rolling together and repeating a number of times to produce lots of thin buttery layers similar to those of puff pastry. The original recipe used orange zest and cardamom as flavourings but I substituted these for lemon and mixed spice which I feel go with a wider assortment of fillings. The dough smelt amazing while I was working with it, similar to hot cross buns.
For the braid I chose to use a stewed apple filling with a generous dusting of ground cinnamon underneath which in my opinion are a match made in heaven! I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to produce the braided effect, the yeast in the pastry made it quite elastic which prevented it from tearing which was a great help.

Once baked it was golden brown in colour with a crisp, slightly flakey pastry and a sweet apple filling. I had a big slice with custard for dessert that evening and it was delicious. The following day the pastry had softened slightly, but I found warming it in the oven helped crisp it up again.

Danish Pastry
Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
For the pastry (Detrempe)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
110ml whole milk
70g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon mixed spice
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs
55ml fresh lemon juice
375g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
200g cold unsalted butter
30g plain flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, lemon zest, mixed spice, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and lemon 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, lemon zest, mixed sppice, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and lemon 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
2 cooking apples, peeled and chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
1. Peel and finely dice the apples. Squeeze the juice form ½ lemon and add to a pan along with the water and sugar.
2. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until the apple has gone completely soft and all liquid has evaporated.

Danish Braid
Makes enough for 2 large braids or 1 braid and lots of individual pastries.
1 recipe Danish Dough
Apple filling, jam, or preserves
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 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/200C. 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/180C, 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.

With the remaining pastry I decided to experiment with lots of different individually shaped pastries.
The Claw
This is a very simply pastry to make. You have to roll out a small square or circle of pastry and then spread you filling of choice (I used jam) over one half. Then fold the over half over the top, sealing the filling inside. Then make cuts about an inch apart, half way up the height of the pastry. Gently push the pastry in an arc, as if you are trying to make it into a smiley face, to separate the cuts. Brush with egg wash and bake as normal.
The Kite
Cut out a square of pastry and then cut a thin line, 1cm in from the edge, to make a right angle shape, making sure to leave to opposite points still joined. (see photo). Brush the edges with egg wash. Pick up the top left ‘A’ strip and fold it down onto the bottom right hand corner. Then fold the bottom ‘B’ strip up to the top left hand corner. You should now have a box shape with a border with a little twist as opposite ends. Fill the ‘box’ with your filling of choice and bake as normal. I used custard and fresh cherries.

The Crescent
Cut a circle from the pastry and cut in half to produce 4 triangles. Take 1 triangle, spread the surface with jam and arrange a line of filling along the wider. Take the rim of the wider edge, pull it up and over the filling and then roll up towards the point. Bend the pastry slightly to form a crescent, brush with egg wash and bake. I used raspberry jam on the base and then a mix of ground almonds and desiccated coconut as the filling. This was a wonderful combination and made them taste like a Bakewell tart.

The Pinweel
Cut out a circle of pastry and then place your filling in the very centre of the dough. Make 4 cuts in the dough, from the edge right up to the filling to produce 4 triangle-ish shapes. Take the edge point of each triangle and fold it into the centre, over the filling to form a sort of windmill shape. Brush with egg wash and bake. I used a dollop of nutella as my filling.

Roll out a large square of pastry. Cut the square in half to produce 2 rectangles. Brush one rectangle with a little syrup or jam and then scatter over some chopped fruits or nuts. Lay the remaining pastry rectangle over the top like a sandwich and gently press down. Cut the ‘sandwich’ in half to produce two thinner strips. Take each end of the strips and gently twist. Bake as normal. I used maple syrup for the base and scattered over finely chopped pecans which went very well together.

You could use almost any filling you like for Danish Pastries as long as you think about how it will react over baking. For example, there’s no point trying to use custard in the twists as it will just ooze out but using it with the kite shape where there are edges to keep it in place is fine. The best thing to do is experiment and you can always eat the evidence of any less successful ones!


Beth (jamandcream) said...

You're braid looks so neat. I didn't do too badly for first challenge, but I wish I'd put sugar on the top like you did.

Peabody said...

How great that you showed all those shapes for others to try! Excellent idea!!!
They all look fantastic.

enza said...

for this challenge I halved my recipe and haven't leftover dough, but it will be a second time and I'll remember your tips.

Anonymous said...

Nice work with all those smaller shapes :)

Unknown said...

Ooh, I will have to try some of your other shapes. I particularly like the claw....

Jeanine - The Baking Beauties said...

Wow, love all the pictures, you did a wonderful job on this challenge!

Anonymous said...

Looks like you had a lot of fun! I was so exhausted by the time it came to cutting and baking I could only muster up 2 shapes.

Robyn said...

I love your little pastries!

Megan said...

Love the little pastry shapes. And Nutella aas a filling was brilliant. I will try that with my frozen piece!

Anonymous said...

i love your other pastry shapes, very creative!

Anonymous said...

Very nice job on this challenge. Your small pastries look fab too!

David T. Macknet said...

Wow! Your braid looks absolutely professional, and the little shapes are truly inventive!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous, Katie!

I love all the little pastries you've made. I wasn't sure whether you could re-roll little scraps of dough so never bothered trying them. Wish I had now.

zorra said...

Wow, you did quite a lot of differen pastries. Great!

glamah16 said...

Look at all those fabulous shapes. You really did a beautiful job. Your braid work is lovely.

Dolores said...

Your braid is beautiful, but what I love about your post is the pictorial tutorial on the other pastry shapes. Thanks for sharing that. Great job!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Great selection of pastries and good tutorial pictures!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post!

I wish I had tried to make pinwheels and bearclaws. And Nutella? Oh my...delish!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous job - all those little pastries look delish...and the braid is so nicely done :)

Anonymous said...

Your braid looks great. I love the variety of shapes you made. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Your braid looks great. I love the variety of shapes you made. Great job!

Elle said...

Your braid looks exactly how I wanted mine to look and now I know how it should have been created. Thanks for all the photos showing how to make the different danish pasteries...for the next time. Such gorgeous photos, too!

Joe said...

I love all of those shapes - very creative!

Liz said...

Your braid is very nice! The sugar on top is a nice addition. Thank you for sharing your pastry creations. I have never seen the kite before and will be sure to try it. Enjoy! Liz

PAT A BAKE said...

Your braid looks so lovely and neat. Im envious. And hanks for showing us how do do those tiny-shapes. You aew an awesome DB.

jasmine said...

Thanks so much for the step-by step photos in shaping.

Well done--your treats look so lovely.


Anonymous said...

What a great idea - to show step-by-step instructions for forming all these different pastries! I'm sure a lot of people will find it very useful.

Deborah said...

The shaping tutorials are wonderful! I'll be coming back when I want to make this again. Wonderful job!!

Jen Yu said...

Well look at you! I LOVE the different forms you made with this challenge (and also the little annotations on how things are to be folded). Awesome :) I will have to give them a try when I make this recipe again. Gorgeous pastries you have there!

Anonymous said...

What variety! Gorgeous.

Elle said...

I love all of your little pastries! They're beautiful!

Unknown said...

That square one is so cool! Looks like you got more dough than I did...I dont think I could have made that much! Great job!

Gigi said...

Katie, I am truly impressed! Not only did you make a perfect braid but you made all those shapes with instructions! The fillings for your pastries sound divine!

Lunch Buckets said...

Very nice post! Luckily I have leftover dough to play with :)

Renee said...

I love all of your creations. Thanks for the pictures and the wonderful instructions.

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Love all the different shapes you made!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Katie as always I love your enthusiasm on these challenges. The braid and all the other creations look lovely!

Anonymous said...

That looks yummy. Love the instructions. Thank you.