Saturday, January 10, 2009

Daring Bakers - June '08 Challenge!

OK, this is another Daring Bakers challenge that I did not post in time. Actually, the more I think back, the reason it didn't post in time was because I made it after the deadline for the posting date. Better late than never, I always say (of course, I think this is beginning to be the story of my life, so maybe I could consider turning over a new leaf in 2009)!! Our June challenge, hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking?, was to make a Danish braid. Our requirements was that we make at least one braid, and then we could go into other shapes and flavors if desired.

This recipe does have a lot of steps, and to try and make this when you are short on time or skimp on what you're supposed to do would be setting yourself up for certain disaster. However, aside from that, nothing was hard; I really enjoyed making it! The results were heavenly.

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

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 flour1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage):
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DOUGH/DETREMPE: 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.

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

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.

After rolling out and cutting into 3 sections - 2 braids & 1 piece to play with

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:
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

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.

Proofing - like my one straight braid and the one that wanted to go free-form? :D

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.

Lemon curd Danish braid

Apple Danish braid with almonds


The apple filling was awesome. On the second braid, I used a lemon curd recipe that I had sitting around -- been thinking, 'It's cool, but what would I use it for?' AHA! I'm just gonna say, I could have eaten that freakin' curd by itself without sharing. It was a lot easier than I'd thought it would be, and one day I'd love to use blood oranges, Meyer lemons, or grapefruit and see how that turns out. Here is the recipe:

Lemon Curd:
Makes about 2 cups (500 g)

4 lemons, preferably untreated, organically grown (I just scrubbed the hell out of mine)
1/2 c. (125 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 1/4 c. (250 g) superfine sugar (Used regular white sugar and all was well)
4 eggs
Grate the zest of each lemon and squeeze the juice into a heatproof bowl.

I love my microplane but am always paranoid that I'll end up shredding my knuckles on it

Add the butter and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Stir in the sugar gradually, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

LOVE my new camera we got this summer - look at those grains of sugar popping out in HD!

Place the eggs in a large saucepan

and beat.

Strain the sugar mixture into the pan with the eggs.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly; do not boil.

Remove from heat when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

For storing -- when cool, pour into sterilized jars and seal (or just take the extra and eat it with a spoon and don't worry about it).


I halved each of the two braids, kept one-half of each at home, and took the other two halves to work. Everybody loved it! One of my coworkers said she was going to commission me to make one for her. LOL I'll definitely make it again. Thanks, Kelly and Ben! :)

Daring Bakers - September '08 Challenge!

OK, I really have been doing a few things over the last few months.... Among other things, Hubby took the camera off to the deer camp before I could unload my pics from the memory card, and now that deer season's over I had him get it out of his truck so that I could actually PUBLISH THESE BLOG POSTS.

So as you can see, this is coming out quite tardily and, although I guess I can't prove it, I was not late in actually DOING the challenge. Whatev's. I'm just glad that I actually typed this up in September, because then all I needed to do was make a few changes and add my pics. And there is NO freaking way on God's earth that I could have remembered all the details 4 months later....

Anyway, the September challenge was something really cool and, to me, totally unexpected: Lavash Crackers! Our honorable September Hosts were Natalie from Gluten a Go Go and Shel from Musings From the Fishbowl. Natalie and Shel are two of our Alternative Bakers, Natalie being a gluten-free cook and Shel a vegan one. Our challenge was to make lavash, which is a cracker bread made in many different cultures. It was to be accompanied by a dip, and the crackers AND dip both had to be gluten-free and/or vegan. Aside from that, we were wide open and could use any flavorings, sweet or savory, that we desired.


Lavash Crackers & Toppings

(Recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread
by Peter Reinhart)

The key to a crisp lavash, to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

Mise en place, clockwise from top left: Flour , Water, Olive oil, Sugar, Yeast, & Salt

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave/sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed. [I did need all the water.]

Sweet Pea mixes

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Pre Wrap

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

Ready to roll!

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

This was fun and extremely easy to make! Of course, I got a little nervous seeing yeast in the list of ingredients, because I always have this fear of making something that just totally falls flat. But such is the life of a Daring Baker -- to laugh at the possibility of nonresponsive yeast and motor on! Bwahaha!!

Seriously, I had no problems with the yeast. It didn't seem to rise like I expected, but I think I always expect dough to like septuple in size or something. Eh.

Naturally, my Sous Chef, Sweet Pea, helped with the mixing. She was mildly irritated that I didn't give her dough to knead, as I have in the past, but I wasn't working with a large batch of dough this time. In retrospect, I had plenty to spare, so next time she can play along.

I cut my crackers into swirly patterns with my pizza cutter and sprinkled some poppy seeds, cumin seeds, Italian seasoning, and sea salt over everything. I originally wanted to do bands of each separately down the dough and cut them so that the pattern showed on each cracker, but I then realized I didn't have enough cumin seeds to do that. So I spread everything equally across the entire dough -- then realized that cumin and dried Italian herbs might not really mesh. Whoops! But it was OK.

I had made one of those Knorr spinach-veggie dips just the day before, but of course that was not vegan since it had sour cream. Gah! So I made a pseudo-hummus dip. I say "pseudo" because I had no tahini in the house, which gives hummus this layer of lovely je ne sais quoi, but it was still good because of the garlic and lemon juice. Mmmm. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil over the top and sprinkled on a little Hungarian paprika.

Then I had this creative idea and made a vegan/non-vegan yin-yang. Ha ha!

Many DB's took a break from the sweetness and made savory, but others still made some ravishingly good non-savory creations. Be sure to check the ever-growing Daring Bakers Blogroll to check them out!