Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Daring Bakers Danish Nightmare

I simply did NOT succeed at this month's daring baker's challenge. Oh was not pretty. I mean, I can make all sorts of breakfast pastry-type goodies: sticky buns, cinnamon buns, brioche, you name it. But this danish did me in.

Why? I don't really know. I found the recipe a little bit incomplete as far as the instructions for braiding go, and so I think that was my major downfall. The pastry tasted fine, it just looked horrible. I didn't understand that you had to make the braid actually TOUCH the dough on the other side. So mine opened all up. It was also incredibly hard for me to roll. It just KEPT bouncing back to a small rectangle. Even when I would let it rest, it did no good. I couldn't figure out how to cut it to make two rectangles, I found that a bit fuzzy as well in the instructions. But I did my best to figure it all out!

For my filling, I did two: one with raspberry and almond creme, and one with dark chocolate and pistachio creme. The raspberry one was soooo ugly, I didn't even photograph it. I over-filled it you see. Never over-fill your pastry! The pistachio one is here. It tasted good, but I think my guests were a bit afraid of the look!

The challenge was hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? I thank them for the challenge, but I'm not sure I will re-attempt this one!

Here's the recipe!


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 flour

1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour


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.


Makes enough for two braidsIngredients

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 WashWhisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.Proofing and


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.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Paulie

My boy turned 3 the other day, and with that came the obligatory birthday party with all the fixings. On his wish list? Scooby Doo décor and cupcakes, lots of cupcakes! So we Scoobied up the place with napkins, table cloths and all the Scooby parephrenalia I could find, and then I got to work on those cupcakes.

For the cupcakes, I decided on white cake (Dorie Greenspan's recipe for her Party Cake) with the BEST bittersweet chocolate frosting ever. I have literally been hunting, searching high and low for a really yummy homemade chocolate frosting. It has been years. I like buttercream, but they tend to taste like I'm devouring a stick of butter. Then a friend gave me the book "Birthday Cakes". In it, I found it...the absolute best chocoalte frosting recipe out there. (At least for now). This frosting is fantastic, it's a recipe by Emily Luchetti, which is on page 60 of the book. My husband, who usually avoids frosting, couldn't get enough of this one. But careful, it's rich and addictive!

PS I used the leftover frosting for pistachio macaron filling, it was divine.

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3 cups confectioners' sugar

pinch of salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb. milk

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter together. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm (114 degrees).

Sift the confectioners' sugar and salt together into a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and the milk. Whisk this mixture into the confectioners' sugar. Add the melted and cooled chocolate and stir until smooth. Use on cake or cupcakes.