Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Danish Braid

The challenge this month was a danish braid, which involves an rich dough layered with butter to give it the nice rise and buttery flakiness that we all so enjoy. I've made danishes quite a few times, and have always had good results. They tend to be one of my most requested baked goods...

On to the recipe, it is a little different then the one I normally use, specifically it calls for orange zest and juice in the dough. I think this added a nice dimension to the finished product, so I will probably continue to add that in the future. Every time I make these I wish I had a dough sheeter :)

They came out really well. I decided to make nine smaller braids that are more easy to eat with your hands and have them not fall apart. I made the apple filling and used that for some. The rest I filled with a mixed berry compote that I made with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries (all the berries are in season here now finally, so I couldn't resist using them all). I liked the berry mixture better, but I'm not a cooked apple fan so I could have been biased.

My friend came over and gave me a photography lesson, so hopefully my pictures from here out will be much higher quality. Thanks Dave! The picture is so much better I put it before 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 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.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

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 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 (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.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - Mixed Berry Cobbler

Mmm, lots of berries for me this week! These recipes are timed very well for me, as berries are just coming into season in Texas. As I mentioned in a previous post, blueberries aren't plentiful here, but we are awash with blackberries and raspberries now. So I made the cobbler with fresh blackberries, raspberries, and frozen blueberries (i just couldn't make it without them, they're my favorite!)

I made 2 smaller cobblers from the recipe (so my husband and I could each have one). Since this treat is not very portable, I won't be sharing it at work tomorrow. Not that there will be any leftovers anyway, my husband and I both loved this recipe. Anything with fruit is usually a hit for this crowd.

I changed up the top a bit, adding some ground flaxseed and some wheatgerm for a little extra flavor and heathlyness. I also subbed out the sugar in the berries for 1 tablespoon of agave nectar, the berries are great on there own and didn't need much sweetness.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins

I love blueberries, but unfortunately here in Texas they are not plentiful. Back in Illinois, we used to go pick them every summer, and come home with more than we knew what to do with. Now, I settle for some frozen blueberries from the grocery store. They're not bad, but not nearly as good as the fresh picked ones. But I digress...

This morning I wanted some muffins for breakfast, so I whipped up this recipe. Since I used the frozen berries, they took a bit longer to bake than I expected, but they tasted good. Nice juicy blueberries with a subtle muffin background, the blueberries were the star of the show...

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins
Makes 6 Muffins

1/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup AP flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 400º. Mix the sugar, honey, egg, milk, butter and vanilla together until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together.

2. Add the dry ingrediants and fold lightly until just combined (don't overmix or the muffins will toughen). Fold in the blueberries.

3. Spoon the mixture evenly into 6 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

I used a heart shaped pan so the muffins came out with a cute pattern.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - Peppermint Cream Puffs

This week's recipe was fun. It involves some technique in the preparation, but nothing too difficult. The dough is cooked briefly, then beaten with eggs and piped hot (if it cools off, it is hard to pipe and looses some rise in the oven). These little guys also have lots of decorating possibilities. The original recipe was for a ring, but I thought the puffs were a bit more portable, since I don't need a big ring of creamy goodness tempting me all the time :)

They turned out well, the creme has just a hint of mint which goes well with the sweetness of the chocolate. I have made cream puffs before, but with a different baking method. This recipe calls for high heat for 10 minutes, then lower heat for 15. Previously I made them with low heat, then high heat, then low heat to dry them out. I liked that method a bit more, as they get drier without getting as brown. This batch got a little darker then I would have liked before they were dry.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ten Grain Torpedo Bread

For my bread from The Bread Bible this week, I made the Ten Grain Torpedo (I was feeling like something healthy since I made the Tuesday's with Dorie dessert today too). The bread is nice and moist, probably from soaking the grains before adding them to the bread. The crust is nice and crunchy, so the contrast is nice. The vital wheat gluten also helps keep the bread light.

I like this bread, it's good with some butter. It's not as memorable as the Ciabatta, but a good healthy bread.

Fathers Day Macarons

Since I sent biscotti for Mother's Day, I had to think of another treat that would stand up to shipping for Father's Day. I have been wanting to try my hand at French Macarons for a while now, but finding a recipe that looked good was challenging. I finally found this recipe from David Lebovitz that others reported success with, so I tried it out. I made 2 versions, one plain with raspberry jam in the middle, and chocolate with dark chocolate ganache. I used the same recipe for both, just omitting the cocoa powder for the plain version.

They tasted great, but I didn't get the flat shape I was looking for. The first batch, the plain ones, I think I didn't break the eggs down enough when folding, so the peaks didn't fall out when they baked. I think they looked cute, but not the traditional shape. For the chocolate, I folded the eggs a bit more, so they flatted out. A few had the little foot, so they look more sleek.

The little treats are addicting, they are so light and are only one bite, so it doesn't seem like a big deal to eat more than one...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

This week's recipe was simpler than most, but very tasty none the less. The tart shell on the bottom is more like a sugar cookie than a traditional crust, which balanced nicely with the strawberry jam and fresh strawberries. Since strawberries are in season now, I purchased some great ones from the store, and they didn't need much sugar at all.

My husband is a big fan of fruit centric desserts, so he happily tried this one and liked it. I didn't have any crème fraîche, so we just had it unadorned, gasp! It was still very good and easy to put together, great for an easy but elegant dessert.

Ciabatta Bread

As I was looking through The Bread Bible for my next challenge, the picture of this bread caught my eye. I have never worked with a wet dough before, which is the key to getting the large holes in the bread. The recipe was simple, a biga of water, yeast and flour, and that plus some salt for the rest of the dough. Usually I like to add some flax seed, wheat germ, etc to "healthy" it up a bit, but to get the characteristic holes that was not an option.

It turned out well for my first shot, I am getting much better with breads now, yea! The holes weren't as big as I would have liked, but they were good and the crust was nice and crisp.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie - French Chocolate Brownies

Mmm, brownies for me two weeks in a row :)

I have to say, these are the best brownies I've ever had. I left out the raisins (I'm not a big fan of such a smooth crumb, and then biting into something chewy). I was going to add in pecans instead, but just when they got in the pan is when I remembered, so this patch is plain. But they are soo good. A nice, cracked crust on top, with a moist, light cake underneath. I think it is the cinnamon that makes these pop, just a hint does the trick.

French Chocolate Brownies

- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

1. Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

2. Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

3. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

4. Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

5. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

6. Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Brinna's Pugliese

I've starting working my way through The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and this recipe looked interesting today. I've tried about 5 of her recipes now, and they all have turned out well. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants an in depth look at how the elements of bread come together and why. Rose lays the science out very well in the beginning so you get a good understanding, and the recipes drive the principles home.

I don't get quite as much oven spring as I would like, but I have a convection oven and even when it is set to bake normally, the fan still runs a bit. I think this pulls any steam that might get built up out of the oven, so the crust sets before it has time to rise. Never the less, the bread tastes awesome.

This recipe was great, and probably has the most structure of any of the breads I have made. I'd make it again, once I get through the rest of the book :)