Sunday, 29 June 2008

Danish Braid and Vikings

Truth be told, I almost missed this months challenge. June has been a rather busy month with things just happening and happening. Before I knew it, there was only a week left before the posting date. I had a bit of an issue with this months challenge too – the requirement to chill the dough for at least 5 hours or overnight meant that I would need to set aside two days to do this challenge. Seeing how I usually only have time to bake on weekends, this was a perfect excuse not to do the challenge – especially when my weekends were all looking so full.

So it really wasn’t looking good. Yet, I knew that I would have to rise to the challenge for isn’t that what the Daring Bakers are all about? Another reason I felt I had to rise to the challenge was that this month’s challenge involved a yeast and butter based pastry. I may have conquered my fear of yeast and making bread but I have never, ever made my own pastry dough using yeast before so this seemed like a pretty good time to try.

This challenge was selected by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and ?Ben of What’s Cookin’?. In true Daring Baker’s style, they chose something that I would never have dreamed of making not ever had the confidence to try. So thanks guys for pushing me on to greater heights!

I had read the recipe once online and it didn’t sound all that complicated.
I decided I would make the dough on the 21st and since we had a wedding reception to attend that night, I planned on baking the dough on Sunday. Good. Sounds like a good plan.

Early on Saturday morning, I sat in front of my PC and scanned the recipe again. I printed out the recipe and I should have known that things would start to get complicated when I found my black ink cartridge ahd dried up. Never fear, we’ll just print in colour then. Nope, all the blasted cartridges were dry. Fortunately I had a spare black cartridge and managed to print the recipe.

I knew I didn’t have any oranges in the fridge but had some lemon so I would just substitute the lemon for the orange. The dough was fairly easy to make and as always, I am thankful for my Kenwood Major. What a marvellous piece of machinery. While the dough was chilling in the fridge, I made the butter block or beurrage. No issue here either and it came together very nicely.

The problem kind of started when I started to roll out the dough. It was a little sticky and I kept dusting it with flour. However, as it got thinner and wider, the dough got stickier underneath and although I kind of had the feeling this was happening, neglected to flip the dough over to prevent it from sticking. Silly, silly, silly.

Anyway, what happened was that after I had spread the beurrage over the dough, when I tried to fold the left side over, it was all sticking to the table and so some bits tore. Pooh! Never mind though, I still managed to patch it up and stick in in the fridge.

Each time I took the chilled dough out and rolled it, bits of butter seemed to ooze out but in the end, after 4 turns, I got a nice dough that had enough butter layered in it. It was not time to wrap the dough and leave it overnight. I must say I was kind of relieved that no major disaster had happened yet!

On Sunday morning, after picking up the kids from Sunday School, I decided I would roll the dough, fill it and proof it. I had decided to make the filling out of a mix of Dark Pitted Cherries and Chocolate as I had a can of cherries on hand as well as some leftover chocolate chips.

The dough handled really nicely although I found that the pads of my hands especially where the palm joined the fingers were really sore after all that rolling the previous day. Each time the rolling pin rolled under my hands, I could feel some pain. Guess this is all signs of age eh! Oh Well!

I got the dough into a nice spread out rectangle and then trimmed the edges. Lovely! This is where I think I made a small mistake. Not having read the recipe enough and basically having it fixed in my head that braid meant braid as in how your braid hair, I think I messed up this part.

In hindsight, I should have had more filling in the centre so that the filling came right up to the edges of the slits. What I did was to pile the filling in the centre of the centre strip, meaning there was excess dough to fold over. So when I tried to fold the flaps over, I actually needed to fold the dough over too and that caused a bit of a mess with the flaps flapping all over! That’s kind of how I got a braid criss-crossing all over the place. Actually quite attractive to look at but not the way a braid should be right? Oh so what, lets just call it artistic licence - especially since we were given licence to braid the dough any way we wished!

I made a smaller braid too and then since the remaining dough was starting to melt and get all sticky, I rolled it out, filled it and then made a kind of ‘rocket’ shape for the kids!

It was time for the dough to proof and so I left it to do its rising. My son had been peeking in to check on what I was making and when I said it was a Danish Braid he didn’t seem too excited as he thought it was a Danish Bread. His interest was piqued though when he saw me braiding the dough and he got even more excited when I explained that it wasn’t really a bread but more a pastry that was filled with Chocolate and Dark Cherries! You could almost see his eyes light up.

After checking in every couple of minutes and asking when it would be ready, I told him that he would have to wait more than two hours for the dough to rise and then for it to bake in the oven. I told him to go and play and that I would call him once the Danish was ready.

I was rather excited too especially when I saw how nicely the dough had doubled!

Into the oven the dough went and after 10 minutes, I turned it just as the recipe called for. Another 25 minutes in the oven and the whole house smelled like a bakery!

I place the big Danish on a nice plate while I placed the smaller Danish on another serving plate and called out to my son.

He was thrilled to carry out the smaller Danish to show off to the Lovely Wife and pose for this picture.

It was rather apt that he was playing with his Lego Vikings as not only does Lego come from Denmark, but Danes also have a proud Viking tradition. My son insisted on this picture of the smaller Danish Braid with his Viking – which explains the title of this post.

I guess the most pressing question is how did the Danish taste? Well, I think my combination of Chocolate and Dark Cherries was fantastic as not only did the fruit go really well with the Danish, but the chocolate added a bit of decadence as well. I think Chocolate makes everything taste better!!

The Danish itself was lovely with it’s buttery layers and almost melt in the mouth texture. My official testers loved it as you can see below.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes words can say so much more. The proof that my testers really enjoyed this Daring Bakers Challenge is the fact that not one, but both of them chirped up after finishing a large slice of Danish:

“May I have another piece please?”

Need I say more?

This is the recipe from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking


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 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.


Megan said...

I still have some dough in the freezer and I was gonna make small cherry pastries. Think I'll add chocolate chips to it. Your braid looks great!

DaviMack said...

I think that your braids look just fine! Great job!

We have no children to eat ours ... so we'll have to suffer through it ourselves. ;) Of course, it's not Sunday for us yet, either!

glamah16 said...

Great combo of cherries and chcoo. And how cute is that with the Viking Lego and the kids of course.Its great that they are growing up with all of these fun challenges. I like the texture of your dough . Mine came out not as breadier or flakier. But Id gladly attempt this again.

steph- whisk/spoon said...

looks like your taste testers give thier approval!

Cakelaw said...

You definitely conquered this! Cherries and chocolate sound devine together, and your children look pretty happy with the results.

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

Your little ones are growing up right before our eyes :)

Thanks for the history lesson. I didn't know where Legos were from. I just know my whole set came from McDonald's Happy Meals in the 80s. The little Dane was cute.

Oh, and your braids LOL...They looks great. Beautiful, even.

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Great job on the challenge Dharm! The time constraints right now are the hardest parts of these challenges aren't they???

Molly Loves Paris said...

I always like to see the pictures of you children eating your endevours. My family always thinks that almonds make everything taste better, but your cherries and chocolate sounds great.

Dolores said...

Cherries and chocolate... and you've got none left to share? Tease. :) I agree that this challenge was just the push I needed to try something I'd never have had the confidence to try on my own.

You've inspired me... next time (and there will be a next time), your recipe for Nutella with bananas.

giz said...

Now when you read to the kids you can tell them your story about the "Little Engine that Could". After all, isn't it persistence that makes us great? Good job!

Peabody said...

Ha! I love the Lego Viking on top...nice touch.
Chocolate and cherry is always a good combo.
Great job on the challenge.

Ann said...

Your braids look delicious!

PAT A BAKE said...

Hi Dharm,

Nice looking Braid. Yours looks nice and flaky..mine was flat as a pancake...guess the yeast was at fault. :)

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Sounds delicious Dharm! I love chocolate filled croissants, so I bet this tasted just as heavenly! Again the kids look great with your end result and I love the viking! :)

Anne said...

Dharm, for never having done this before, you did a great job!!! You r filling looks fabulous, as well.

Dianne said...

Cherries and chocolate sounds wonderful! Your braids look great!

Aparna said...

Your braiding technique is most interesting! But I can't see the kids complaining, and believe me they can be killing with criticism at times:)
Looks very good to me.
I substituted with lemon zest too.

Anonymous said...

Love, love, love the viking!

I, too, had issues with the stickiness. I hope to conquer them next time around.

All that matters is that the masses approved, no? Seems like you made one tasty treat!

bonnie said...


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Dharm that is a gorgeous loaf. Oh how I wished I tried your chocolate cherry!!! It sounds totally wonderful. I'm sure I'd be asking for another piece as well.
Hooray for us!

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

Great job! Cherries and chocolate sounds like a great combination. I love the photos of your little testers, and of course the photo with the Lego :-)

breadchick said...

Dharm, I love cherries and chocolate together! And your tasters sure seemed to enjoy the challenge. Glad you didn't have to miss this month!!

Elle said...

May I have a piece, too? Your braid is artistic and the whole post is such fun to read. Your tasters are the best!

Jenny said...

Your braid looks great to me! I'm wishing I had some left over!

Natashya said...

What a great colour on your pastry Dharm. The cherries in the filling must have been heavenly. Your wife is a lucky lady to have a great baker in the house!

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Glad you could join us Dharm. It wouldn't be the same without you. Your braid looks yummy.

Robyn said...

It's so cute how excited your kids were about the braids!

Lorrie said...

your braid does look good! you did an amazing job!

jasmine said...

You did very well. I wish I'd thought of chocolate :)


Ally said...

Your pastry looks great! Cherries and chocolate, I can just taste that wonderful concoction!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Looks like you got the ultimate flavours Dharm...fantastic! And what better combination than to pair it off with a happy viking! Dark cherries & chocolate has me scraping the braid off my silly screen...which just doesnt oblige! Lovely lovely Danish...I loved this challenge too.

marye said...

You did a great job! See, you are working with yeast dough so much better than you used to! Yeast dough is your friend.LOL

~Amber~ said...

Your fillings sounds awesome! Congratulations on another successful challenge.

Elle said...

Cherries and chocolate are just genius in this! Going to try that next time. And I have to laugh at the Lego guy! My 5 Lego guys in my food shots!

Angel said...

Oh my goodness your kids are just darling! I love the picture of the braid with the viking. For me it was definitely the highlight of the event when my sweetheart asked for seconds and then thirds. Congrats!

Meeta said...

Oh yes - there is a connection alright. I like this Dharm! Looks heavenly and cherries are also so decadent!

Patti said...

Very nice . . . loved your choice of filling.

Bellini Valli said...

An excellent braid Dharm. Good for you for rising to the occasion in true DB fashion:D Early in the Spring we had a spell of cold weather so there will be very few cherries here in the valley this month. It is normally cherry season right now:D

Jenny said...

Crazy braiding! I like it!

Lis said...

Once again your kids are THE CUTEST!! :)

Chocolate and cherry filling.. are you trying to kill me, Dharm? That sounds LUSCIOUS! I'm swooning over here. :)

Great job - and in true Daring Baker spirit!

Jen Yu said...

Oh how cute your children are! I just love that they enjoyed the goodies so much. They are really lucky kids to have a father who is not only incredibly talented, but very loving. You are awesome :) And so are your braids. They look delicious. I'm so glad you managed to squeeze this challenge in, at least for us to see those cute smiling faces and the viking!

Claire said...

Great job! I'm really glad you went ahead and did, it appears, are your tasters!!!

Andrea said...

Your children look like they really enjoyed the braid, and the photo of the Viking is cute! Great job!

Ben said...

Hey Dharm, I am glad you could make it, your kids look so happy eating your creation. Thank you for baking with us :)


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