For the first time I read the new recipe for the month of The Daring Bakers, I got excited. No fancy schmancy cakes with lots of layers and different fillings or bizarre frozen cheesecake lollies. No, this challenge’s end result I was actually keen to eat. Unfortunately, it had to wait a while because we went to Ireland and then Gabriel didn’t let me get any normal (nightly) sleep for more than a week. The day before the reveal date I finally baked it and I dare say it was enjoyable. Let’s get on with it.
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
Method – For the dough
- 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.
Method – Butter Block
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The dough itself was easy to make with my new Kitchen Aid. Okay, it’s 5 months old by now but it still feels new to me and has a proud place in my kitchen. Believe me, if I could bonk it, I would have done so long ago. *sigh* Maybe in the next life I’ll come back as a kitchen appliance, or better yet as a paddle or a hook and we can have fun times mixing things in the bowl.
(Hmm, what a bizarre train of thought. Can you tell it is past midnight and it’s been a long day for me?)
The dough came out sticky, very sticky. The recipe stated I could add a bit of flour to help make it more manageable. A total of 4 cups of flour ended up in the mixture when I drew the line and picked up the blob to chill in the fridge for a while.
The butter block was easier than I thought it would be. In my mind’s eye I could see the butter pouring out of the layers as I rolled it out, but it didn’t. Bloody hell, I’m getting good at this. Although I had to go through the motions every 30 minutes, it was fun.
- 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.
The preparation of the apple filling was pretty straight-forward, although I wished I used cooking apples like Bramley’s instead of eating apples.
- 1 recipe Danish Dough
- 2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves
- 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.
Proofing and Baking
- 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.
- Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
- 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.
Instead of halving the amount of dough, I divided it into thirds. The first third was used to make the apple braid. The rest was transformed into plain croissants and pains au chocolat.
In the end there were so many pastries that I gave some to the neighbours yet again. For a first try I was quite pleased with the results. It could probably be improved upon; just maybe I’ll try making this in a while again.
While I thought it was the end, until the next day the one neighbour came back with our plate and said it was lovely, but she had a few pointers that her husband told her to give me. Oh shit. Why didn’t anyone tell me we lived next to a 6th generation baker???? Here I am pottering about with not the best baked goods and giving them away as if they are. Anyways, some good did come out of it.
The lesson I learnt was that I shouldn’t have added all those extra flour to the mix when I first made it. I should have let it carry on being sticky and by some weird chemical process the gluten will relax and the dough will become more manageable. Now I know….