Monday, June 30, 2008

My First Challenge - Danish Pastry

I am happy to report that my first Daring Baker challenge was a success! I have wanted to try a laminated dough for a long time so I was thrilled with this month’s recipe. Inspired by the wild blueberries that grow in my area, I switched the orange zest & juice to lemon and made an oozy blueberry-rosemary jam for the filling. I made two braids. The first one I filled with blueberries and ricotta, the second with blueberries and mascarpone.

Despite the urging of the recipe, I did *not* mix the yeast with cold milk. I warmed the milk to about 80 degrees and let the yeast and milk sit for a while before proceeding. I read that some people were having trouble getting their dough to rise and suspected that the lack of rise could be because the yeast wasn’t activated in the first part of the recipe.

The dough was actually a bit dry in the mixing. I ended up adding a bit of water during the kneading to keep it soft. My little kitchen helper stood by the whole time lending his ‘support.’

I made the blueberry jam with some cane sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprig of rosemary. I mixed vanilla in with the soft cheese in both the recipes.

The rolling out went okay. I had a tiny butter leak on one side, but it resolved itself after a turn or two. Do not be fooled by the perfect rectangle in the photo! I ended up trimming my dough to fit onto my tiny baking sheet.

A Note About the Small Oven: Being an apartment renter and a baker, I got so fed up with crappy unreliable ovens I got myself a fancy mini convection oven for Christmas. So worth it! It does bake things very fast though. Both my braids ended up being a shade or two darker than I would have preferred.

Aesthetics aside, the results were fantastic! I couldn’t really decide if I preferred the ricotta or the mascarpone; the latter was deliciously creamy but the ricotta was nice as well. I probably should have drained it though so it was fluffier. I made the second braid the next day and I found that the dough was much easier to work with after being in the fridge overnight. Not wanting to waste even the littlest scraps, I made teeny tiny little croissants.

Looking forward to the next challenge! :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My 1st Danish Braid

Well, here it is...time again to show what we did! This is my second month in the Daring Bakers and it was much better than last months Opera Cake aka My Shrek Cake! Things went very well and I was pleased with my results. I made 2 smaller braids and a few little "cuties". My filling was cream cheese with raspberry jam added to the little "cuties". I would definitely make this again!

Daring Bakers June 2008- Danish Braid

After taking last month off to adjust to life in new house with a new puppy, I was excited to get back into the swing of things. Once again, this recipe was a perfect example of why I joined this group. Just as I am starting to get comfortable working with yeast in traditional bread recipes, here comes another curve ball!

I was able to find vanilla beans and cardamom at a local farm store for reasonable prices and had all of the other ingredients on hand. I made the dough and the filling one day and assembled and baked it the next.

I was really intrigued by some of the techniques in this recipe. I did end up having to add extra flour to my dough because it was quite sticky. I was worried about the butter squeezing out during the rolling, but it all stayed put. The apple filling looked delicious and I can imagine making it in the future for a variety of uses. Although the process was time consuming, both the dough and the filling all came together very well. At the end of the day had a lovely dough and container of apple filling resting in the ‘fridge, awaiting phase 2 tomorrow!

My weakness with this challenge was definitely the rolling. Each time I was rolling I wish I had a ruler or tape measure, but still never remembered to get one before it was time to roll again. Also, when it was time to assemble to braid I was a little confused with the amount of dough and filling to use, but went ahead and divided the dough and the filling into two braids. Well, it was a good thing I had two shots at it because the first one was not very pretty. I now realize I did not roll the dough thin enough, which made my braid short and wide. The next one together correctly and looked a lot better.

I let the braids rest for over two hours in the oven with the light on. During this time they did not rise that much. I know it wasn’t 90 degrees as suggested in the recipe, but it was at least 80. Anyway, I decided not to wait any longer and went ahead to bake. The definitely grew a lot during the baking and came out looking golden brown and delicious!


I decided to make this for my father’s birthday (he agreed to forgo the traditional cake in support of my baking habit) and serve it with vanilla bean ice cream. It was quite a hit! I am so excited to know how to make puff pastry on my own and to be able to create such a beautiful and tasty treat! Thanks again for the fun and the challenge!


- Sarah T

A pastry by any other name is still a pastry…

And therefore, MMMMMMMMMM… good. This month's challenge was obviously inspired. I happen to be on vacation in the United States and I was excited to be using kitchen utensils that I haven't had for the last 2 years. What better way to make use of them then to make a Danish Braid. I was getting all my ingredients together and for the life of me couldn't find any cardamom at any grocery store in the vicinity. I looked at every store in the city. Kinda of odd that I can find cardamom in Korea but not here. Anyway…. I had to kinda fudge that part of the recipe and just added a little spice to the dough. (to be honest can't really remember what I added….but there were some brown speckles in the dough) I will say making dough with a mixer is a whole lot easier than by hand. Those of you who did use hands I say BRAVO!!!

photo 1

My biggest issue was rolling out the dough the first time after it had been chilling.

photo 2

Now I'm gonna be honest…that is not my hand, and I feel I owe it to my reading public to be completely honest.
This is my hand

photo 3

I had to call in a guest roller outer. One thing I learned in this challenge is that sometimes physical size makes a difference. I'm about 5'4 on a good day. My mom is about 5'10 ¼ on a bad day. I begged her to come in and roll it out for me…(she rolls like no other) and she said she's so good at it because she has leverage. Well that is absolutely true!! (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!) Once I had added the butter and it had been "fold & rolled" a couple times I was better able to roll it out. At first it didn't start out so rectangular, but by the end it was perfectly rectangular. I just forgot to take a picture of it. Oops.

photo 4

I split the dough in half and on one day used the instructed apple filling. It was fantastic in texture and taste.

photo 5

The dough was not what I had expected it to be and I had wanted to make a savory filling, but then I changed my mind and made another sweet filling. Apricots are in season and I knew they needed to be in the braid. I made a cream cheese filling with cream cheese, a little sugar & vanilla, a little egg beaters and a pinch of flour. I then sliced the apricots in half so that you could see them through the braid. It was fantastic. So fantastic they ate it before I got back to photograph it. Argh!!!! I loved this recipe and am anxious to make smaller sized pastries to take to get-togethers. Thanks to Kelly and Ben for picking out such a great recipe…and thanks to all Daring Bakers for making me look like I know what I'm doing in the kitchen.

photo 6

- Amber

Not Even an Altercation Can Stop a Daring Baker! :)

This is my first Daring Bakers Challenge and I was very excited when I saw this month's recipe. I love cooking but I'm new to the baking thing so this was a great challenge - I mean there was YEAST involved! We throw a lot of parties in my house - small impromptu parties and "Oh my god there are way too many people in my house" planned (sort of) parties. People always ask what they can bring and I recently decided that I no longer wanted my response to be "Well you can bring dessert because I don't bake". So for Christmas my boyfriends family showered me with gifts that would help me conquer my baking fears, including a KitchenAid mixer (WAY too generous but so AWESOME!) and Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, probably knowing that my baking experiments would surely benefit them.

I must admit though that this month has been packed with weddings and work parties and family visits and as June 29th got closer and closer I was thinking "Maybe I'll skip this month's challenge" more and more! But, luckily, my Danish loving boyfriend would not allow that. I started my Danish Wednesday night and as I was about to run around the corner to get whole milk people started fighting in front of my house! They were yelling things that sounded completely ridiculous coming out of fat white men's mouths like "Yo I'm a gansta for real" and "That was a jab! I knocked you out with a jab!" so that delayed things for a minute. It's still funny to me that people are getting in fist fights outside my door while my boyfriend and I listen to NPR and bake Danish! So anyway I eventually got my milk and made the dough. I was concerned about butter leakage but luckily it was minimal. I did put the butter in the fridge after I made it because I still had about twenty minutes to wait for my dough and I worried it would get too soft. Things were looking good. I made an apple blackberry filling with apples, blackberries, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice and a sweet cream cheese filling with softened cream cheese, lemon juice and honey. I finished my final folds and put it in the fridge to rest.

Thursday after work I rolled out the dough and added my filling, cream cheese on the bottom, apples on top. Next time around I'll add more, I think I was too worried about over stuffing. The braid didn't look so good but I didn't have time to worry about it – I had a party to get ready for! So I gave my boyfriend the instructions for egg washing and baking the Danish and left it in his hands. He did a great job as you can see from the photos. Although he did confess that he forgot to turn the oven temp down and ended up just baking the whole thing for twenty minutes on 400 but it still looks and tastes delicious. I can't wait to play with the other half of
the dough that's sitting in the freezer!

daring baker-SaraF

Thanks Daring Bakers for an awesome challenge!

- Sara F

Respect, or, Walk A Mile In My Clogs

We’ve all seen them before. On the lounge area table of the discount motel chain. Huddled in miserable groups next to giant, cottony muffins, an urn of burnt coffee and pitchers of watery orange juice serving as sentinels. You probably bypass them in favor of a puffy, doughy bagel. Occasionally, someone will be foolhardy enough to select one, but can only muster a handful of bites before consigning it to the trash. They are often prepackaged in cellophane, like members of a suicide cult. Their fillings are congealed white globs of “cheese” or, even worse, dark brown smears of “prunes.” It’s as if they had been created by someone who had no sense of taste or smell, and, in fact, they served as punishment for those that do. Indeed, why would anyone willingly subject themselves to such abasement?

I speak, of course, of the Danish.

Prior to this month’s challenge, my experience with Danish consisted of the exact scenario above: repulsive, overly sweet and artificially-flavored discuses of pastry found primarily in the hushed and awkward breakfast areas of motels. I readily admit my preference for sweet things for breakfast, but even these Danish defied my palate. In short, they were awful. Yet, Danish come from a long and storied baking past, so surely in their original incarnations they must have actually tasted like, you know, food.

The announcement of the challenge, Danish Braid, actually thrilled me. Laminated dough! Yeast! Braiding! This is why I signed on to be a Daring Baker, to expand my baking repertoire, become a better person. Surely I would develop a new respect for these much-maligned pastries if I had to make them myself.

The process proved to be a good deal more manageable than I had anticipated. By dividing the actual mixing and shaping of the dough into two days, I was able to tackle each step without feeling overwhelmed. Detrempe (dough)—check. Beurrage (butter block)—check. Turns (rolling and folding the dough to create layers)—check. I’d always wanted to try making puff pastry, and this was a good introduction to the process. Perhaps I might attempt croissants de boulanger soon. (Or maybe that should wait until the mercury drops below a drillion degrees, and my apartment without air conditioning.)

Just a little bit-AmyS

To fill the Danish, I took fresh cherries and made an extremely easy but appallingly tasty jam, following a recipe from Baking With Julia, and also made a frangipane (almond filling) from the same book. Smeared on the frangipane, topped it with the cherry filling, and then it was time to braid. Braiding is the social currency of little girls. What would sleepovers and summer camp be without the constant braiding and unbraiding of each other’s hair? Like grooming chimps, girls seal social networks through French braids and fancy, princess-like hair arrangements. Throughout elementary school, junior high and high school, I had short, pixielike locks, which meant that, in addition to being mistaken for a boy, my own braiding capabilities were sadly compromised. Or maybe I’m blaming my hair for me being unpopular. Anyway, when it came time for me to do my Danish Braid, there was a small glitch. I miscalculated the measurements and had a slightly different number of dough strips on one side of the pastry than the other. Ah, well, it’ll sort itself out in the oven.

There was extra dough left over, so I experimented with making small Danish, using strawberry jam, frangipane and mini chocolate chips in sundry combinations for the fillings. A rise, an egg wash, a sprinkling of pearl sugar, and into the oven, me pretties!

While they baked, the apartment filled with the evocative scents of cardamom and orange, the traditional Scandinavian flavorings for Danish. And when I pulled them from the oven, they did, indeed look like actual Danish only, you know, edible. Whilst the pastries were hot, I brushed on a simple glaze of powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk. It melted into the dough, creating a lovely sheen.


Waiting to taste the Danish was an exercise in self-control, and my gluttony won, so that I cut and ate my first piece before it was cool. And lo, a revelation. I wondered why anyone would label the motel monstrosities “Danish,” when the difference between those and what I had produced was as sizable as me slapping on shoulder pads and calling myself a defensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals. (I am, dear reader, a mere five feet tall, and flinch when a Nerf football is tossed gently in my direction.) Z. took the remainder of the Danish into work the following day, and many declared it the best Danish they had ever eaten, or so I am told. It did not last long on the craft services table. The piece I had set aside for my mother-in-law was eaten by yours truly. (I’m sorry, Pauline!)

(You may be wondering, what happened to the individual Danish? Dear Reader, I accidentally burnt them into hard briquettes. Vanity prevented me from having them photographed.)

So, thanks to the Daring Bakers, I learned a new lesson in respect. Mock not the true Danish. It is a noble beast that deserves a far greater tribute than being relegated to the rubbish bin of the Motel 6.

I remain,
Yours, &c.

Danish braids...yum

Well, I find recipes fall into 3 categories. Bad, Good, and Really Super Duper Good. This recipe was so super duper good, i made it twice. Lets go back to the beginning.

Any of you who actually know me, know that I'm in culinary school right now for Classic Pastry Arts. We started a venoissierie section just before this challenge and I was literally thinking when I came on to the DB site to find out what the challenge was, hm..danish would be a GREAT challenge...most people at home don't work with laminated doughs. So I came on and I was like YES!!! (I got just a little excited and did a little happy dance) and then I got to thinking..oh, what oh what can I make as a filling. And the ideas just started pouring out of my head and on to paper. I literally had a page and a half of things i could do! My husband thought I was obsessing just a bit to much. So on to baking day.

The followed the recipe and I love cardamom, it's what we used in the danishes at school. So the first one I did was a bit traditional. Almond creme and raspberry jam and topped it with a strudel topping. And Oh, it was good. The second was the apple compote. I liked it, I wasn't crazy about it though. Then my dear dear hubby told me on a thursday night that he had invited 2 of his co-workers and their wives over for dinner friday night! Ack! I hate when he does that!!!! So I decided to go a bit different. I wasn't quite in the mood for "normal" dinner party food, so I decided to make another danish braid! But this time, I made it with cream cheese and smoked salmon. I put everything bagel seeds on the top and it was soo yummy. I served it with fruit salad, coffee and OJ in lovely wine glasses. And I gave slippers and pjs to all our guests and we had a breakfast party. They thought it was the greatest thing ever. I was a great change from a traditional dinner party. And the last one I made I had some fun with. I made a pecan pie filling, it was so gooey and messy but so good.

So there you go, my four different but very yummy danish braids. I know, I know, still no pictures. I've given up with my darn mac and trying to get it to do new things. I'm off to go read more about danish should too!!

The Danish that never was

I am sad to report that my danish never happened... and here is why:
I'm in the process of moving cross-country and had to finish my job and a major part of my dissertation before we left. However, I was really excited when I saw what this month's challenge, especially since I've never made a laminated though. So I decided to tackle it as a birthday present to myself.

I decided to make it apricot-lime, inspired by a lovely jam from the Hi-rise bakery. I thought the orange flavor would clash with the apricot-lime, so I substituted lime juice for orange juice... but then I realized that those two are far from substitutable because my lime juice (straight) was VERY acidic. I tried to fix it by adding more sugar to the dough, but alas it didn't work. My dough tasted overpoweringly lime-y and for some reason, made my fingers sting when I played with it (maybe it was the paper-cuts I had from filing last minute paperwork). To make matters worse, my Kitchen-aid mixer went crazy again, as with my cursed party cake. When I turned it on to low (or to anything), it started going faster and faster, beyond the fastest usual speed, and then would turn off. I took it as a sign that I should stop and go work or pack!

Another reason I'm sad my Danish never happened is that, between the move and some traveling we'll be doing, I will miss the July and August challenges too! I'll try my best to make it for August but I think it's unlikely... In any case, I hope everyone had fun in this challenge and the next ones and I will see you in September!

Monday, June 2, 2008

L’Opéra Party!!

I mistakenly poured all the cream into the ganache. So I had to scoop some of the ganache into the white chocolate when I made the glaze.
But that part worked out OK. I used lemon juice instead of water in the syrup and that was delicious. To go with the lemon, I used spiced rum and vanilla so the cake had a tropical drink flavor.

My friend Genie had called to say her family was away for the day and would I join her at church then come to her house to grill burgers? I told her about the challenge and we decided I should bake it at her house. I ground the almonds at home and pre-measured all the ingredients and took everything with me. I worked on it all afternoon.
We had so much fun that she invited friends, her family came home unexpectedly, and we turned it into a party.

It is morel mushroom season in northern Michigan so we had burgers with grilled morels and onions and white cheddar melted on top, chunky redskin potato salad, baked beans with pimentos and spicy red peppers, a huge bowl of baby greens, some good wine, and lots of happy conversation.

Opera Cake Final Submission

The cake got a little rushed at the end and I was chilling things in the freezer so it would be ready in time. I did not get the lovely, smooth, even look some of you got, the ganache was undulating and the glaze only partially smoothed out the top. We took it out into the afternoon sunshine on the deck and picked some springtime dandelions and pink begonias to decorate. After a photo session, we discovered the piece we had cut to photograph was entirely too big to eat. Wow!
Was that thing sweet and rich!

Even so, most of us had a second piece. I left a huge section for my friend's teenage son who fell in love with it. More went home with her friends, and the rest came home with me. I sliced and put 2-packs in the freezer -- it freezes and serves really well. I gifted two of my neighbors and the manager of our complex with more pieces.

It was rich and sweet and completely over-the-top and I doubt I will put this much work into a cake again. But the experience was worth it.
We had a lovely afternoon and I was able to get better accquainted with some new neighbors while sharing a really special cake.

What an adventure! And this was my first challenge. I hope it doesn't get any more hectic than this. I don't think I could stand the excitement.

PS: Genie's friends decided we were going to have another party so they could help me eat next month's challenge.

PSS: My friend Genie cut really thin slivers and covered them with strawberries and even those who thought the cake was too sweet loved it. Even her husband who dislikes any desserts except fruity ones.

- Betty