30 June 2008

Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

This month's Daring Bakers challenge is hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's cooking? and the have selected the Danish Braid recipe from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking.

When I saw this challenge, the first thing that I thought was that it was a good thing I made croissants back in March - otherwise I would have been shaking in terror. Post day snuck up on me this month and I wound up rushing through the recipe, but that was the only problem that I encountered. I said yesterday that no matter how good this turned out, it wouldn't be worth making again just because the dough was almost impossible to work with. I was happily proven wrong. Not only did the dough become easier to work with with each fold, it was also extraordinarily delicious. I made a cranberry and orange filling and an orange-vanilla glaze, and I was blown away by the results. Not only will I make it again with this same recipe, I'll definitely play around with it as well.

Danish Braid with Cranberry-Orange Filling

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.


1 cup orange marmalade
5 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water

Combine the marmalade and cranberries in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When the cranberries start popping, add the sugar. Bring to a boil, then make a slurry with the water and cornstarch. Add to the cranberries, stir well and return to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough
1 recipe filling, jam, or preserves

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.


3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Triple Sec

Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl. Add the vanilla and enough triple sec to make a drizzle-able glaze. Drizzle over the cooled braid.

27 June 2008

Cherry Torte

I am currently frantically trying to finish the book that I'm currently reading, so in lieu of posting my review today, I'll post a delicious cherry torte recipe instead. I'll post the review as soon as I finish the book.

I cannot claim this recipe as my own. I got it from my mom and made only slight changes. She got it from somewhere else - though I'm not sure where. It is, however, extremely easy and absolutely delicious. I made it recently for the first time in years and I was blown away by the tastiness.

Cherry Torte

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1-2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-3 cups pitted and halved cherries (enough to cover the pan you're using)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9-inch round pan.

2. Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, salt, and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

3. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

4. Spoon the batter into your buttered pan. Arrange the cherries, cut side down, on top of the batter. Sprinkle with about a quarter cup of sugar.

5. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes to an hour, then allow to cool to room temperature.

6. Serve and enjoy!

13 June 2008

Weekend Reading #1: The Road

The Road was recommended to me last fall by Maud Casey, who I was lucky enough to have as a Creative Writing Professor. I was skeptical at first, primarily because it's really not my kind of reading and I rarely go into a book that I know will leave me depressed. However, I was almost instantly proven wrong.

There aren't many books that I read in a single sitting these days - I just don't have the time. Once I started on Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece, though, I was determined to finish it. To stop reading would have been to abandon his characters, and that wasn't something that I was willing to do. I couldn't leave McCarthy's world, because the pace of the book made me believe that if I put the book down, something terrible would happen while I was away.

The novel opens with a father and son walking through the desolated countryside of an unspecified location, believed to be the American midwest. The word as we know it has ended suddenly and murder, looting and cannibalism has become the most common way to survive. They cannot survive another winter in their location, and they are moving south. McCarthy writes that the man and his son are "each other's worlds entire," and they keep each other alive though their journey south.

The Road is bleak, harrowing, and excruciatingly painful to read. Overall, though, it is a hopeful look at what good people can rise above, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in. McCarthy writes monster stories, but he makes people - ordinary people - the monsters. Through all the pain and the suspense, this book was truly a delight to read.

A housekeeping point:

Even though life got in my way and it took me a long time to post this first review, it was great fun to write. Of course, I'll be back on food early next week (I have a fabulous recipe I'm sitting on), but these reviews should be a weekly event from now on. I think it would be fantastic if we bloggers could take this idea and run with it. So here's what I'm thinking: If you would like to participate in Weekend Reading, please post an original review of a book you've read sometime during the week, and send me an email at cookingandbooking AT junebug DOT org by midnight on Friday, with your blog name, a permanent link to your review, and your name. I'll post a recap on Saturday morning. Hopefully we can really get this to take off and get some people reading!

04 June 2008

Squash and Zucchini Tart

One of my favorite flavors of summer is squash. I just can't get enough of it - all year long, really, but in the summer the flavor just goes to a whole different level and the squash is incredibly sweet. So, I'm always on a quest to find new things to do with it. When I saw Deb at Smitten Kitchen's Ratatouille Tart, I was intrigued. However, I'm neither a huge fan of tomatoes or of eggplant, so it wasn't really my thing. So, on simplifying it, I came up with this delicious squash and zucchini tart.

Squash and Zucchini Tart

1 tart shell, blind-baked (I used this recipe, and I doubt I'll ever use another)
2 each yellow and green squash
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

1. Either by hand or using a mandoline, thinly slice the squash. You will probably have some slices left over after assembling the tart - they'll be delicious on a salad.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, butter, and garlic over low heat until the butter is just melted. Turn off the heat and let sit while the tart shell is baking.

3. When the tart shell has cooled to room temperature, brush it lightly with the oil and butter. Working from the outside in, lay the squash slices in the shell, slightly overlapping each one. I used three rings plus a few pieces for the center, but your mileage will vary depending on the size of your squash.

4. Brush the squash lightly with the butter and oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Serve and Enjoy!