Thursday, July 10, 2008

Daring Bakers - Danish braid

I'm running behind schedule but here, finally, is my post for the June Daring Bakers challenge: Danish braid. I've never made puff pastry before, or this Danish dough, which is from the same family of butter-laminated (or layered) doughs. Unlike puff pastry though, Danish dough is sweet and yeast-leavened. It's also less complicated to make.

The actual process of making Danish dough is quite simple, especially if you have a stand mixer, but it also requires time. Unlike bread dough, which can be left alone to prove for several hours, Danish dough needs to be turned and rolled every 30 minutes at least four times, meaning you need to stay nearby.

This recipe's method was to mix yeast and milk in a mixmaster, add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla, eggs and orange juice. Then, flour and salt are added and the mixture kneaded with a dough hook for about five minutes. The dough (known as 'detrempe') is refrigerated for 30 minutes. Although my usual method is to mix the yeast and milk together and let it sit for about 15 minutes to activate, I followed the recipe's instructions. Because I wasn't sure how much this dough was supposed to rise (compared with bread dough), I thought it would be better if I didn't deviate.

While the detrempe is chilling, butter and a small portion of flour are mixed together in the mixmaster to a smooth, lumpfree mixture to form a butter block known as 'beurrage'. The detrempe is rolled out into a large rectangle and the beurrage spread over the centre and right-third of the dough. The left third is folded over to the centre and the right side is folded over that (similar to folding a business letter). This is the first turn. This process is repeated three more times, with the dough resting in the fridge for 30 minutes before each turn. After the fourth and final turn, it's refrigerated overnight.

You can use many varieties of fillings for a Danish braid but the one given for this recipe was for caramelised apples, made by cooking chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla lemon juice and butter. The dough was rolled out into a large rectangle and the cooled caramelised apples spread down the centre. To make the braid, five-inch cuts are made (about one inch apart) on each side of the rectangle, then folded over the filling like a plait. The instructions for this recipe made it sound more difficult than it was - it was quite easy to come up with the finished product, which looked very impressive. The braid is proved for at least two hours and then baked.

The end result was delicious. I've never made or eaten anything like this before and my taste-testers all enjoyed it. We liked the spiciness of the cardamom in the dough, which paired beautifully with the caramelised apple.

Although this recipe was not difficult, it was time-consuming and is not the sort of thing you could whip up quickly on a whim. If you were organised and made the dough and filling a day earlier, and got up early to make the braid and let it prove, it would be nice for a weekend brunch. I would like to make this again but would definitely need to be more organised! Thanks to Kellypea and Arimou for hosting this month's challenge. It was a good one!


Dolores said...

I'm glad you found the time to make it and that you enjoyed the end result.

Dharm said...

Well done on the challenge! Actually dropped in looking for the Filbert - since its 12am where you are and I'm still 2 hours behind! I studied in Melb incidentally, almost 20 years ago!! Loved every minute of it too! Yahoo for Melbourne!