Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers July Challenge: Danish Braid

I am proud to say that I actually completed this challenge AND it was a success! My final product was a little crazy looking, but oh so delicious...

This month's challenge was brought to us by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'. The recipe itself is from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking.

When I first read over this recipe, I was intimidated. This seemed like an easier recipe to veganize than the challenges of the past two months (cheesecake pops and opera cake), but it involved several steps and apparently patience, and those are the kinds of recipes I tend to skip over. But, I am so glad I gave it a go.

Here is the recipe as written, pre-veganization:


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 two braids

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 saut√© pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and saut√© 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.

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.

And now, my substitutions...some of them are very easy, i.e. hemp milk for the whole milk, Ener-G Egg Replacer for the eggs in the dough, and apricot syrup for the egg wash. But then there was the issue of the butter block. My first thought was Earth Balance, but I was reading on the Daring Bakers forums that that may not work, unless I could find it in stick form, which I could not. So I decided on coconut oil, which has become one of my favorite things in the world since becoming vegan.

Our Alternative Daring Bakers virtual bake-along was held on the solstice, and unfortunately I was only able to pop online for a few minutes, but I am so glad I did! I told Natalie of Gluten A Go-Go my plan to use coconut oil, and she suggested that I mix it with some vegetable shortening to improve the consistency. So that is what I did, and my layers turned out beautiful!

After all the turns and proofing, this beauty was now ready to go in the oven. The baking aroma was heavenly! The lovely scent of cardamom, apples and coconut filled my kitchen, and seriously I could have just stood there all day breathing it in if I did not have two monkeys climbing me like a tree. Luka even commented how yummy it smelled, but then was disappointed that it wasn't chocolate, lol (a child after my own heart!).

Once I took the braid out of the oven, I took many many pictures of it as if it were my firstborn. The apricot glaze had made the top darker than I would have liked, but it still looked pretty. Nate and I had some for dessert, and it tasted wonderful! I did spend a few moments admiring my lovely layers between bites.

I will definitely make this again. I never thought that I would make something like this, but thanks to Kelly and Ben, I can now say that I have made Danish pastry! This would be a great addition to my family dinners at Easter time. We love our pastries in Easter baskets, and now I can make a pretty vegan variety!


Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see the finished product!

Lorrie said...

I never would have tried this either, so glad I joined the group. Look forward to seeing your braid.

breadchick said...

I'm always amazed by our members who adapt the recipe for specific dietary reasons and how they turn out. Can't wait to see the results but congrats on the recipe and challenge results.

Prudy said...

I'll be back to see the danish. Definitely wouldn't have done it without the challenge. It's great to stretch and grow.

Renee said...

I lover your braid, it is so rustic and it looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

Awesome job on veganizing this challenge; the resulting braid sounds delicious. :)

Sheltie Girl said...

Jen - You did a fabulous job on your braid. I'm so impressed by how much your dough rose, mine didn't even rise half as much. Simply beautiful!

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Maggie said...

I'm so excited that the coconut oil worked so well! I get tired of using EB in everything.

Claire said...

Looks wonderful! Glad you enjoyed it.

Chessa said...

You are my vegan hero of the week! That bread looks incredible (and complicated!) Awesome work, mama!

I have never used coconut oil - I know, I'm totally going to hell. ;) I'm just afraid to pick up a new expensive habit!

Vegan_Noodle said...

What a delicious looking danish!!