June 29, 2008

once, twice, three times a braidy

i don't consider myself an expert baker, nor do i think of myself as a novice either. there aren't many recipes that i've tried that are truly a challenge for me, which is why i joined the daring bakers...

...7 challenges in, i finally hit a challenge. now, when i say it was a challenge, i mean i didn't get it right the first time. or the second. it sort of happened with the cheesecake pops, but that was just me being too grossed out over getting my hands messy. i hate that. this time, however, i just forgot everything i've learned about yeast. i make pizza dough just about every week with the kids and know that dry active yeast needs to proof in a warm liquid and a dash of sugar. that's how my mom taught me based on her 40 years of making the same dough. i read the recipe many times and as i put the yeast in the cold milk and started up the mixer i completely ignored that wee little voice in the back of my head...
"it's not going to woooorrrrkkk!" said the voice.
i looked in the bowl of milky yeast and re-read the notes, "yes, it should work, that's what the recipe says."
"you're doing it wrong," the voice replied.
"shut up," i said, and went on to the next step.
the first round didn't rise, and i knew it wouldn't. luckily, it was a relatively inexpensive failure. albeit a tasty one.

the second time i totally forgot to add the eggs. i didn't notice until after my last turn and i was flipping the page. too late to turn back and add them, so just for fun, and practice i decided to make croissants:

the third time, i knew i had it right. i warmed up my milk and proofed the yeast, and i didn't forget the eggs. from the first rolling, the dough was wonderfully soft and behaved like i thought it should: strong and springy, and i didn't have to really push my rolling pin like i was steamrolling asphalt. with each 30 minute resting period between folds, the dough rose slightly and retained it's great texture. while it was proofing in my oven with the light on it rose even more. i couldn't believe it. i used only one egg for the wash- omitting the extra yolk. whilst the braids and eggless croissants were baking, i was treated to the most delicious smell imaginable. i bake a lot but have never smelled anything so fragrant!
in the end, the only real difference that i found between the dough that i forgot the eggs and the one with them, was the colour: the eggs made the dough a little yellow (i did have to add a bit more water to get the dough to stick together during mixing though.), and it was a little harder to roll it out. the fillings i chose were "pink ladies" apple (recipe below) and fresh cherry for the first failed round, "royal gala" apple (i like apples) and chocolate-cranberry-coconut for the final sucessful batch. thanks to kellypea of sass & veracity and ben of what's cooking? for a great challenge and don't forget to check out the other daring bakers here!
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.

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk1/3 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 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.

*note to self: always listen to the voice in the back of your head!


enza said...

funny, amazing and great!

Robyn said...

I'm surprised you had a hard time without proofing the yeast, maybe it was the heat here, but mine did just fine without proofing. I am curious about the difference, though and think I might try proofing the yeast first next time I make this.

Lorrie said...

your hilarious and your braid looks perfect!

Lorrie said...

youre* sigh :)

momquixote said...

I don't think mine really rised either. Then again, I may have rolled it out too thin to begin with, but I had read that warm milk was the way to go, too. Next time, I'll try that!

Either way, your braid looks delish!

Susie Homemaker said...

3 times? 3?? wow, you are very determined. but great GREAT job - that braid looks so perfect. Amazing, really.

Leslie said...

Looks Divine!!!!!

Rebecca said...

Your braids look and sound great! I wish I had warmed up my milk too, because neither of my braids rose very high.

deb said...

i actually made it for a fourth time about a week ago. strictly for croissants. love this dough!

Angela said...

Third time lucky, eh? Glad you cracked it in the end, and your filling choices are very yummy indeed.

Angela @ A Spoonful of Sugar

Jen Yu said...

Oh, you poor dear. I have to say that despite the challenges you faced, your pastry looks soooo flaky and beautiful. Kudos to you!

Ben said...

3 times? Wow! That's been a truly Daring Baker. Your pictures look amazing. Thank you for baking with us :)

Angel said...

Woot! Talk about die hard and daring you did this recipe to the max. I know what you mean about the yeast, I decided to warm the milk a little when i added the yeast to it, and I think it worked perfectly. I also chose pink lady apples. I think maybe we are being assimilated.....scary!

Claire said...

I almost forgot my eggs, too! Glad you were still able to enjoy your "mistakes." Such a fancy braid!