Sunday, June 29, 2008

Braids and Challenges

Here is to surviving another Daring Bakers Challenge. This month's challenge was graciously hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? . They chose Danish braid as this month's challenge.

The first thing which I noticed in the recipe was Yeast. Now if its one thing which scares me when it comes to baking is Yeast. Its finicky and has its own mind. Dry yeast will not activate if you don't have the right temperature. If yeast is not activated, then what ever you are making is not going to rise and its a disaster in the making. Did I tell you that I was scared of Yeast? So, I gathered all the courage I could find and made the Danish Braid. And it was awesome. There is absolutely nothing to beat home made danish.

We were allowed to fill the danish braid with anything as long as it made from scratch. I chose to make a mango filling and a banana raisin filling. I liked the banana raisin filling better than the mango filling. You can view all the other daring bakers amazing creations here.


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

31/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt


  1. Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.

  2. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well.

  3. 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.

  4. 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:

  1. Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.

  2. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.

  3. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain.

  4. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain.

  5. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges.

  6. 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.


For the butter block (Beurrage)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour


  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.

Assembling the dough

  1. 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.

  2. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.

  3. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough.

  4. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter.

  5. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed.

  6. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.

  7. 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.

  8. The open ends should be to your right and left.

  9. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle.

  10. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.

  11. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough.

  12. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

  13. 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.