It feels like a while since I've last done a Daring Baker's challenge but in reality, I've only just skipped one month, when I was away on honeymoon. In any case, after a long absence, I was raring to go again and was delighted with the pick of Danish Braid for this month's challenge.
I rarely make yeasted doughs on my own simply because it requires a bit more planning, but I absolutely adore the results. Since we were given the option to vary the filling, I decided to skip the suggested apple filling and made my braid with chocolate instead. I suppose any kind of chopped chocolate would do, but since I had an excess of chocolate batons in my cupboard (the type for making pain au chocolat) I decided to use that.
The braid turned a little darker than I expected when it was in the oven, so next time, I might just decide to skip the egg wash. Taste-wise, however, the braid was a hit. I brought it to a friends' house where 5 of us devoured the braid over a cup a coffee. Will I make this again? Absolutely!
From The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard
For the dough
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp 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 tsp salt
For the butter block
2 sticks cold unsaltd 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.
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.
After the detrempe has chilled 3o minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and 1/4 inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and the 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.
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, 1/4 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.
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 recipe Danish dough
Chocolate batons (like those for Pain au chocolat)
For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
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, 1/4 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.
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.
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.
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.
Proofing and baking
Spray cooking oil 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.
Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
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 enough for 2 large braids