Sunday, June 29, 2008

10 Days Later...

Wow - I hope someone's still out there! I have (somewhat sadly) been out of my own bed and my kitchen for a week and a half! I wish I could tell you about my glamourous travels in exotic places. The truth is I've been spending long hours cramped into a Civic navigating from one exhausting experience to the next. Not that it wasn't fun. I just feel like I could sleep for a week! Too bad I left my pillow at the hotel!

More details and photos after the recipe...

Since I've had no time to cook recently, I'm glad it's time for the June Daring Bakers big reveal, and I can finally show off my hard work from weeks ago! This time we played with a lovely flaky dough, plaited neatly around the filling of our choice. I created a sweet braid (perfect for my morning treat) and a savory (to satisfy L's snacktime cravings). This was the first time I've ever made a laminated dough and it was so surprisingly easy that I'm now toying with the ideas of homemade croissants and puff pastry.

Rich and buttery almond frangipane finds the perfect counterpoint to sweet-tart cherry jam....

Spring onions, blue cheese and bacon cozy up to sliced pears....

Danish Braids

Danish Dough (modified from The Secrets of Baking By Sherry Yard

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough, enough for 2 braids

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

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.

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup 1 % milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond 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

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, extracts, 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.

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 note and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Turn out the dough onto the floured surface with the open ends to the right and left. Repeat rolling out in the opposite direction as before. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. Repeat folding as before. 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.

Cherry Frangipane Braid

1 cup toasted almonds
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg
1 tsp water
coarse turbinado sugar

2/3 cup highest quality cherry jam

1/2 danish dough recipe

Pulverize first 5 ingredients in the food processor until no chunks of pesky nuts remain. Add egg and extracts and pulse enthusiastically.

Make and egg wash by whisking egg and water until well blended.

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.

Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a pizza cutter, 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 frangipane down the center of the rectangle, thicker along the sides than in the middle, forming a cavity for the jam. Spoon jam into cavity. 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.

With a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse turbinado sugar.

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 350 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. 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.

Gorgonzola Braid with Bacon, Pear and Spring Onion Jam

1 recipe spring onion jam from The Kitchen Sink
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola
4 slices hickory smoked center cut bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled
1 large bartlett pear, peeled and sliced

2 Tbsp sesame seeds
coarse salt

Prepare and slice dough as before. Spread spring onion jam down the middle, sprinkle on cheese and bacon, top with pear slices. Braid as described above.

Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt. Proof and bake as directed above.

And now a little about what I've been up to...

I've received a research fellowship for the summer studying oyster immunology. My 6 weeks in the lab start tomorrow, and they were preceded by an intense week of workshops and lectures on Solomon's Island on Maryland's western shore.

This included kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay, water testing in historic St. Mary's, trawling for fish, dredging for oysters and examining the health of submerged aquatic vegetation.

I slept in a great hotel with comfy beds, met some new friends, including a wonderful roomate, and enjoyed dinner out at a couple great restaurants and a few not so good ones. If it weren't for the long hours (7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night), it would have been almost a vacation.

Along the way I was introduced to the pleasures of geocaching and learned a lot about the state of the bay, including much I can bring back to the classroom.

After the week was over, it was 3 hours home and then 8 up to Mass to visit family, including an oh so cute nephew! I already miss seeing them all, but I'm glad to be home in my own bed tonight!


Pamela said...

Wow danish look great! Love the bacon, bluecheese and onion YUM! Looks like you've been having fun too!

Em said...

Ooooh the savory braid... yum! Sounds like you will have quite the exciting summer :) :)

Have a delicious day!!

Cynthia's Blog said...

Totally creative! Wow. Gorgonzola and spring onion. did you keep the cardamom and vanilla bean dough?

sugarpond said...

your savory braid looks so good!

HoneyB said...

Great job and I love your fillings!

The Irreverent Cook said...

Hi!!! Wow, looks like you had a fantastic trip!! Kudos to you for baking up this wonderful and gorgeous challenge even with your tight schedule! You know, I often feel that challenges completed amidst a busy schedule brings a satisfaction like no other =D

Anonymous said...

mmm cherries!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos of your trip - and your braids look delicious. I love almond frangipane, and combining it with tart cherry sounds awesome!!

Jen Yu said...

Wow! What beautiful braids you made and I love love love the filling combination. I'm not a blue cheese eater, but I think the ingredients sound soooo good! Great job and your trip looks fun to me :)

Rebecca said...

Your braids are so pretty! Well worth the wait–especially for that onion/bacon/blue cheese idea. YUM.

breadchick said...

Your danish looks wonderful and I'm glad you are back home to sleep in your own bed. Even though the kayaking looked fabulous.

Dolores said...

Oh wow... I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get here and drool over your savory braid. Blue cheese. Bacon. Onions. I think I'm in love. :) Great job!

Leslie said...

Love the Braid...I tagged you for a meme on my site..if you would like to participate you are more than welcome to!

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