Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge Number One!

Well, the time has come to post my first Daring Bakers Challenge! The hosts for this month's challenge are Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking?, and the challenge was to create a Danish Braid. The recipe entailed creating a yeasted laminated dough, a homemade filling, and a finished Danish Braid. I was pretty scared when I first saw the recipe as I have never done anything like this before, and was worried that this challenge would be too far outside my element.
I am so glad that I tried the Danish Braid recipe and completed the challenge! It was a lot of work (rolling, chilling, rolling, get the idea), but everything came together really well. I opted to use the apple filling recipe, and the flavor of the apples, butter and vanilla was wonderful!
The pastry itself featured vanilla bean, cardamom, and fresh orange juice. My kitchen smelled heavenly as it was baking, and the flavor was wonderful! I'm glad I was able to give away most of the braid, as I would have eaten the entire thing if I had been left alone with it. I have never worked with vanilla beans before, but really wanted to try the recipe in its entirety, so I ordered some from e-bay. I think I may be hooked on vanilla beans now.

This was a terrific first challenge for me....and I'm excited to face the next challenge!


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.

APPLE FILLING (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.

DANISH BRAID 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.

Click the picture above to check out the blogroll for the Daring Bakers and see many more fantastic pastries!


Michelle said...

WOW...WOW...WOW!! Your braid looks wonderful, in fact perfect! Congratulations and welcome to Daring Bakers!!!

ostwestwind said...

Your braid looks gorgeous, I like the apple filling

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Ann said...

Congrats on your first challenge! Looks terrific!

Di said...

Nice job on your first challenge! Your braid looks delicious. I'm going to have to try an online source for vanilla beans, because they're way too expensive around here.

Candace said...

Very nice job on your first DB Challenge!

Robyn said...

Your first challenge and a perfect braid?! Excellent work!

Angela said...

Your braid looks amazing! I love how tall the filling is.

Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

PS. You asked about the yeast I used. It was fresh yeast, bought at the bakery in my local supermarket.

Shayne said...

Great job on your first DBer challeenge. this is a fun activity and my kids and I have very much enjoyed being a part of it and I have learned a lot and it has not even been a year yet.

giz said...

Congratulations on your first DB challenge and welcome!!! Wasn't it fun! I loved this challenge and the apple filling is classic and delicious. Good job.

PheMom said...

Welcome and congrats on your first challenge! Mine is still running late!

Shari said...

Amazing for your first Danish pastry and your first DB challenge! Welcome to the group!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

onespicymama said...

You braid looks wonderfuil - great first challenge!!!

Ally said...

Congratulations on your first challenge! Your braid looks wonderful!

Jade Is Green! said...

Awesome work on your first challenge. Your braid looks great! It's surprising how easy the dough, sorry...detrempe was no? It just took soooo long to complete. Look forward to seeing how you go next month and keep up the good work!

Lorrie said...

wow you did an amazing job!!

Sandie said...

Great job on your first challenge!

breadchick said...

Excellent 1st Challenge! Welcome to DB!!

Ruth said...

Your bread looks perfect!!

Heather B said...

Great job! Looks delicious! Welcome to the DBs!

Claire said...

Well, it looks like you did a great job on your first challenge! Great.

Milli said...

congrats on ur first challenge!!
You did a wonderful job!!

Jen Yu said...

That looks so nice. What a great start to your DB career :) Fantastic job on the challenge and welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Lunch Buckets said...

Great job! and welcome to the group :)

Dolores said...

Looks to me like you found your element just fine. Great job. Congratulations on your first challenge, and welcome!

Jenny said...

well done - your braid looks great.

paulawy said...

Great job on your first challenge! Your braid looks beautiful!
I got tagged by Alexis of Baking to Destress with a meme, and I'm passing it on to you! See my blog for the details!