29 June 2008

The Daring Bakers' Challenge for June 2008

Gosh how time flies - it's been a whole month since I last blogged. But I've been on holiday for a couple of weeks and I've started a new job, where I'm still settling in, so I haven't had any time for culinary adventures.

This month's challenge was Danish Braid and after reading the recipe, I was well excited - I've been wanting to try and make puff pastry for ages - my first and only attempt was when I was in Munich for my exchange year over 10 years ago and I misunderstood the recipe and only did two folds and didn't bother with chilling sessions in between. Needless to say, my croissants were anything but.


I took time to look at the recommended links in the challenge description to make sure I get things right this time.

So my first surprise was that there was yeast in the dough - from my browsings this isn't needed and I was wondering if all the butter wouldn't ooze out in room temperature while the braids were rising. In my case it most definitely did.

Also it shouldn't have mattered if the butter was soft or hard. I followed the instructions and had it soft.

I also didn't manage to make the braid on the following day, but had to keep the dough in the fridge for 3 days.

And to make a long story short, the dough smelt wonderful, the braids turned out really pretty and rose well too, while the butter oozed out on the baking sheet. I baked anyway and the result, although still pretty, was heavy regular bready thing with filling. No flakiness, no lightness.

My joy over this challenge dropped well below zero when I tasted the thing. Greasy and heavy and I decided never to do this one again.

Having looked at a number of fellow Daring Bakers - some had similar results to mine, judging by the photos. Others had was was intended - with obvious lamination and rising and all that.

So even better planning next time - Saturday to make the pastry, Sunday to bake it. Use cold butter, because to some extent I think the butter may have become incorporated into the dough, but some definitely just oozed out, so not sure what to do about that.

Another thing that seemed odd is that the other Daring Bakers seemed to have nice white pastry, where mine was well yellow. Did I use too much orange juice and zest? It sure smelt of Christmas while I was doing the turns.

For the filling, I could have made the apple stuff that was recommended, but given the option of using jam as long as it was home made, I seized the opportunity to use up some of the quince jam I made a couple of years ago. It also had the advantage of being fairly jelly-like and the chances of it running over should thus be minimal. Plus we're not big jam eaters in our house, which is why even smaller quantities last years.

Anyway, I feel I should give this anther go, just to be on the safe side. And here is the recipe (taken from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking):


Dough (detempre)

1 tbsp dry yeast
1.2 dl full milk
0.8 dl caster sugar
zest from 1 orange
0.75 tsp ground cardamom
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
0.5 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large chilled eggs
0.6 dl orange juice
5 dl strong flour
2.7 dl plain flour
1 tsp salt

Butter block (beurrage)

226 g cold unsalted butter
0.5 dl plain flour

Egg wash

1 large egg
1 large egg yolk


  1. Prepare all ingredients and mix the two flours and the salt. In a mixer, combine yeast and milk on low speed.
  2. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract and seeds, eggs and orange juice.
  3. Increase the mixer speed to medium and add the flour a little at a time. Mix until the four is incorporated. If it seems too sticky still, add a little more flour.
  4. Transfer the dough to a suitable container if needed, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. In the mean time, combine the butter and the flour in a mixer and beat on medium for 1 minute. Scrape the sides, then beat for another minute or until smooth and lump free and set aside at room temperature.
  6. After the detempre has chilled, take out of the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, then roll into a rectangle of 45 x 33 cm and about 1 cm thick. If the dough is sticky, keep dusting with flour lightly.
  7. Now divide in your mind the long side into 3 parts of 15 cm width. Spread the butter over the middle and one of the side parts as evenly as possible, going all the way to the edges.
  8. Starting with the butter-free part and fold over the middle to cover the butter. Then fold the other side part on top of that, making sure to keep the edges and corners as straight as possible. This is turn 1, so either mark the dough with a poke or keep a tally on a piece of paper. Place the dough on a baking sheet, cover with cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  9. Then turn the dough rectangle carefully out onto the lightly floured surface, preferably so that the short open ends are to your left and right. Roll the dough again to 45 x 33 cm and 1 cm thickness.
  10. Once more in your mind divide the long side into 3 equal parts and fold one side over the middle, then the other on top of that. This completes turn 2, so poke two fingers into the dough or add to the tally, place on the baking sheet, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for another 30 minutes. Note that because the open ends from turn 1 were folded, the butter is now well sealed into the dough.
  11. Repeat this two more times, then leave the dough in the fridge for at least 5 hours, but preferably overnight.
  12. If the dough won't be used within 24 h, it's best to freeze it wrapped tightly in cling film. Defrost slowly in the fridge.
  13. The above quantity makes two largeish braids, so line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  14. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 33 x 60 cm rectangle. Then cut in the middle of the long side to make two pieces of 33 x 30 cm rectangles.
  15. On each, mark lightly three 10 cm wide strips, then cut the two side ones into 2 - 3 cm wide strips perpendicular to the middle strip, but leave 5 cm from the bottom and top edges.
  16. Put a jam of your choice in the middle strip, then fold the top and bottom "flaps", then start folding the side strips, alternating left and right.
  17. Repeat with the second rectangle, then transfer to their respective baking sheets.
  18. Whisk the egg wash lightly and brush the two braids gently.
  19. Spray or brush two pieces of cling film and cover the two braids, then cover with towels and leave to rise for 1.5 - 2 h in room temperature, until doubled in size and light to the touch.
  20. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 degrees C), then bake in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to gas mark 4 (180 degrees C), turn the baking sheet so that the side of the braid that was towards the oven door now is on the other side and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  21. Take out and bake the second braid.
  22. Leave to cool a bit at lest before serving, or serve at room temperature.
  23. The cooled braid can be frozen.

As you can see, I didn't do the first turn very well and some butter squeezed out from the open ends. And even in the second turn, I didn't do too well - I'd managed to trap some air in the first turn, and rolling in the second turn made them burst and more butter squirted out. At the fourth turn, I'd got the hang of things and it looked very nice and tidy indeed.

You can see all the burnt goo around my finished braid - some of it was quince jam, most of it was grease.

One very clever thing I spotted on Gretchen's blog Canela & Comino was how she's done the edges - she'd cut out a wedge from each end flap, so that it would fold a lot easier, not become too thick relative to the middle of the braid and also it looks rather esthetically pleasing, I think.

I might not bother with the orange zest and juice next time either.