Monday, June 30, 2008

Danish Braid

It is that time of month again. As the month of June closes, there is no better way to end the month than to present a Daring Bakers Challenge. This month's challenge was an exciting one for me. A critical ingredient was yeast - and I just don't bake much with yeast. I know...shame on me. So, when I first read the recipe, I was very excited. And you know what, yeast isn't that scary!!

This month was hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’?. They chose a technique that I have never tackled - Making and working with yeasted laminated dough. The recipe was for "Danish Braid" from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking.

So, what is Danish Braid? Kelly and Ben did a great job of explaining this technique to the Daring Bakers crowd, so I thought I would share it with you.

• Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet and is yeast-leavened, however, where as puff pastry is not.
• The process of making Danish dough is less complex than that of puff pastry, but equally as important to achieve best results, and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general.
• Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.
Some History:
• According to many sources, “Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and Viennese bakers were brought in to replace them, creating what is referred to as Vienna Bread.
• Conversely, it is also said that Danish bakers went to Vienna to learn the techniques Viennese bakers employed, and Danish dough was created there.
• In the early 1800’s, C.L. Olsen spent time in Germany, believing in the idea of gaining inspiration from bakers of other countries. He brought knowledge back to Denmark to introduce “foreign” breads to his country, also hiring people of other nationalities to bake in his family bakery.

• Laminated dough – is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough
• Detrempe – ball of dough
• Beurrage – butter block
• Turn – each “fold & roll” of the dough produces a single turn in a 3-step process where the dough is folded exactly like a business letter in 3 columns. Each single turn creates 3 layers with this method.

Sherry Yard recommends the following:
• Use well-chilled ingredients. This includes flour if your kitchen temperature is above 70 degrees F (~ 21 degrees C).
• It is recommended that long, continuous strokes be used to roll the dough rather than short, jerky strokes to make sure the butter block is evenly distributed.
• The 30-minute rest/cooling period for the dough between turns is crucial to re-chill the butter and allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
• Excess flour accumulated on the surface of the dough after turns should be brushed off as pockets of flour can interfere with the rise.
• Yard calls for a “controlled 90 degree F environment” for proofing the constructed braid. Please refer to this chart to assist you in this stage of the challenge:

Proofing Temperature For Fresh Dough
(room temp) For Refrigerated Dough
Degrees F Degrees C
70 ~ 21 1-1/2 to 2 hrs. 2-1/2 to 3 hrs.
75 ~ 24 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hrs. 2 to 2-1/2 hrs.
80 ~ 27 1 to 1-1/4 hrs. 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.
85 ~ 29 45 min. to 1 hr. 1 to 1-1/2 hrs.
90 ~ 32 45 min. 1 hr.

• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.


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.

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.

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.

This is a completely lovely dough with a fragrance that is to swoon over. And when it's baking? My oh my.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Longer Linger

Hunger pangs, that's how it begins. Our bellys work better than any alarm clock. We know when to eat, and we know it is usually pretty often. As sundown approaches, we begin the mental process of determining what will land on everyone's plate for dinner - right down to the...Dessert. Dessert is always a priority for supper. Sure, we have to figure out the main course, the protein that feeds our muscles. Which hunk of meat will it be - chicken, beef, pork? The side vegetables are equally as important. Come on, really - no one wants a bland string bean. Ultimately, the dinner has to be cohesive and meld together. The tastes must compliment each other, yet not be overpowering.

And, then there is dessert.

I'm not sure if you can blame it on the rampant sweet tooths in my house, or just the childhood magic that always surrounded dessert. My guess, it is the magic, the magic that can never leave the hearts of dessert lovers around the world. Desserts can be richly sweet, creamy, fruity, chocolately, nutty, smooth, cold, hot, utterly delicious.... that always, always linger.

So, as we were deciding our dinner menu, the conversation wasn't complete without deciding which sweet nothing, which sweet something, would linger on our palette after dinner. If we were lucky, it would linger, and linger, and be the sole inspiration of a daydream the next day, wishing for just a taste floating lightly on our tongue. Hoping for a longer linger...

Tonight, the winner was something refreshing, light and delicious. And, are you ready for the irony? It is a healthy concoction!! No joke. This is no laughing matter. This is a dessert that is waistline friendly and mother approved! Sweet, healthy, and tasty!

Let us linger, Lemon Panna Cotta, oh my!

Panna Cotta is an Italian phrase that means "cooked cream". It is a creamy dessert that is a cross between a gelatin and cream brulee. This Italian dessert comes from the Northern Italian region of Piedmont. It is eaten all over Italy and, thankfully, all over the world.

This recipe is crazy easy. The ingredients are quite simple and it comes together quickly, which is always a bonus. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can have success with this recipe. I promise, the the memory will linger all summer long.

Lemon Panna Cotta

1 1/2 cups Greek-style yogurt
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup each heavy cream and sugar
1 pt strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 Tbsp honey
Additional honey, optional

1. Coat six 6-oz custard cups or ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk yogurt, half-and-half, lemon zest and vanilla in large bowl.

2. Pour lemon juice in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it; let stand 5 minutes to soften.

3. Heat cream and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in softened gelatin until dissolved, and stir quickly into yogurt mixture until blended.

4. Divide mixture into prepared custard cups (about 1/2 cup in each). Cover; refrigerate about 4 hours or overnight.

5. To serve: Toss strawberries with honey; let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes. Run a small knife around each panna cotta, shake gently and invert onto serving plate to unmold. Serve with strawberries and an additional drizzle of honey, if desired.

From Woman's Day July 8, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Empty Desires

The weekend weather was warm.  Sweltering actually.   It was the kind of lazy hot day filled with humidity that encouraged hours of wading in a pool and really nothing else.  Our energy was zapped.

The dinner hour was fast approaching, but the desire to actually heat an oven or turn on a stove was completely empty. Unfortunately, so were our bellys. We had to eat. Was a chopped salad the only way to beat the heat?  This was the moment that Jamie Oliver saved me from heat stroke.

I find that food television is addictive, but only a few are really worth my time watching.  Mr. Oliver falls into this category.  He has a knack for cooking just about anything, anywhere, with fresh ingredients.  As it just so happens, I had one of his creations fresh on my mind -   grilled salmon with fennel served with a fresh yogurt cucumber sauce.   Oh, yeah! 

The grill was the key ingredient on this hot day - anything to keep the heat out of the kitchen.   The fresh chopped green salad already had a reservation, so we decided to add the salmon to make a complete and healthy dinner.   

For those of you who have never had fennel, don't be afraid of it.  Fennel has a fragrance similar to anise, but not as strong.  As it cooks, it mellows into a very subtle aroma.  It compliments the salmon in a refreshing way.  When you are looking at fennel in the produce section, make sure you buy fennel with full fronds and may your desires be no longer empty. Enjoy!

Grilled Salmon with Fennel and Yogurt Cucumber Sauce
adapted from Jamie Oliver

1 (3-pound) salmon filet
1 lemon, zest and juice
Bunch of fennel fronds
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop the fennel fronds, taking care to use the green fronds, not the stalks.  Place in a bowl.  Zest a lemon and add the zest to the bowl.  Add the juice of the zested lemon to the bowl and combine.   
Place the salmon skin side down and, using a sharp knife, slash it evenly all over on the fleshy side, making the incisions about 1/2-inch deep.   Salt and pepper the the salmon.  Scatter the chopped fennel fronds over the salmon, taking care to stuff the slits with the fennel mixture. Rub the skin side with olive oil and drizzle the top (with the fennel mixture) with the olive oil.  

When your grill is hot,  place the salmon skin-side down. The salmon will start to cook from the bottom up and after about 4-6 minutes the skin should be beautifully golden brown. Carefully flip the salmon over and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes on the other side until desired doneness. While it's cooking, you can gently ease the skin away from the fish if you wish.

Yogurt Cucumber Sauce

1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
Small bunch fresh oregano, chopped
Small bunch fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, remove and discard the seeds, chop it up and mix it in a bowl with the yogurt. Add the chopped oregano and thyme.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drizzle over a little extra-virgin olive oil. 

Break the salmon up with a fork into 4 to 6 chunks. Serve with the cucumber yogurt sauce.  

Sunday, June 8, 2008

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream, for...

ICE CREAM! How lovely a thought. No. How lovely a taste. Homemade ice cream is so decadent, so indulgent, yet so simple. All you need is milk, sugar, eggs, and your imagination.

Tonight, the stars shined on ruby red berries....sweet summer strawberries to be exact. I sliced the strawberries and let them become happy with sugar, fresh lemon zest, and a tad of lemon juice. You can see how juicy the strawberries became with a little urging. I almost grabbed a spoon and said to heck with the ice cream. Thank goodness I restrained myself. The strawberry ice cream was meant to be churned.

There are different methods for churning ice cream at home. Ice cream is divided into two basic categories: custard-style (or French custard-style) and Philadelphia-style (or "American"). In the end, it really comes down to your personal preference. Custard ice cream is, as the name suggests, made from a custard base. Egg yolks or whole eggs are whisked together with hot milk or cream and sugar, and cooked gently until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Egg yolks are natural emulsifiers, and the resulting custard makes an ice cream that is remarkably smooth and rich. Philadelphia-style ice cream contains no egg yolks and does not require cooking. It's based purely on cream and sugar, and is very delicate-tasting, with so few ingredients.

This recipe is the best of both worlds. It actually contains eggs, but no cooking. You basically use a whisk and whip the daylights out of the eggs. I mean whip the daylights... At first they become frothy, but the more you whip - and yes, your arm will feel like it is going to fall off - the eggs turn into this beautiful thick cream. Once the sugar is incorporated it resembles a pastry cream. It adds so much depth and creaminess to the churned ice cream. It is, by far, my favorite method of making ice cream. And don't forget your bonus, you can get a workout in the process. Does that mean I get seconds?

Fresh Strawberry Ice-Cream

Sweet Cream Base
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup milk

1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
juice from 1/2 lemon
zest from 1 lemon

Combine strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/3 cup sugar. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Once the strawberries have macerated, remove about 1/2 cup and chop in a food processor or blender. This adds a nice thickness to the strawberries and turns the ice cream a pretty shade of pink.

Prepare the sweet cream base. Whisk eggs vigorously in a bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the sugar and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes longer. The eggs will become thick and creamy, almost resembling a pastry cream. Add the cream and milk, stir until fully combined. Add the strawberry mixture into the sweet cream base. Pour into an ice-cream maker and churn according to manufacturers instructions. I have a small Cuisinart ice-cream maker which works great.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I've been tagged!

I have been tagged! Megan from Megans Cookin has tagged me for a meme.  How fun - at least for me.  Here is a little (and I mean little) insight into Nay Nay.  

The rules: Each participant answers questions about himself. At the end of the post the participant tags 5 people. Their names are posted letting them know they’ve been tagged. They then have to read the participant’s blog. The tagged let’s the tagger know when he’s posted his answers. Here we go!

What was I doing ten years ago?

10 years ago my hubby and I packed our car and moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Denver, Colorado. We lived there for 3 years before returning to Georgia.  It was an awesome experience.  

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:

1. Laundry. 
2. Make strawberry ice cream.
3. Go to friends house for dinner.
4. Make Sauerkraut for the first time.
5. Workout.

Five Snacks I enjoy:

I"m not really a snacker, but when I do I reach for 

Salt and Vinegar potato chips - only Kettle brand
Blackbean and corn dip

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Spread happiness.

Places I have lived:

Savannah, GA.
Atlanta, GA.
Denver, CO.

Jobs I have had:

Filing clerk in a doctors office
YMCA camp counselor
Housewares department at local department store
sales in a jewelry store
Software Consultant
Software Sales

I tag:

Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie
Deborah of Taste and Tell
Shannon of Grey Salt is My Favorite
Laura Rebecca of Laura Rebecca's Kitchen
Linda of Tender Crumb

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


For being so tiny, cupcakes are such a grand idea. The very idea of 12 little delicious wonders rising in the oven at the same time makes me giddy.  Just take a whiff, a deep deep sniff of the sweet smell that wafts from the kitchen thoughout the house. The aroma floats up in the air 12 times, 12 little times.  Now, how sweet is that?

In only about 20 itty bitty minutes, you have a dozen moist little fairy cakes that are in need of a crown.  A crown so creamy and richly chocolate, the very thought of it would make a grown man weep.  Dark chocolate creamy frosting...May I have a spoon?

Once these little wonders are properly crowned with frosting, the anticipation becomes almost unbearable.  The first bite is so near.  Fun, I smell fun around the corner.  

Choices. We can eat these in a very dignified manner. All we need is a proper dessert plate, a delicate fork, and a napkin placed gently in our lap. Or, even better, we can unleash our inner child and forget the forks. Forget the plate. Forget the napkin.

With a cupcake in one hand, I can see my finger swipe a swirl of frosting onto my finger for a taste. It takes all of my self-control to not lick the top free of frosting. Memories of celebrating my sixth birthday flash before my eyes.  Before I can stop myself, I will have devoured that little cupcake, almost wanting  a second one.   Almost.

Yellow Butter Cupcakes With Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cups so that each is about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool. Invert cupcakes onto the rack; reinvert and let cool completely, top sides up. Spread or pipe chocolate frosting on each cupcake. They can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 2 dozen.

Dark Chocolate Frosting

Makes about 5 cups.

1 pound best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
Pinch of Salt

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water. Turn off the heat; stir occasionally until chocolate has melted completely, about 15 minutes. Set bowl on countertop, and let chocolate cool to room temperature, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl; stir until cocoa is dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add melted chocolate; beat on low speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture.