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running, running

These past few weeks, I feel like I haven’t had time to catch my breathe. You should’ve seen my to-do list. Each day, it grew by leaps and bounds. Throw in summer school and juggling two jobs, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I am simply spent. When I saw what Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking had planned for this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge, I almost cried. Where in the world would I find time to make this seemingly labor-intensive danish braid?

I mean, are you kidding?! Layers of butter-laminated dough, almost like puff pastry, with some kind of homemade filling inside?! You gotta be joking me. Who do they think I am? The next queen of bread!

After a few days of worrying if I should toss in the towel, hide my buckets of flour, and burn my wood rolling pin, I settled down. At the advice of many, I broke the recipe down into steps. I made the detrempe, ball of dough, as well as the beurrage, or butter block, one night after reading for my Women in History class.

At around 2 a.m., I finished the arm-draining laminated dough. I clumsly through the dough into the freezer, and fell in to bed, with clumps of butter sticking to my hair. Gross, I know, but I’m not kidding.

Cut to the following week. I grabbed my frozen dough, let it sit in the fridge for the day while I jumped from meeting to meeting, furiously taking notes. After my three hour women’s studies class, I filled my braid, and let it proof. Despite spending two and a half hours proofing on a rather warm night, my bread didn’t double in size at all, but since I was running short on time, I baked it anyways. 

Phew. I get tired just READING all that, let alone thinking about how I managed to finish this bad boy up and take some pictures.

The end result reflected the somewhat frenzied preparations for the recipe. It was tasty and sweet, with the golden buttery crust glistening in the sunlight. I only used about 1/3 of my dough to make my braid, so it was definitely smaller than others, but it was just the right amount for me and my small family. Thankfully, my filling was simple to make. After spending hours debating the endless possibilities, I settled on a hassle-free raisin and cream cheese filling. Boy, am I glad I went that route too, because it blended beautifully with the orange flavored braid. I used reduced fat neufatchel cream cheese, which had a slight tartness to it.

In hindsight, I’d do the following with this recipe:

spend more time rolling out the dough. Since I am somewhat anal-retentive, I was a little peeved that I didn’t measure mine out which meant that my recantangular dough was a little lopsided.

make a chocolate and cream cheese filling.

figure out what the f**k is wrong with the proofing process. If someone of a bread goddess, help a sister out here.  My kitchen was probably 75-78 degrees, and I let it proof for about two and a half hours. 

cut my strips for braiding a little better (see above anal-retentive mention).

I must say, I was quite proud of myself for making this braid. I still consider myself a novice in the baking department so tackling this kind of beast makes me just a smidge more confident in my kitchen adventures. 

There is a quite peace one can find making this bread though. I welcomed the midnight silence as I rolled, out the layers of butter dough, turning it every half hour or so. Silence the cell phones, turn off the tube because I am busy, dammit. Nothing else mattered as I attended to my dough, and I focused only on mastering simple techniques (as well as furiously cleaning the butter reminants).

If I had any doubt about if I truly belong in the kitchen, they all fell away the nights I spent, huffing and puffing as I wrestled with this dough. Some people are mechanics and relish the sight of cars torn apart. Others find themselves in piano keys, thumping maniacally. But not me. I smile with glee at the thought of putting my hands to good use on a slab of dough. 

Many thanks to all the fabulous bakers out there who helped answer my many questions. Jump over here to check out the danish braid recipe! Trust me, you will have fun with this braid if you try. Below is the recipe for the filling. 

Raisin Cream Cheese Filling
enough for one small danish braid

Ingredients:
3 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup dried raisins

Directions:
Stir together cream cheese and sugar, then spread over dough, leaving enough room on the borders. Meanwhile, soak dried raisins in hot water, till they become slightly plump. Drain the raisins, and dry. Sprinkle raisins over cream cheese. Fold dough accordingly.

 

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June 29, 2008 - 8:07 am

Candace - Wow! Gorgeous! Love all your detail photos… very nice!

June 29, 2008 - 8:52 am

Robin - Great Job, Amanda! You are such a wonderful baker!

June 29, 2008 - 11:27 am

liz2024 - Still looks great even without silly proofing! Nice idea for the filling. :-)

June 29, 2008 - 1:29 pm

Lorrie - You should be proud, it looks beautiful and delicious. great pictures!

June 29, 2008 - 4:37 pm

Cakespy - Oh BABY! That looks crazy delicious. Pefect flaky-rich-crust!!

June 29, 2008 - 4:55 pm

Megan - your photos always make everything you bake look so lovely. i’m envious. this looks great!

June 29, 2008 - 5:03 pm

breadchick - Well, I’d say your danish actually turned out the way it was suppose to. Nice job!!

Ok, bread maven time (he-he). This dough isn’t a “huge riser”. Also, even though active yeast will rise without being proofed (i.e. activated by mixing it with warm water or milk), it will do it really, really slow. One other thing that happens when we freeze a yeast dough without going through a 1st proof stage (i.e. letting it rise once), we slow down the little yeast beasties even more. So, given this recipe used unproofed active yeast and then you froze the dough and your kitchen was a temp that an instant yeast would rise at a moderately slow rise, your dough would have taken about 4 hours to get “double”.

A trick I use when I’m using unproofed active yeast it to put the dough in the oven with the light on and sometimes even add a pan of hot water on the bottom rack.

If you make it again, try substituting instant rise/bread machine yeast for the active yeast. I used Instant on the 2nd and 3rd braids and had really good rise.

Good luck with your future bread making and great job on this month’s DB Challenge.

June 29, 2008 - 7:27 pm

Speedbump Kitchen - Way to push through! Hopefully the next DB challenge won’t be one that caused most of us mortals to stay up too late or get up too early!

June 29, 2008 - 7:37 pm

Mom Quixote - Girl, I had proof issues too and not for lack of heat. I wasn’t convinced early on when I saw my yeast and cold milk together. I’m giving the dough a whirl in my bread machine next time and see if I get better results.

Either way, amazing work you did, especially with all you’ve got going on it sounds like!

June 29, 2008 - 8:40 pm

eliza - that’s an awesome pastry Amanda! i love eating danish pastry in the morning, so this is perfect!

June 29, 2008 - 8:43 pm

Amber - Beautiful photos. Lord I need a digital camera and lighting help. I would be more than happy to share in what you baked with you. One of mine rose too much, the other not enough, but still wonderful.

June 30, 2008 - 5:06 am

Ben - You might as well be the next queen of bread, those pictures are amazing!

Thank you for baking with us :)

June 30, 2008 - 7:00 am

Amy - Wow! This looks beautiful and sounds sooo delicious. I can’t believe it’s only your second challenge.

June 30, 2008 - 8:31 am

Michelle - Gorgeous…gorgeous…gorgeous!

Did I mention your braid is gorgeous! LOL!

Grrrreat job!!!

July 3, 2008 - 3:52 am

steph (whisk/spoon) - first off, i hope you washed your hair the next morning! :) i think your braid looks great–i can see definite layers in the baked danish, which i couldn’t see in mine.

July 3, 2008 - 6:33 pm

Jaime - look at all those beautiful flaky layers! well done!

July 8, 2008 - 8:13 am

gastronomy612 - as others say above, it looks beautiful, tasty and the braid looks well done in all aspects.

i’m with Breadchick on utilizing your oven for any proofing process. however a trick i like to use its to pre-heat the oven for the baking process (or just for proofing depending on when you need to bake that sucker) and put the dough on top of the burners on a plate/baking sheet/whatever.
my oven is one of those teeny tiny gas ranges and there is a vent in which heat is released. I put my dough near it and cover it in plastic wrap. In about an hour or so, she’s doubled. works wonderfully.

cheers!

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