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