Sunday, January 27, 2013

Orange Cardamom Danish Braid

It took me quite awhile to drag myself to sit in front of my computer to actually start doing something that resembles working, though expecting it to be productive would be too much to ask. With my sister in law wedding in Bali next March, I seem to be forced out of my comfort zone (read: I have to think about making dresses, picking colors, matching the blah and the blah, and the blah, blah, blah). Clearly anything that has to do with wedding preparation is just not my forte. Do forgive me dear husband, I hated the days we had to plan our wedding. We could've just had it registered and get on with whatever romantic plan we had, if there had been any. But noo.. Typical Indonesian parents just have to be extravagant when it comes to wedding celebration and as much as we hated it, we at least owe both of our parents that joy.

After suffering from acutely foul mood for the last couple of weeks, Lord help me it is gonna get even uglier, I need some novocaine for my soul.

I need butter.

When the word butter comes into account, I shall not associate it with cake or cookies because those are not sophisticated enough to satisfy my ego and my need for butter. I want the butter to be the integral part of the dish. I want the butter's taste and aroma to stand out yet blends harmoniously with other flavors.

Pastry, now that is just the thing I have in mind.

It is not a secret that I prefer to go butter-less in my everyday regime. But since we talk about pastry, I do have a valid reason on why we go butter or we don’t go at all; the taste of pastries that are made with real butter surpasses ones that aren't by miles. I am a kind of person who very, very rarely buys pastries like croissant, danish, strudel, or anything that uses puff pastries because I know that most bakeries and shops use either pastry margarine or shortening to create the layers in the pastries they make. Yes, they all look so pretty. But after a bite or two, you know it is just another yeah-it's-okay-but-it-could-be-better product and somehow in the end, we get tired of wandering why they don't improve.  We just cope with that and get on with our daily routine of buying chemically engineered fat filled pastries to go along with the cup of overpriced coffee.

Butter is a natural product that comes from cow’s milk and shortening, hardly anything natural in it, comes from the guys in never been washed white coats in some factories claiming that shortening will make your cooking look better and it's also easy on the wallet. Bet they never want to admit that it's easy to clog your arteries as well.

So, getting back to my need for some natural novocaine, I decided to indulge myself on some real deal Danish. I made this particular Danish a couple of months ago for NCC Breadweek event but didn't get a chance to take some pics. I, and thousands of other people who have tried this recipe, think this is the best Danish ever. I found the recipe at What's Cooking Mexico but the original recipe is taken from the book Sherry Yard:The Secrets of Baking.  

Since it is my kitchen, then it is my rule. For the filling, instead of apples as the original recipe stated, I made my express vanilla pastry cream and halved some black cherries for a whimsical twist. As for flour, I used half whole wheat flour so I wouldn't have to feel all that guilty. Not that it matters much:)

Let's get on with the recipe, shall we?


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
(two small braided danish or 1 big braided danish)

For the dough:
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
240 gr all-purpose flour
150 gr whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block:
225 gr cold unsalted butter
30 gr all-purpose flour

To Make The Dough
-Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with 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. 

Chill the dough for 30 minutes.

To Make The Butter Block
-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. Keep it cool but not cold otherwise you won't be able to spread it on the dough.

-After the dough has chilled for 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  
-Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and 1/4 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 dough to the right, covering half of the butter.  
-Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. Imagine that you're folding an envelope. Do not forget to seal the edges so the butter won't escape. 
The first turn has now been completed.
-Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
-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.
-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.

Now that we have the danish, it is time to prepare the pastry cream because pastry cream needs at least an hour in the refrigerator to chill or you can simply make it a day or two in advanced.

MaMiko's Express Vanilla Pastry Cream

300 ml low/non-fat milk
2 egg yolks
75 gr sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
25 gr all purpose flour
1 tbs corn flour

-Heat the milk in a pot, not boiling.
-Cream the yolks and sugar. Add all the vanilla and combine.
-Add the flour and corn flour into the egg mixture and whisk through.
-Add some of the heated milk in the egg mixture and combine.
-Return the egg-milk mixture into the pot with the rest of the milk.
-Simmer while stirring continuously until thick and coat the back of the spoon.
-Transfer to a container and cover with a cling wrap to prevent 'a skin' from forming.
-Refrigerate until cold and ready to use.

Note: This pastry cream, if stored in an air tight container, will keep well for a week refrigerated.

To Make The Braid

-Flour a silicone mat or parchment paper. I find it easier to do it right on the silicone mat or parchment paper instead of having everything made then transfer it TO the silicone mat or parchment paper.
-Roll the danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch (approx. 30x40cm) rectangle , 1/4 inch thick.  If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. 
Along one long side of the pastry make parallel 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.
-Spoon the filling on the center of the rectangle and make a braid.

Proofing & Baking The Danish
-Spray cooking oil onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid.  Proof for about 1,5 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch. i strongly suggest to proof it in a colder area in your house to prevent the butter from melting.
-Preheat the oven and set for 200C. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 175C and bake for about 15-20 minutes more or until golden brown.
-The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

So, Whaddaya think?

Oh the sweet smell of orange, vanilla, cardamom, and the buttery goodness..

I honestly can't think of anyone who'd be strong enough to not want to cut it while it's warm.

A bite of this danish will give you a foodgasm.

It is such a hard work, unless you're trained as a pastry chef, but I can promise you that the extra miles are worth going through. The smell of this danish is like an explosion of aromatic and citrusy herbs. Very fragrant indeed. The butter creates somehow flaky outer layer yet soft pillowy texture in the inside.

Now don't get me going on the filling. I am GLAD I didn't fill it with chunky applesauce. It would be too plain. The slight sourness of the black cherries cuts the subtle sweetness of the vanilla cream, making the whole filling a glorious match to the divine danish.

And there I was, sitting alone, having a slice of danish and a tall glass of Sauvignon. My mind wandered aimlessly, creating scenes and evil scenarios until suddenly (the image of) Captain Jack Sparrow appeared, swayed flamboyantly, teasing me with his edible smirk.

He said, "The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude towards the problem".

Well I say, Aye Love!

See.. A good meal fixes an aching heart, sharpens our mind, and improves our judgement. A meal made with real butter, that is.

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