Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

I was so excited to find out that Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'? chose this month's Daring Bakers' challenge to be a danish braid! I knew this would be a real challenge for me because I've never made anything like it before. But I've wanted to make a laminated dough for a while and I really want to try making my own croissants, so this was just perfect. And how awesome does the pastry look when it's braided??

I definitely had some butter oozing out the sides (due to the butter block) and air bubbles being formed when I was rolling out the dough, but overall it went well! I didn't add the cardamom, and I don't think I'd make it using so much orange next time. I dreamed about how delicious a lemon curd filling would be enveloped in this beautiful danish braid, but then went the easy route and did the caramelized apples. And my boyfriend loves apple pie so I thought I'd be nice.

Of course I tried it right out of the oven, and as gorgeous as it looked it didn't have the texture I was expecting. I think I expected a more flakey croissant type pastry (which I realize was probably a strange thing to expect), but it was a little bit chewy? I don't know if that's the way this dough is, or if it was me (quite possible). When I had it after it had been refrigerated though, the texture was just perfect.

Edit: I just realized that I was not paying attention and didn't realize that this was enough dough for TWO danish braids, so I used the entire dough to make one braid. My braid was twice as big as it should've been! Ah well - it still turned out okay and hopefully I learn to read recipes more carefully. ;)

Other Daring Bakers' challenges I've done:
Cheesecake Pops
Perfect Party Cake
Lemon Meringue Free Form Tarts
Yule Log

Caramelized Apple Danish Braid
The Secrets of Baking

Danish Dough

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.

Apple Filling
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.

Danish Braid (putting it all together)
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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Whole Wheat Cheddar Scones

The last bout of baking books I ordered, I had two I knew I wanted - The Essential Baker & Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins and More. Either those two books didn't add up to $39 to get the free shipping, or I just got really enticed by this little Simply Scones cookbook. Because really, what's better than scones?? I think the brownie scones really helped win me over, but so far all I've made are the cheese scones. Cheese scones are the kind I grew up eating (and I'm undecided as to whether they have to be refrigerated).

Lisa and I have been talking about scones as she seems to be the master of making healthy and delicious scones - like Coconut, Currant and Cashew Yogurt Scones and Sour Cherry Jam Scones! And go check out how beautiful and high they are. Mine were so flat. Lisa says that you can take out the eggs without replacing them with anything and the scones should be fine, though they will be drier (correct me if I'm wrong Lisa!) My guess is that you'd need to add a bit more milk though if it seems too dry, or yogurt can act as an egg replacer. Mmm yogurt cheese scones. (Edit: Lisa says she replaces an egg with 1/4 cup soy yogurt. And that "a scone made with eggs gives you a more "cake-like" texture where as a scone made without eggs has a more "bread-like" texture".)

This is a simple scone recipe that you can modify and make whatever kind of scone sounds good to you! I think it would be good with a mix of dried fruit, such as apricots, figs and raisins. And I like that there's no sugar in it.

Edit June 21/10: While these scones were decent, for a whole wheat cheese scone I'd recommend making these instead.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits
Apricot Orange Scones

Whole Wheat Cheddar Scones
Adapted from Simply Scones

Makes 8 scones.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Generous dash ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cheese. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and 2 eggs. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Spread the dough into an 8 inch diameter circle in the center of the prepared baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut into 8 wedges. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean.*

Transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

*Personally it seems really weird to test a scone with a toothpick, but maybe that's just me.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms in Mustard Wine Sauce

I know I know, this doesn't look like the most exciting dish ever but it really was! Well the part that was really special was the wine mustard sauce - yum yum. I love mustard and I love wine in sauces so this was the perfect combination. I would use the sauce again and try out different vegetables.

This post is quick & brief because things have been really busy this week. We found an apartment! Hopefully. We have a week to check things out and then make our final decision. I'm impressed with myself that I had already prepared the photo and typed up the recipe for this days ago!

Other pasta dishes I've made:
Audrey's Deluxe Mac & Cheese
Santa Fe Pasta Salad
Portabello Fettuccine with Spinach Pesto, Roasted Peppers & Romano Cheese
Spinach Walnut Pesto with Smoked Tofu & Whole Wheat Rotini

Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms in Mustard Wine Sauce
Adapted from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook

2 1/2 cups small dried pasta shapes
2 tsp oil
8 oz portobello mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 2 mushrooms)
1/2 tsp salt*
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Cook pasta according to pasta directions. Drain and set aside.

Set the wok (or frying pan) over high heat, and add 1 tsp of oil. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 tsp of salt, and stir-fry until tender, for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

Return the wok to high heat, and add the remaining 1 tsp of oil. Add the garlic and onion, and stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt and crushed red pepper, and stir-fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 2 minutes, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the wok. Add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

Return the wok to high heat. Add the wine and mustard, and stir with a wire whisk to blend. Bring to a boil, add the reserved pasta and mushroom mixture and cook, stirring for 2 minutes (or everything is heated through). Toss in the pine nuts and serve.

*I always reduce the amount of salt so you may want to add more.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Intense Chocolate Fudge Cookies

If a cookie is going to have a chocolate dough, it must have melted chocolate in the dough not cocoa powder! Well the chocolate marble chunk cookies I made with cocoa powder were good but maybe because the cookie was half chocolate dough, half regular cookie dough. I realized yesterday when I was reaching to use the cocoa powder, that I rarely ever use it. But now I'm also remembering the chocolate cake that I made that used only cocoa powder and how amazing that was.

I made these quite a while ago actually when I had this intense chocolate craving - and they definitely satisfy a chocolate craving and a half. I found them to be really sweet, with a fudgey middle and brownie-like edges. Tish Boyle (the author) suggests that you take the cookies out when the centers are not completely set, to get that fudgey middle - but personally I think I'd be happier cooking them a bit longer for a more brownie like texture. I substituted some of the bittersweet chocolate for semisweet which I'm sure accounted for the cookies being too sweet. You could probably even reduce the amount of sugar a bit.

I still really want to try out Martha's outrageous chocolate cookies. And I really want to try out this style of super chocolate cookie with espresso, like this one.

Other delicious chocolate things I've made:
Dulce de Leche Brownies
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones
Chocolate Orbit Cake
Chocolate Pots de Crème

Intense Chocolate Fudge Cookies (aka Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies*)
Adapted from The Good Cookie

Makes about 36 cookies

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
14 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

2. Chop 6 ounces of chocolate into pieces between 1/4 and 1/2 inch squares; set aside.

3. Coarsely chop the remaining 8 ounces chocolate and place in the top of a double boiler with the butter. Melt the chocolate and butter over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat; separate the top of the pan from the bottom and let the chocolate mixture cool for 10 minutes.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla extract at high speed until doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. At low speed, blend in the melted chocolate mixture. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the reserved chopped chocolate and the walnuts; the dough will be thin. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).

5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat mats.

6. Drop the chilled dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheets. Moisten your palm to prevent sticking, and flatten each mound of dough slightly. Bake the cookies, two sheets at a time, for 9 to 11 minutes, until the cookie appear set; switch the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking. Do not overbake, or the cookies will be dry; the centers should not be completely set. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Beet, Barley & Black Bean Soup

I've missed a couple of months for the No Croutons Required event, but I'm back with a delicious soup! The theme this month is soups or salads featuring legumes. When I make soup, I like having a good variety of vegetables, a grain (like barley), and protein (beans usually). I was very anti-bean before but since I started to try and eat healthier and take better care of myself, I've been slowly accepting them and trying to incorporate them into my diet frequently. Soups are a great way to do that! And what bean is more accessible than the black bean (in my mind anyway).

Well since I love beets, and this soup is a meal in itself, you can guess that I loved it. I've never used tarragon in my cooking at home, and have only had it a few times when out. I like it but it's something different to get used to. I think this soup could benefit from a variety of herbs, and it actually calls for 1/2 cup of fresh dill. Which is a lot of dill, even though I love dill - so I put that as optional in the recipe.

I thought I'd have more time to update my blog now that school is finished but it turns out I've found many other things (including work) to fill up all my time! Currently I'm looking for an apartment and obsessing over places. I hope the place we find has a relatively decent size kitchen with some counter space! I can't wait to try out my grandma's convection oven for baking (which is currently in storage but will be taken out when I move).

Other soups I've made:
Choklay's Tibetan Lentil Soup
Baked Bean Soup
Corn Chowder
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Beet, Barley & Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
5 cloves garlic
2 tsp dried tarragon
Black pepper
8 cups water
4 medium-size beets, cut in half & half again, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup pot barley
2 tbsp soy sauce
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained (about 2 cups)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Dill (optional)

In a stockpot over medium heat, saute the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tarragon, and pepper; saute until fragrant (about a minute). Add 8 cups of water, the beets, barley, and soy sauce, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the barley from sticking together, or unitl the barley is tender. Add the balsamic vinegar. Add dill if desired.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Banana Nut Shortbread

I love shortbread. Like really love shortbread. Maybe because I grew up with my mom and grandma making it, or maybe because yes it's just that delicious. My mom has always made it at Christmas, and my grandma's shortbread is one everyone fights over (I still need to try out her recipe). Their shortbreads are quite different though, with my mom's being light, extremely crumbly and topped with half of a maraschino cherry, and my grandma's being covered in sugar and more sturdy. Both are yummy.

I was really curious to try out this recipe, wondering if it would be anything like shortbread since there's half of a banana in it. Impressively it was quite like shortbread in texture, but it didn't have a strong banana taste. There was way too much nutmeg, so I recommend halving it which is reflected in the recipe below. And it was easy to roll out (a huge plus in my books).

I really loved trying this recipe out, but I doubt I'll make it again because the flavour just didn't do it for me (maybe it was the extreme nutmeg). So why am I posting it? Well it's worth trying if you're an adventurous shortbread lover, or just looking for something different. And if you're fancy, you can add dried banana chips, walnut halves and/or maple icing to these. The Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine has a few different shortbread recipes, and I can't wait to try out the other ones - carrot cake, peanut butter candy, and strawberry.

Other cookies I've made:
Earl Grey Tea or Matcha Shortbread
Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies
Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies)
Strawberry Shortbread Cookie Bark

Banana Nut Shortbread
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Cookies 2007

Makes about 36

1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup mashed ripe banana (1/2 medium banana)
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

Beat butter, banana, and vanilla in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours or freeze about 20 minutes until firm.

Preheat the oven to 300F. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Cut in butter mixture using a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. Add chopped nuts. Knead dough until smooth; form dough into a ball. Divide dough in half.

Roll each dough portion into an 8 inch x 6 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut each rectangle into sixteen 2 x 1 1/2-inch rectangles. Place rectangles 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Bake in preheated oven about 30 minutes or just until bottoms begin to brown. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies & My Blog's Birthday!

This week's recipe was french chocolate brownies, chosen by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook. I wasn't too intrigued at first, but I'm so glad I made them! And I just realized that June 3 (today) is my blog's birthday! So it's a good thing I made brownies to celebrate. ;) I can't believe it's been a year already. I feel like I should say something more but I'm not quite sure what. I can say that I love being a part of the food blogging community and that there are so many amazing, caring and inspiring food bloggers!

I had my first taste of these brownies at 5:30am the day after making them. I wanted to bring some brownies to work, and the first piece I cut for myself ended up kind of falling apart. So I just ate it which was not so smart in retrospect considering the fact that I was barely awake and not able to totally enjoy it.

I was skeptical of adding raisins to a brownie, as I'm sure many other people were. But I thought I would trust in Dorie, and just see how it turned out. Well I was right about the raisins - kind of weird. You're supposed to flambé them, but my rum wouldn't light on fire (I thought it was supposed to be easy to light alcohol on fire?) so I kind of want to try the brownies again if I can figure out how to flambé properly. Aside from that though, these brownies were so very delicious. They're incredibly moist and somewhere between a chocolate cake and a brownie. Not the dense kind of brownie though, which usually I favour. At first I thought they could've been more chocolate-y but really they're quite perfect just the way they are, and they're not too sweet. I have no idea if the 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon really made a difference in flavour.

I had to take the brownie photos with my cute new dish! I have no idea what I'm going to use it for but I had to have it.

Other TWD recipes I've made:
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
Orange Berry Muffins
Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

French Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

Makes 16 brownies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a metal bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares.