Sunday, June 29, 2008

Plum Danish Braid

Fresh danish and iced coffee make a wonderful afternoon treat. This is the June Daring Baker Challenge, and in typical fashion, it's due today and I finished it this morning. The recipe came from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking. I have this book and like it a lot, so it was a lot of fun to have a push to try this recipe. I make a lot of danish and croissant at work, and don't usually make it at home, but it was so nice this afternoon, after a day of being lazy and hiding out at home, to sit down to danish that was still warm from the oven.
The trick about any sort of laminated doughs is incorporating the butter in evenly. It's important that the butter and dough are the same temperature, it is evenly spread over the dough and also rolled out consistently. As I was going through my lamination's I had some spots where the butter was colder than the rest and didn't get rolled in evenly. To be honest, until the danish went into the oven I didn't have very high hopes for it. I had made a fresh plum filling using diced plums which I tossed in some cornstarch and a little brown sugar. I cooked the filling in a saucepan adding some plum butter I made last summer to give some more body and flavor to the filling. After it had cooled, it was thick and had a bright tart flavor but was still sweet- the essence of a good plum. It stayed in the pastry nicely, and I was pleasantly surprised when I checked on my danish to see that all of the filling had stayed inside and the braid had held together nicely. It was a very warm day, the house was at the perfect temperature for proofing dough- but too hot for having the oven on! The sacrifices of a baker!
Below I have posted the directions as given for the challenge. Included is a recipe for an apple filling for the braid ( I wasn't measuring when I made my plum filling this morning). The filling is very flexible and you could do all sorts of things- but you do want to make sure the filling is fairly thick, too much moisture will interfere with the dough baking and also run out of the braid. While we did a braid for the challenge, you can use this dough for all sorts of danish shapes. I have the other half of my dough frozen for a later use. This may seem intimidating but freshly made pastry is unparalleled and worth all the work! If you have ever thought about making your own puff pastry this is a good place to begin. The lamination's (rolling the butter into the dough) are less for danish and it isn't solely dependent on the layers of butter for it's leavening (like puff pastry) because of the yeast it will still rise- it's pretty forgiving and a good place to start!

DANISH DOUGH (from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking)

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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Peak of Their Season

When you start out with perfect ingredients, sometimes you don't have to do much to them- or should I say often times you shouldn't do much to them. Case in point, strawberries in peak season. Every week we recieve a mystery box from the farmers market and every week on most occasions, they contain a large 16oz box of strawberries. In the beginning they were ok, and have slowly worked their way towards getting better and better. This past week they were PERFECT. I wouldn't want to do anything to mask their sweet essense. SO dessert was simply the strawberries with some thick organic sour cream and a little brown sugar to dip it all in. Summer doesn't get any better than desserts like this!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Corn Casserole

When I was little I remembered a corn casserole that my grandmother made- and I loved! I could never get enough. Later as I was older and wanted to make it, I took one look at the recipe with 1 1/2 cups oil, cheddar cheese and all the other ingredients, and knew there was no way in good conscience I could make that. I had run across a recipe in Cooking Light Magazine that looked like it could be something close to what I remembered, so I decided to give it a try. It quickly became one of those "keepers"- it was everything I remembered it was. My husband didn't even want our guests to have seconds- he wanted to make sure he had some leftovers for himself! Coming from Cooking Light meant it had a healthier flavor profile- but still the perfect addition to any summer meal. Using peak of the summer corn is one of the keys to making this great. It does call for canned creamed corn, which I had made some last summer and froze, so I have used that, but the canned products work well, especially when pressed for time. One of these days I would like to not have to depend on a corn bread mix for my recipe (not my style) but my first attempt to deviate produced some different results so for now, here it is:

Corn Casserole (from Cooking Light Magazine)
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg OR 2 egg whites)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no-salt-added whole-kernel corn, drained
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no-salt-added cream-style corn
1 (8 1/2-ounce) package corn muffin mix
1 (8-ounce) carton plain fat-free yogurt
Cooking spray

Mix all the ingredients together and pour it into a greased 8" square pan or 9" pie pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so, until the middle is completely set.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oatmeal Cookies

Here is a great "lower in fat" healthier oatmeal cookie. Although it's been modified quite a bit, I got the original recipe from Perfect Light Desserts written by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim. This is a great book filled with solid recipes (at least the ones I've tried so far) that rely on real ingredients used smartly to make them healthier. It's not filled with sugar free products or whipped toppings. You wouldn't be able to tell these cookies are lower in fat, and I've packed them with all sorts of goodies.

Oatmeal cookies (makes about 24 cookies)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg (room temperature)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups oats
1/4 cup golden raisins (or dark if you want)
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup cocoa nibs (these you could substitute chocolate chips, but the cocoa nibs give the richness of chocolate with more health benifits, and helps to temper the sweetness of the cookie)

Pre heat the oven to 375
Mix all the dry ingredients (flour through salt) together and set aside. In another bowl cream the butter with the white sugar, and then add the egg and then the brown sugar. With such little amount of butter, it's hard to mix if you put both sugars in at once. After everything is completely emulisified, mix in the applesauce and vanilla. At this point add all the dry ingredients and finally the oats, raisins, pepitas, and cocoa nibs.

Using parchment lined or greased sheet pans, scoop tablespoon fulls of batter onto the sheetpan, with a few inches between each cookie. At this point you could easily freeze half the cookie batter for later.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, just until you see the top is a light golden brown. If you bake them too long they will get very hard and crunchy. It's important to time the bake so they stay soft and moist after they cool.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's for Lunch?

I realize I have been pretty slow on posting lately. Now that everything is put back into the kitchen and my inspiration is returning, I find myself very short on time! I'm not sure how some of these bloggers do it, who have to work other full time jobs. Most of what I've been cooking has been food to take to work for my husband and I. So I figured I could at least start posting some of the things I've been making for our lunches (and dinners since we both work nights)...

I was inspired by a beautiful bunch of parsley I had gotten in my weekly box from the CSA I subscribe to (will post more about that later). I couldn't think of a better use for it than a tabbouleh salad. This is a recipe I found in "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman. I haven't had much of a chance to use it yet, but I found a great recipe in there for tabbouleh. One of the things I liked about it, is it had not only parsley, but a lot of mint as well as some scallions. I've modified it some and threw some crumbled tofu on top.

Tabbouleh Salad-4 generous servings

1/2 cup medium grind or fine grind bulgur
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons
2 cups chopped parsley
1 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 medium tomatoes (or 2 cups of cherry tomatoes cut in half)
1/2 of a cucumber (about 1 cup) chopped

Bring a medium sized sauce pan filled with water to a boil. Add the bulgur and let it come back up to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat. Let it sit until softened, and then drain well. Season the bulgur with the lemon juice, olive oil, and some salt and pepper. In a separate bowl mix the herbs with the lemon zest. Shortly before serving, combine the bulgur with the herbs and tomatoes and cucumber, check again for seasoning (may need a little more salt and pepper).