This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to create laminated dough and form at least one danish braid. Since there is enough dough for two, I decided to make both a savory and a sweet one.
The sweet one was filled with a mixture of black raspberries and ricotta, heated with sugar and vanilla to form a jam-like consistency. Because options of fillings can vary so much with these danishes, it's a great way to clean out the refrigerator (I happened to have the raspberries and ricotta sitting in the fridge, and couldn't think of what else to do with them). This one was a great breakfast or dessert snack, with friends and family loving it.
I was planning on doing another sweet danish after the first received such good reviews, but then a friend of mine requested I make something savory for a potluck. I decided to just use the rest of the danish dough I had laying around, and filled it with ham, gruyere cheese, mixed greens, and grilled white onions.
I got compliments at the party, but personally didn't like how it came out. The gruyere was much more pungent than I was expecting (and it wasn't my first time using this type of cheese, so it could very well have been the brand). If I were to do this again, I'd definitely use something a bit more fitting, perhaps a simple cheddar or provolone.
1 T. active dry yeast
1/2 c. whole milk
1/3 c. sugar
zest of 2 small lemons
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs (cold)
1/4 c. lemon juice
3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
Combine yeast and milk in a stand mixer with paddle attachment, and stir at low speed for a few minutes until creamy. Rub together the lemon zest and sugar until homogenous and VERY fragrant - a little tip I picked up from Dorie Greenspan's book (will make the whole area smell like lemons, it's great).
Slowly add this sugar to the stirring yeast mixture along with the vanilla extract and scrapped innards of the bean, eggs, and lemon juice. After it is well mixed, remove the paddle and add the hook attachment. Add the salt and flour, 1 cup at a time, while mixing at low speed. Once all the flour is incorporated, increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes, or until a smooth dough ball forms. Add flour as necessary 1T at a time until the dough is not sticky. Transfer to a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Beurrage (butter brick):
2 sticks (16 T.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
With a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, beat the flour and butter together until a smooth paste forms. Scrape the sides and attachment of the bowl, and beat again to make sure everything is incorporated.
Take the detrempe out of the refrigerator, and move to a floured surface. Roll into a rectangle, approximately 18"x13" and 1/4" thick. If sticky, dust lightly with flour. Spread the beurrage evenly over two thirds of this.
Fold in letter fashion, so the unbuttered third goes halfway into the buttered side (left to right), then the remaining buttered dough is folded on top of this new fold (right to left). Should be left with a rectangle 6"x13". Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the butter, then remove and roll the dough into another 18"x13" rectangle (the long point - 13" - will remain the long point - 18" - on this new roll; in other words, when the next folds come, the sides that were previously open should be closed). Fold in the same manner as before to make a 6"x13" rectangle. This is now the second turn. Repeat until 4 turns have been completed, refrigerating 30 minutes between each turn. When the final turn is done, refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
Raspberry and ricotta filling:
1 c. black raspberries
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. ricotta
The raspberries were previously frozen, so there was no need to mash them to get the juices flowing. Added all the ingredients in a small pot and stirred periodically over medium-high heat. Continue heating until most of the liquid has come off, leaving you with a filling the consistency of jam.
Forming the braid:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut in half. Wrap up the remaining dough and store airtight in freezer, or refrigerator if it will be used within a few days. Roll the dough into a 14"x17" rectangle (does not need to be exact). Make diagonal cuts into the dough on the lengthwise side, going a bit more than 1/4 of the way into the center (I cut a bit too far into it my first go-around, so don't go as far in as the cuts pictured - also, I did thicker braids my second time).
Pour on the raspberry filling, and spread evenly on the uncut surface.
Tuck in the top and bottom ends (forgot to do that with this first braid), then start braiding by folding one of the right braids to the center, covering it with a braid from the left, covering that with a braid from the right, and repeat until the last braid has crossed. At this point, you can brush the top with an egg wash (1 egg yolk + 1 egg), though I avoided this and my braid still browned nicely. Spray cooking spray onto plastic wrap and cover the braid, then proof at room temperature for approximately 2 hours (could take longer or shorter depending on the temperature of your house - wait until it is risen and very soft to the touch). Towards the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400ºF. Bake the braid for 10 minutes, then pull out of the oven and rotate front to back, left to right, before putting back in. Decrease temperature to 350ºF and bake for another 10-20 minutes until crispy (mine was complete after 10). Once golden brown and delicious, remove from oven and allow to cool.
The savory filling is easy enough. I opened a small pack of ham and stacked it until it evenly covered the uncut dough, covered with a medium layer of gruyere cheese, roughly chopped a handful of greens and placed on top, followed by 1/3 of an onion, sliced and grilled.
As before, tuck in the ends and then cross over the cuts to form the braid.
Allow to proof as specified above, and bake in the same manner. Once complete, cut and serve. I prefer to cut between the braids if I can, so a clean cut and nice presentation is observed, but this can be difficult due to the nature of the braiding.
Remember, the fillings on these braids are completely up to you. The important part is to learn how to correctly make the laminated dough, and find out how to handle it. Once the method of laminated dough is learned, there are several pastry goodies you can make, such as croissants, moulins (windmills), turnovers, et cetera. With the various fillings available, the possibilities really are endless.