Friday, June 27, 2008

Caterpillar Braid

When I was little my favorite thing to do when we went out for hamburgers was to take the paper wrapper off the straw in a small, accordioned lump, put it in the ashtray, and then drop a bit of soda on it. The wrapper would writhe and expand as it absorbed the soda, looking like a caterpillar. Obviously, now that I'm a grown up, I don't do this anymore. No one has ashtrays in restaurants nowadays.

Why do I bring this up, on the day of the Daring Baker Challenge post? Because that's exactly what my braid reminded me of while it was baking. Let me back up a bit and explain.

This was a daunting challenge as it uses Laminated Dough, a technique that makes thin layers of yeast dough separated by thin layers of butter. It sounds like a pain in the patoot, but perversely, I was excited to have a reason to try it.

The rolling and folding part was actually quite simple, although I'd hesitate to try it if my kitchen was quite warm. The butter behaves best if it's not all melty and squishy. With the roll and chill timetable, I just had to find a 3 hour block of time to be home and then the dough rests for either 5 hours or overnight. I opted for overnight as I had stuff to do.

I made a filling from fresh strawberries, that was essentially strawberry jam. Yummy.

My biggest stumbling block was when the directions say to roll the dough out to a 15 x 20" rectangle and then place that on a baking sheet. I don't own a sheet that big! I made the braid and sort of pushed the ends on the pan, hoping they'd stay put in the oven. In the oven the dough started rising and the ends were inching their way off the sheet towards certain doom. That's when I was reminded of the straw wrapper caterpillars. Fearing disaster, I quickly shoved another baking sheet under the first to try to contain the caterpillar braid.

It all worked out. The braid came out golden brown and none of it did a suicide leap to the oven floor. The directions say to let cool, but my eager pack of taste-testers cut in while still warm and, oh my, it's delicious! I was afraid the cardamom would be overpowering, but what I mainly tasted was the orange in the dough and the strawberry filling.

It wasn't until I'd taken pictures of my lovely, but large, braid that I reread the recipe and at the top, mentioned once and never referenced again, it said "Makes 2 braids." Well, how so? The recipe never said to halve the dough. It never mentioned anything like, "Repeat with remaining dough" or "Put braids in the oven" or "Rotate pans." That's what I get for following the recipe to the letter and never turning on my brain.

The whole caterpillar in the oven thing could be avoided if you halved the dough, rolled each half into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle, then baked on separate sheets. You could even try two different fillings.

Would I make this again? It's time consuming, but definitely yes. It's waaaaaay better than the nasty Danishes they sell in the grocery store. This braid was moist, flavorful, and delicious and any day would be brighter with this braid in it. Many thanks to our hosts, Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking for giving me the needed push to try this new technique and find a new favorite for Saturday mornings! Check out what the other Daring Bakers did with this challenge at the Daring Baker's Blogroll.

Danish Braid with Fresh Strawberry Filling
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 2 large braids


1 recipe Danish Dough (see above)
1 recipe of Fresh Strawberry filling, (see below) (or about 2 cups of strawberry jam)

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 a whole egg and an yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil 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.

Fresh Strawberry Filling
(adapted from Baking with Julia)

2 cups sliced and crushed strawberries
1 cup sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Stir the strawberries and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl or a 2-quart glass measuring cup. Put the bowl in the microwave oven set to full power and cook for 10 minutes. Stir the mixture and cook for 5 to 8 minutes longer, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the filling is glossy. Stir in the lemon juice. Scrape the filling into a small container and cool to room temperature. Seal the container and chill. The filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, so you can make it well in advance of making the braid.


CookiePie said...

Lovely! The strawberry filling sounds so luscious. And you did great, even though the whole 2-braid thing was kind of confusing. Congrats!!

VeggieGirl said...

Lynn, I did the SAME THING with the paper on straws!! No joke!! Haha, so fun :0D

Looove your pastry-braid - exceptional work, as always.

Gretchen Noelle said...

I remember the straw wrappers as well! Great job with the caterpillar, er, I mean Danish! :)

ostwestwind said...

Strawberry filling sounds divine, great pastry braid!


Ulrike from K├╝chenlatein

Megan said...

It came out looking wonderful. Great job!

Sarah said...

Nice filling idea and I agree that the orange was the dominant flavor...not the cardamom. Great job!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

That was funny! The braid not only looks great but it could feed an army!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I had a time with that to Lynn. It said it made two but never told you exactly when to divide this dough! Didn't notice it didn't talk about pans vs pan.
The strawberry filling looks heavenly! Love the braid. The things we do with straws!!

Peabody said...

That is one big danish...too funny that you made one giant braid. Looks good and it does look like a caterpillar.

Mary said...

I love the fresh strawberry filling. Your braid looks really delicious! (And yeah making caterpillars with straw papers was so much fun. Thanks for reminding me!)

breadchick said...

I did the same thing the first time I made the danish! Didn't see it made two and I had a monster who took over my oven!!

Wonderful braid with lovely fillings for this challenge.

Melanie C. said...

Your Danish is huge--but looks wonderful! Myfamily would love one that big!! The strawberry filling sounds wonderful! I will try that next time!

Kevin said...

Nice looking braid. I went with a strawberry filling as well.

Claire said...

Great job! I was quite confused when I saw that THAT amount of dough was supposed to make two braids...but it did, after much rolling!

Madam Chow said...

I had just about all the thoughts and problems that you had! Hot kitchens, short baking sheets, rotten commercial Danishes, and making this again! Great job!

Sarah said...

This looks amazing! I have to say, I'm not a fan of store-bought danishes, but with this lovely braid, I'd be a convert in an instant.

My dad always did the caterpillar things...we used to think it was SO COOL. Still makes me smile when I think of it...thanks. :)

Melinda said...

Your braided caterpillar looks delicious!

Margaret said...

U R never too adult to make straw paper caterpillars. And you don't need an ashtray. Your braid is lovely. Great Job!

giz said...

So nice to use seasonal fruit in the baking. Your braid is jinormous - gorgeous - you're going to for sure win the prize for stretching that dough out as far as it would go.

Rachel said...

The caterpillar with the strawberry filling looks lovely :D

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

That looks mighty good, indeed...

jillian said...

Your strawberry braid looks delicious! I too wondered about halving the dough- I split it right before rolling it out the last time.

Lorrie said...

wow, your braid is huge! it looks fabulous!

Deborah said...

That was the one part of the instructions that didn't make any sense to me. I ended up halving it out of the fridge, then I just rolled it to fit my baking sheet. it seemed to work.

Your braid is GORGEOUS!!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Lynn, there's nothing caterpillar here, sweetie - it looks good enough to eat!

Dolores said...

Ha! I remember doing the caterpillar thing as a kid too. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who looked at my baked braid, thought briefly of those skanky svendhard grocery store pastries, and smiled. :)

Great job!

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Gigi said...

Wholly danish Lynn! Wow that danish is huge! I'll be happy to take a huge slice off your hands :)! ...mmm!

Meeta said...

a gorgeous filling idea. the braid looks lovely!

LyB said...

That sounds like so much work, but it looks totally worth it! I think the giant aspect of this makes it more fun, my kids would have loved it. :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

This is about the 10th gorgeous danish I've seen this hour, and I've never wanted a slice so badly before. Any leftovers?

Rebecca said...

Wow, that looks delicious. We couldn't wait for ours to cool, either. ;)

Melanie said...

Mmmm...yum. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who had size issues with the pastry. Yours looks fantastic!

Bellini Valli said...

You did a beautiful job Lynn. Way to go with the laminated dough:D

Sophie said...

hehe, you know, it really does look like a caterpillar! I hadn't even thought of I'm tempted to make it again and put little eyes on it! :D

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Lol, Lynn! I did the same thing at first. I couldn't find where it said to divide the dough in the recipe. After a quick trip to the DB forum, I ended up dividing the dough before that final roll-out.

Your braid looks terrific and delicious with that strawberry filling. Great job!

Jen Yu said...

Oh, you crack me up! I love the uber long caterpillar braid. I am always reading and re-reading the DB challenge recipe and manage to skip at least one step somewhere... *sigh* Your braid looks lovely and delicious. Great job!

eatme_delicious said...

Your braid looks great! And I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that made a monster braid!! I remembered reading at some point that it was enough dough to make 2 braids but then didn't see any more mention of it so just went with one. Well at least now I know my braid wasn't twice as thick, and instead was just twice as long and wide.

When I tried to put mine on the cookie sheet it was too long, so I baked it diagonally and even then I had to squish it on. I used a jelly roll pan actually, so mine curved up instead of threatening to grow over the sides.

Andrea said...

That's a lovely caterpillar you've got there! The strawberry filling sounds delicious! :-)

Angel said...

I love your braid, even in its caterpillar loveliness! I did strawberry filling too, it was so good i had no left overs.

Ben said...

Great job. Thank you for baking with us :)

Elle said...

Lovely pastry...and strawberry is a great filling.

Lunch Buckets said...

I did the straw paper thing too - but only after I drank all the coffee creamers.

Haley said...

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Tartelette said...

Beautiful braid! I still wish I had some left in the freezer after seeing your pics!