Sunday, June 29, 2008

Danishes in June

When I first read that the Daring Bakers challenge this month was a danish braid, I have to admit that I didn't have my usual feelings of excitement for the challenge to come. In the baking classes that I took last fall, danish dough was probably one of my least favourite doughs to make. I found that it was one of those rare baked goods that wasn't an improvement over the store bought variety.

But as a good Daring Baker knows, there is always something to be learned with a challenge and being part of the forum discussing the highs and lows of a challenge is worth the price of admission! So I forged ahead with the recipe and boy was I glad that I did. This recipe was awesome!!!! I only wish I could transmit the smells coming from my oven as the dough first proofed (I love using the oven light for perfect proofing temp) and then baked.

I know that some DBers found the dough a little difficult to work in terms of having oozing butter or being too elastic to roll out properly. I actually had a good experience on both accounts. I was in no hurry to make the dough so I had lots of time to let the dough rest in the fridge between turns and let the butter firm up before rolling out again. While it took a good 2-3 hours to complete all of the turns, the actual work during that period was quite minimal. If the dough ever got too elastic to roll, I just let it rest for a few minutes and that seemed to do the trick. When I cut the dough in half to freeze one portion for later use, I was thrilled to see all of the distinct layers and had a pretty good idea that I was going to have a good result this time around.

Choosing what to fill the braid with was a daunting task at first. Our private DB website had so many good options from savory to sweet, seasonal strawberries to fall apples, from nutty and crunchy to honey sweet. With our local strawberries coming into season though, the choice was made for me in the end. I started with a base of cream cheese mixed with ricotta and vanilla bean seeds. I then added a strawberry jam made with our local berries. The layers baked up golden, flaky and gave just a hint of the strawberry goodness underneath.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get a photographer to take pics early Tuesday morning when I decided to bake the braid. So I ventured outside in the garden myself and did my best with the early summer flowers. I'm hoping that when I get around to baking the second half of the dough (I'm thinking Nutella, dark chocolate and toasted hazelnuts) I'll be able to switch these pictures with more artistic shots from one of my talented photographer friends.

Thanks to Kelly and Ben for this challenge - for being so quick to respond to questions on the DB website and for providing the push necessary to revisit a technique that I vastly underrated. Also thanks to Jasmine who was gracious enough to sit down with me one night to go over the ins and outs of starting up my own blog, patiently answer all of my questions (no matter how silly!) and provide inspiration with her beautifully photographed, informative and well written blog. And her recipe book collection is a wonder to behold - her house was an Aladdin's den of written treasures :-)