Sunday, June 29, 2008

Where the Danish Comes From

Each month, I attempt a new baking recipe, meant to teach me a particular technique, as part of an online baking group called the Daring Bakers. This month's challenge was to make a Danish braid, and the technique I learned about was making a yeasted, laminated dough. It was such a fun challenge--and with delicious results, to boot.
I ended up making a cherry cheese danish; I was very pleased with the results, and the recipe(see end of post) was long, but very easy to follow. My downfall this time (there always seems to be a downfall!) was with the appearance; I was rushing by the end (it was midnight--I skimped a little on the rise, and was pretty messy with the actual "braiding" of the pastry.) But as you might be able to tell, the recipe was relatively forgiving, and my danish looked presentable, at least.
It takes a loooooong time to make danish pastry: there are lots of half-hour rests in the fridge and then an at least five-hour refrigeration; then rising the danish before cooking. But the results were sooo good, I'm planning to try again, and this time use the dough to make chocolate croissants.
The dough is fantastic. As far as the filling goes, I opted not to use the apple filling, as, coincidentally, my next door neighbor had recently brought us an apple danish she had baked. (Different recipe.) I ended up using a recipe for cherry pie filling from here and trying to alter it to make it a little bit thicker (not successfully); and made a cheese filling using cream cheese and condensed milk, with a splash of lemon juice. In the end, the cheese taste was not particularly noticeable, but the cherries were great.
The actual start of the "lamination" of the dough: (I thought this was so neat!)

The ugly "before" photo (kindly note the cherries oozing out) (and I should probably mention that I had to use extra dough to seal one end of the danish which was exploding like a volcano)(see it on the edge there?):

The final product (notice how much more civilized it looks than the before photo):
So good. Try it when you have a bunch of time to pay attention to it!


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 sugar1 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.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Forty Years and Six Courses

Yesterday was my parents' fortieth wedding anniversary!
The sisters and I decided to have a dinner party in my parents' honor--it turned out to be six courses, and was a total blast, from the Bermuda Rum Swizzles to start it off to the dance party (mainly the kids, but an occasional parent jumped up and did, for example, the robot, but that's a completely different story...) to finish it up.
The courses were assigned to different people, so I was a little afraid that the food wouldn't be complimentary, but it was. Here's what we had:

Appetizers: Assorted cheeses, Rum Swizzles (recipe from here), Crostini alla Mozzarella (I'm not sure where this recipe is from, made by my sister(sis, feel free to comment):)
First Course: Crab Cakes with garlic aioli, made by my sister:

Second Course: Chilled Cream of Sweet Potato Soup, recipe from here:

Third Course: Spring greens with Pears and Blue Cheese, made by my sister(sis, feel free to comment on the source:)

Fourth Course: Peach Sorbet and Plum Sorbet, from Frozen Desserts, William Sonoma:

Fifth Course: Bourbon-Glazed Cajun Tenderloin and Grilled Asparagus, from Weber's Big Book of Grilling, made by my husband, who has become a whiz at the grill:
(if not a culinary artist...)

Sixth Course: Vanilla Creme Brulee from Creme Brulee, by Lou Seibert Pappas:

Things went off perfectly, the food was great, the guests were happy. It was a nice way to celebrate forty great years.

And now for many more!

Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

Thanks for getting married. So, you know, we could come along.

We love you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More flower pictures because I love my camera. And my yard.

Lots of rain lately. Thunder and Lightning tonight is keeping the household awake long after bedtime!

PostScript: I don't know what all of these plants are: the first one I'm not sure about; then:


chicks and hens


honey suckle, maybe?

day lily, stella d'oro


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Saturday, June 14, 2008

What's Up in the Backyard

Here's what is growing in the backyard. Can you tell what each is?






1. Peony
2. Thyme
3. Lavender buds
4. Blueberries
5. Mint plant (I can't figure out if it is spearmint or peppermint)
6. Climbing Hydrangea
7. Holly berries
8. I forget! Do you know? Let me know if you do.

Friday, June 13, 2008

And this is not my hair.

Maybe you've read about my hair. This is not my hair. But I did this...

Under quite some duress, I might add.
Poor hair. It's so manipulated.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Note to self*

*this really is a note to me; I needed to write it down and it is quite likely that nobody but me will find this interesting or useful.

you are completely horrible about documenting memories, something about which I am quite disappointed, as you always seemed the type to make photo albums and even, God Forbid, scrapbook. Anyway, these are some things you should remember.

1. That squeaky little voice your number three has.
2. "Goggy" for doggy.
3. It is tremendously cool to see that child read.
4. Your kids still get excited to swim in the little inflatable kiddie pool.
5. You inflated that not so little kiddie pool by mouth in 97-degree weather.
6. The light in number two's eyes when playing with the neighborhood kids for the first time.
7. The pride of the oldest because of beating the reigning champ of Around the World, on a birthday, no less.
8. The middle child is taking Irish Step for the costume.
9. Number three's personality is so great, the future is either as a convict or the President.
10. Your eldest child can already beat you in an argument. This is 2008.
11. You might be able to beat your baby sister at arm wrestling. Maybe.
12. Lucky for you, your number two sister laughs at all of your jokes, funny or not.
13. Your husband is afraid of frogs, but not bad guys.
14. Your husband would beat up a drunk man for careening into your sisters.
15. Number one-ism: "he can't have that toy what is mine."
16. By the time you were twenty, your friends thought your parents were cool.
17. And so did you.
18. Eldest niece: "Bad dog. DAMN BAD DOG!"
19. Kickie has amazing insight into social interactions.
20. JuJuBee would give me the shirt off her back.
21. Numbers two and three: penchant for heels.
22. You predict number one will be a preppy. Number two, either punk or haute couture. Number three-anything yellow, right now.
23. It's really cool how you can see all of the cousins in the face of the newest one.
24. There's no farm smell at your house!
25. You are so looking forward to hospitalists.
26. Your kids cry when they leave Hilltop, just like you did.
27. Future careers: artist; candy expert; live at Mama's house with Blankie.
28. The fun things you did this week: washed the cars with the kids in their bathing suits; played tree tag after dinner; saw the Bubble Man at school; read a library book to the kids; made chocolate chip cookies, some without chips for number one; only worked one day; shared a secret candy bar with your eldest on the car ride home; got a babysitter for a night out; shopped by yourself for an hour, had ice cream from the farm.
29. You are really really lucky.

Don't forget these things.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bad Hair Day

If I had to pick one part of my personal beauty care routine that is lacking, it would be my hair care. Unfortunately, there's not one part lacking; don't even ask about makeup. Don't even get me stahted! Really this is a rave about my ucky hair. Stop here it you'd rather not listen to complaining. Ahem. But the hair care issue really has been more noticeable lately, what with the 100% humidity and such. I'll give you the breakdown on my faulty hair philosophy in just a moment; first, a little history. I had lovely long wavy hair as a young girl. Dark and glossy, if the polaroids are reliable. Then came middle school, during which I decided to get "wings" cut in; not so much feathers, as many had: these things were sort of like bangs that were parted in the middle and swept off to the sides of the head, looking, as it were, like wings. I didn't quite know how to handle the hair dryer, so there was alot of frizz associated with this coif. High school was worse: by now my hair was curly and frizzy, and I still couldn't control the hair dryer. After a year or two of the winged look, and multiple curling iron attempts, I decided to control the craziness with a short haircut. I looked like a boy unless I let the cut grow out a bit, and then I looked like I was wearing a shiny brown helmet. Oh, how wicked pretty I was.In college I learned the scrunch technique (can you guess the era of which I speak?) and, well, I was in college, so I stopped paying to have my hair cut. Right, I cut it myself, even the back, often with nary a friend or mirror to aid me. I ended up with pretty ringlet curls for a few years. Maybe the bottom wasn't even, but. Good times. Anyway, after a few kids, my hair's not curly any more, nor is it straight; so I generally melt it into submission on a daily basis. I had a good cut a few months back, the first in, um, years. (My hairdresser is another story, I can't even start about her and me right now. (Am I right, sistas?)) I should have kept it up, but in my infinite wisdom, I thought, to myself, because no one else is really interested, so if you're still reading this post at this point, I thank you; Self, hey, grow your hair long, because humidity season is coming, and your head'll be frizzelicious, and so at least if it's long you can throw it in a ponytail and that's not so uncool. Nobody can really see frizz if it's in a pony. So I let it grow, and it's past my shoulders, but just past, and I can't really wear a ponytail to work, so now on the sides, it hits the shoulder and curls a little, so there's this icky crease in the bottom of it; (not in the back, I should think; but again, no friends and no mirrors...) or scenario number two, I am drying it so carelessly that the left turns under and the right flips out, like there's some sort of split end magnet off to my right and all the ends of my hair are being drawn to it; or hey, scenario three, there you are--we have three days of frizz, and the blowdrying is really not getting any of the humidity out of my hair, so there are random kinks all over, such that the hair does not even look symmetric all the way around, and there are these (oh, so cute, really not) icky cowlicky things up by the part. The cowlicky mess makes me look like a half-assed vampire and the asymmetric kinks somehow reminds me of the old helmet look. And what's the deal about the whole head of hair moving in one piece like it was hairsprayed? No lovely swinging strands for me. Just a mass shifting of helmety kinks. Scenario three makes me worry that I will not be taken seriously by anyone at all, as I have an appearance quite similar to someone who might not be in a stable state of mind. What? Oh, my hair's in a ponytail now. If I were younger, I would cut it down to about, I don't know, one and a half or two inches, and dye it platinum for a while, just out of spite. At least then it would look purposeful, not like I just got caught in a rain shower. Being a mom of a certain age with a certain job, I'm feeling a little hemmed in about that, though. Probably for the best. For now, baseball caps, ponytails, and the occasional clip. Maybe I'll tackle the straight iron...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Rainy Day

It was the kind of day today that leaves you feeling somehow deflated. Nothing particularly bad happened (to me) but I wasn't able to fix problems like I usually do. It happens every once in a while in my job--usually I finish my day feeling that at least I did some good, but some days I just don't make a difference. At this point in my career I know that this happens; but it still feels pretty lousy.

This morning I took a picture that actually really fit the mood of the day.
I hope tomorrow's sunny.

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