Posted by: familiabencomo | Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers’ June Challenge

I know that I’m starting to sound like a broken record…. This month’s challenge had me making up excuses from the get-go of why I had to skip it. Let’s see – busy schedule, school’s out for summer (read: mommy is going bonkers), I’ve never done anything like this & it looked Uber-complicated. I almost had myself convinced that I was going to skip this challenge. I mean, really, the recipe called for the use of both my paddle AND hook attachments for my mixer (glad to finally know what they’re used for!). Then, suddenly Friday morning I just had this overwhelming urge (or knead!) to bake. It was really quite a magical moment. I was filled with energy, looked at the recipe in full & set out to do it. I had almost everything in the house (noted in red are the adjustments I made) and because there is a good half hour between each fold I was able to prepare myself and the kids for a day at the cabana & then finish the Danish Braid upon our return.

Overall, this baking experience was very relaxing. I can count on one hand how many times in my life I have used a rolling pin. For some crazy reason, my mom had just bought me a HUGE rolling pin that I desperately wanted to exchange for something (anything!) else, but guilt forbade me to do so. And, I’m so happy it did! That monster came in handy. The mindless monotony of rolling out dough allowed me to finally slow down from the craziness we’ve had here the past several weeks and enjoy the task at hand. Then, while we were at the pool I looked forward to rolling it out one final time & braiding it.

Like the recipe states, it makes two large loafs. It is now Saturday evening and we only have half a loaf left! We are total gluttons. I took this out of the oven last night after dinner and served it warm with vanilla ice cream. My family went nuts for it. Alfredo went as far as to say that he liked it more than my Apple Pie…. shocking! My daughter had it again for breakfast. And, we all just recently stuffed ourselves for an afternoon snack. This Danish Braid WILL be made again – no question. It doesn’t require as much time to prepare as it does just waiting. So, if you’ve got things to do in between, then it goes by quickly.

Thank you Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? for such a genuinely enjoyable challenge! I learned a few things & gained some confidence along the way. To see some more fabulous Danish Braids check out the other Daring Bakers.

“Danish Braid” 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 (replaced with lemon)
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (ginger instead)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped (opted for an extra 1/2 t of vanilla extract)
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (lemon again)
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 (1/2 t vanilla extract)
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.



  1. Here’s to magical moments (as opposed to minutes) since this challenge was not a minute recipe – but oh, so, good. I’ll bet the family went crazy when you pulled this out of the oven.

  2. Looks wonderful Amy! I too had thought I had enough excuses to not do the challenge. However, I found I had time yesterday morning to start and I’m actually in the proofing stage right now! I will have mine posted later today!

    Great job!

  3. You done good, kiddo 😉

  4. Great job Amy! Your quite the baker! I made one gigantic one, immediately cut it in half, and gave it away to my very appreciative brother in law, and Hubby devored the rest. This baking stuff is dangerous!!

  5. They liked it better than apple pie…now there’s high praise!!! This looks delicious!! If you ever decide to do an apple pie vs. danish pastry faceoff, I will bravely offer myself up as a taste tester.

  6. Dear Amy, I find this soooo yummy and nice, really!besos Gloria

  7. Amy, your Danish braid looks impressive! No wonder the family went nuts about it:) It is so well risen. I think I didn’t do a good job with the dough turns, and my braid did not rise as much as it should have. Mine is a snake:) Great job!

  8. Oh your Danish Braid is so impressive and beautiful! I hope you and the kids are having an awesome summer!

  9. Your braid looks fabulous! Beautiful pictures!

  10. It looks so yummy I love the golden brown color and the filling.When I was rolling my dough I said mom “if Amy were here…” you would have laught as i did

  11. My favorite kitchen tool is my monster rolling pin. Maybe because I love to make laminated bread :-p and it is a good weapon too! (don’t ask) Hehehe.

    It’s good to see that you came on board and tackle this challenge. Great job!

    Thank you for baking with us 🙂

  12. again. i’m in awe of you daring bakers. this really looks professional and delicious! you go girl.

  13. your braid looks so yummy and flaky!

  14. Hey there bella…just back from baking in HOT South India & first (& only one for now) stop is HERE!!! YUM!! Glad to see you enjoyed it as much as I did…& this is one we’ll both make again & again. Alfredo is like my DH…he LOVED it & was looking around for some slices I might have stashed away for the next day. Not a chance…gluttons united here too; they wiped it clean! Am still trying to catch my breadth…only ray of hope being that schools reopen dayafter…YIPEEEEE!! I love your braid…tanti baci dear girl; catch up with you soon!! xoxoxo

  15. I feel so much better about the “monster” rolling pin now! I bet this freezes well..which means make another and save it for when I return!

  16. Excellent job on your challenge!

  17. Congratulations Amy!! This looks wonderful! I bet your family totally loved it!

  18. It was a good thing you give into this urge! See what a beautiful braid it made you come up with.

  19. oh amy, serving it warm with ice cream is such a wicked idea. i must try it!

  20. What an excellent job you did on this months challenge. Your loaves are a thing of beauty …how could the Bencomo family resist!!!!

  21. Great job, Amy! Your braids look like they came from a bakery! I’m glad you were able to motivate youself to make them. Mine didn’t even last a whole day!

  22. Thank you, everyone, for all the nice comments! This was such a delightful challenge & I’m ardently looking for cardamom – why is it soo hard to find?

    Giz – Yes, savor those moments every chance we get!

    HoneyB – We totally “get” each other, don’t we?

    Maryann – Thank you, sweetie.

    Marie – I made the suggestion to give a loaf away & you’d think I was offering up one of our children! Alfredo was certainly opposed to sharing. He said, “Share with ME.”

    Jessie – You’re on! If Alfredo let’s you have any!

    Gloria – Muchas gracias, bonita.

    Farida – You did a great job, as usual. I’m ready to try this again.

    Christine – Thank you, we are having a great summer. I hope you are too!

    Amy P – Thank you – I struggle with photography…. 😦

    Faery – Oh! That would have been fun to bake & complain about the heat together! Maybe one day.

    Ben – This was a super-fun challenge & I definitely learned a thing or two. The other day I made pizza (again!) & my dough raised like NEVER before b/c I used a technique learned during this challenge. Thank YOU!

    Amy, never full – Thank you, hun! I bet you would be great at this.

    Lorrie – Grazie mille!

    Deeba – That’s why I adore you – you totally get me. I’m so jealous that the summer holiday is almost over for you. We’re going to go on a couple of holidays, but not until the end….argh!

    Mom – Yes, the monster is great! Thank you. Freeze?!?!? It would never last so long. You know us.

    Breadchick – Thanks bunches!

    Laurie – Yes, they did! I bet your family would go through this super-quick.

    Aparna – Yes, thank you. I totally agree that you have to follow your urges.

    Abby – You can never go wrong with ice cream. Right?!?!

    Val – Thank you, dear. It was fun too.

    Susan – You really flatter me! Next time I hope they look half as good as yours.

    Tanti baci to all!

  23. Wonderful job, and even on the spur of the moment! I bet it tasted delicious with the ice cream.

  24. Looks great! How fantastic to have a large rolling pin.

  25. “Knead to bake” that is so cute!

    Your finished product is a masterpiece! Just lovely.

  26. Beautiful braid. I’m so glad you found the time to fit this in… and that you enjoyed the experience. Funny that the every day implements in our grandmothers kitchens (like rolling pins) feel a little foreign in ours.

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