June 29, 2008
My second Daring Bakers Challenge is another first for me – Danish braids. Made from a yeasted butter-laminated dough, Danish braids can be filled with sweet or savory fillings, and I opted to make one of each. (Actually, I ended up making three kinds of braids since I like to make more work for myself). The actual dough-making process was not terribly difficult, although it did require several hours for rolling and allowing the dough to rise. What made this into an all-day affair was my savory braid, which had about 100 ingredients, but was well worth the time and effort.
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.
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
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 . (Now I rolled this out to about 30 X 40 and cut it into 3 rectangular pieces, 2 equal sizes and one larger than the others). 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 sideof 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.
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 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.
And now for the fun part: the fillings. My first choice was fairly simple – a strawberry cream cheese filling with sliced almonds on top. The recipe below is more than double what I needed for my small braid but would be perfect amount if I had simply halved the dough recipe.
Sweet Cream Cheese for Danish Filling
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Beat all ingredients until fluffy.
The strawberries were picked earlier this month by my children and a friend at a local farm. I made a basic jam out of them and used that on top of the sweetened cream cheese.
I topped the braid with an egg wash and sprinkled with sliced almonds.
I filled my second braid with a sour cherry filling with cherries picked from my kind and generous neighbors’ backyard. Sour cherries are mouth-puckeringly sour but when sweetened with just the right amount of sugar, they bake into the most deliciously tart filling. The struesel masked my oddly anatomical braid while simultaneously adding sweetness. This recipe uses a large amount of corn starch in order to make the filling as thick as possible to discourage a runny or exploding braid.
Sour Cherry Danish Filling
2 C. sour cherries, rinsed and pitted
1/4 C. sugar
2-3 Tbs. corn starch
Bring all three ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan while whisking frequently. Simmer at medium high for 2 minutes then let cool completely.
1/2 C. all purpose flour
3 Tbs. (packed) golden brown sugar
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 C. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix first 5 ingredients in bowl. Add melted butter and vanilla; rub in with fingertips until small clumps form.
I tried to get fancy with my sour cherry braid, but it ended up looking like a grotesque vertebrae lying on my counter. That was quickly remedied by struesel topping.
Homemade danishes and coffee – does it get any better than this?
And for my pièce de résistance – a unique combination of sweet and savory in one dish, b’stilla. B’stilla (also called pastilla or bsteeya) is a traditional Moroccon pie made with pigeon, although more commonly with chicken, almond sugar and phyllo, topped with powdered sugar. I modified this recipe to fill a single braid, although this could be doubled to fill two braids or a phyllo pie (the traditional way to serve it).
The ras el hanout (translation: “top of the shop”) has the potential to be a bank-breaking proposal. If you have the great luck to live near an Indian grocery store like me, however, 90% of the spices listed below are incredibly inexpensive (like $1.99 for 8 oz. of coriander seeds). The aroma of the chicken cooking in that amazing blend of spices will make you finally truly comprehend your lessons back in the fifth grade about the spice trade and how it become the driving force among European nations, inciting wars and building empires. One bite of this B’stilla and you’ll nod in understanding.
B’Stilla Filling (adapted from Gourmet)
For the almond sugar:
1/4 C. blanched whole almonds, toasted and cooled
1½ Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
For the filling:
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons hot water
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, cut into thin strips
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. chicken leg quarters ( about 2)
3/4 C chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
powdered sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
2 teaspoons ground ras el hanout
For the ras el hanout: (Moroccan spice blend)
1/4 tsp. aniseed
1 tsp. fennel seeds
4 whole allspice berries
seeds from 4 cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom)
4 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. cumin
a pinch dried red pepper flakes
a pinch ground mace
1/2 Tbs. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
To make the ras el hanout:
In a cleaned coffee grinder grind fine aniseed, fennel seeds, allspice berries, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes, In a small bowl stir together ground spice mixture, cumin, mace, ginger, and nutmeg until combine well. Ras el hanout may be stored in a tightly closed jar in a cool dark place up to 6 months. Makes about 2 tablespoons.
No need to say “Open Sesame.” This braid will disappear in seconds.
June 26, 2008
My personal favorite: Korean mung bean pancakes (bindae duk)
As with many other Korean special occasion foods that are made in large quantities or not at all, mung bean pancakes (bindae duk) are not something one decides to make on a whim. Two ingredients require overnight soaking and the resulting quantities are usually sufficient to feed the entire Duggar brood(although something tells me Korean food isn’t a fav in the Duggar house). For me, however, it is one of those foods evocative of large festive gatherings, the smell delicious foods wafting through the house overheated by cooking and bodies, ending inevitably with the need to unbutton one’s waistband.
One can buy freshly made bindaeduk at Korean mega-marts like Assi and H-Mart, but they never look like this version. Fernbrake, as known as bracken, is relatively expensive and often eschewed for cheaper ingredients like cabbage and carrots. My mother always puts fernbrake (kosari ) in her bindae duk and this recipe is a variation of the kind I grew up with.
In order to make this dish, you need to buy the smallest bags of dried mung beans and fernbrake you can can find at your Korean or Asian grocery store. This recipe calls for 8 C. of soaked mung beans which was an entire bag (sorry, I didn’t note the weight of the bag). One bag of dried bracken makes a shockingly large amount. You can soak the entire bag and use the remaining fernbrake for bibim bap, or just soak what you need.
This bag wasn’t even labeled as “bracken” or “fernbrake.” “Wild Greens” and “Well-being Food” are the only words in English on the package. Gotta love cryptic labeling.
That 100g bag of unpromising dark bracken expands to this soft, uniquely fragrant “meaty” vegetable.
Mung bean pancakes are a great source of protein, gluten-free, and if omitting the pork, can be vegan. The beans give the pancake a heavier texture and you’ll feel full after just a couple (although you will keep eating since they’re so tasty!).
Korean Mung Bean Pancakes (Bindae duk)
Yields 35-40 3-4″ pancakes
8 C. mung beans, soaked overnight with any green casing picked over and discarded
1½ C. hydrated fernbrake, cut 1-2″ long
1 bunch sliced scallions, cut 1-2″ long
1½ C. chopped kimchi
8 oz. thinly sliced pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ C. sesame seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
oil to fry
(you can add up to 4 lightly beaten eggs to this recipe if you wish to make your pancakes less dense.)
Working in batches, liquefy mung beans 2 cups at a time in a blender, adding about 1/4 of water used to soak the beans each batch.
Combine pureed mung bean, fernbrake, scallions, kimchi, pork, garlic, sesame seed oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Heat oil on griddle or large frying pan on medium to medium high. Ladle about 1/4 or 1/3 C. on griddle, making sure not to make the pancakes too thick. I like to keep them between 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Turn over when golden brown (about 4-5 minutes) and add more oil as needed. Serve hot with Korean dipping sauce.
Mung bean pancakes freeze very well, so go ahead and make that large batch. Just defrost and refry when you have a hankering for these delicious pancakes.
June 21, 2008
Plum pretty – purple sweet potato gnocchi with cardamom brown butter
While shopping at the Korean grocery store (that’s H-Mart for my peeps in the know) yesterday, I saw a sign marked “purple yams” atop what appeared to be innocuous white-skinned sweet potatoes. Naturally, I had to buy some, even though I had no idea how I was going to prepare them. Once home, I did a bit of research and discovered that they are not purple yams, which have a dark purple skin, but are in fact purple Okinawan sweet potatoes. They have an earthier smell than common sweet potatoes and are less sweet. I had to think a bit on how to prepare them and dismissed the most traditional ways (baked, mashed or in pie) since all of those methods just scream autumn and winter. I settled on gnocchi since pasta is always in season.
Now I have been cooking for my husband for over 10 years and he obviously has been very-well fed during that time. He doesn’t give out praise lightly and most of the time it seems he’s a bit too blasé for my liking about my culinary offerings. I am happy to say he absolutely raved about this meal.
The subtle, earthy sweetness in the potato meets the cardamom and mace as equals, with neither spice nor sweetness claiming dominance. The texture is lighter than regular gnocchi due to the ricotta and the dusting of freshly grated parmesan cheese immediately before serving elevates this dish into something unforgettable.
purple Okinawan sweet potato
Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Cardamom Brown Butter
2 – 2 ½ lbs. purple sweet potatoes (or regular sweet potatoes) cleaned and pierced all over with fork
1 C. fresh ricotta cheese, drained
½ C. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. + ½ tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground mace
about 2 C. all-purpose flour
1 stick (½ c.) butter
Place sweet potatoes in large microwave-proof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, making a slit to allow steam to escape. Microwave on high until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Cut in half and cool. Scrape soft sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash or put through potato ricer. (I do not have a ricer, so I zapped it in the food processor for a few minutes to get all the chunks out).
Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, 1 teaspoon of cardamom and mace; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
June 18, 2008
Ever since I received my June issue of Bon Appétit over a month ago, I’ve been waiting impatiently for sour cherries to come in season. Featured on the front cover, that Circean slice of lattice top sour cherry pie has been mocking me for weeks. Normally ready for picking at the end of June in this area, montmorency sour cherries have become ripe earlier and earlier, (no) thanks to global warming trends. Montmorency cherries are bright red, not to be confused with dark Morello sour cherries, which ripen later in the summer.
Montmorency sour cherries are ready to be picked.
I am extremely fortunate to have wonderful neighbors with not one but two sour cherry trees in their backyard and an open invitation to help myself to their veritable garden of eden along with enormous and prolific fig, blueberry, blackberry and quince bushes. Thankfully, they’re always bemusedly tolerant when they discover my kids with cherry or blueberry stained shirts in their backyard. Pies, jams and other baked goodies made with their fruit are always the perfect apology.
Picked with permission.
Sour cherries are perfect for baking since they retain their firmness better than sweet cherries and inherently have that needed tartness for successful pie filling. Sadly, sour cherries are hard to come by in even farmer’s markets since these small soft cherries bruise easily and do not travel well.
Pitting cherries can be, well, the pits. Unfortunately, with cherries these small, you need to pit a subtantial number of cherries for any given recipe. You do not need a fancy cherry pitter – these are really just too soft for it. A small metal paper clip shaped into a “j” shape will do the trick. Simply press the “j hook” into the top and scoop (or squeeze) out the pit. Works like a charm.
This recipe has a perfectly flaky crust and just the right amount of sugar for these tart cherries. It truly is a classic recipe, with only the most basic of ingredients. I think you’ll like it.
Classic Lattice Top Sour Cherry Pie (from Bon Appétit)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries or dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (if using sour cherries) or 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (if using dark sweet cherries)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon milk
Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until small pea-size clumps form. Add 5 tablespoons ice water; mix lightly with fork until dough holds together when small pieces are pressed between fingertips, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into ball, then flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.
Pie crust/pizza dough lifter is a must-have for anyone who loves to bake pies.
Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Using large knife or pastry wheel with fluted edge, cut ten 3/4-inch-wide strips from dough round.
Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with butter. Arrange dough strips atop filling, forming lattice; trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch.
Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush lattice crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle lattice with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 50 minutes to 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or just by itself.
June 16, 2008
Almost a month ago, I embarked on a culinary journey that would make most wise bakers give pause. A crusty loaf of French sourdough seems simple enough, right? It calls for no yeast – how hard could it be? As jealously insecure as a fourth wife whose husband just hired a 20 year old former Playmate as his new secretary, a sourdough starter is demanding, insisting you look at it rise and carefully watch for it to fall. You must then refresh the dough, kneading in new flour to the sticky mess, only to have to repeat the ritual two days later. This process lasts longer than most Hollywood marriages and by the time you graduate on to the actual bread making, you already intimately aquainted its tempermental nature.
Which is exactly why I knew deep down that this was not going to work out. I should have gone with my instinct and drawn up the pre-nup papers since I knew I wasn’t ever going to make my planned grilled paninis with it. But just like all those celebrities who still tie the knot even though we all know how it’s going to end, I just closed my eyes and plunged in.
I’ll spare you the gory details of how horribly my sourdough bread turned out, but in the end I was stuck with a huge loaf of partially risen, dense as brick bread. Throwing out still edible bread just went against everything I was taught (not to mention the three weeks I already invested in it). What to do…
Three weeks of my life I’ll never get back.
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 C. sugar
4 C. milk
1 C. heavy cream
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 (1 pound) loaf bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 10 C.)
1/2 C. golden raisins
1/4 C. almond slivers
Preheat oven to 300 º F.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and sugar together. Add milk, heavy cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk until smooth. Arrange bread cubes in a 9 x 13 x 2 baking dish and top with golden raisins and almond slivers. Cover with the milk mixture, allowing the bread to become completely saturated.
Bake for one hour, until lightly brown.
Bread pudding happens to be a favorite of mine (anything remotely custard-like in it makes me weak in the knees), the yardstick by which I measure the quality of a diner (dessert is often included with dinner, and bread pudding is almost always an option). I’ve tasted many bread puddings in this state known for its diners, and this bread pudding recipe is a keeper.
I guess the sourdough fiasco didn’t end too badly.
June 14, 2008
Easter eggs a few months late? No, these eggs are naturally those colors.
My friend Emelia raises chickens in her backyard and was kind enough to give me a dozen eggs this week. Free-range and organic, these eggs are not only delicious, but are almost too pretty to eat. In pastel shades of pinks, blues and greens, they look like perfectly dyed Easter eggs. I (almost) felt badly about cracking them open to make my frittata.
I created this frittata recipe based on what was ready to eat from our garden (chives and peas) and what I already had in the fridge and pantry (bacon, potato and parsley). Frittatas are wonderful for lazy weekends or special breakfasts like Father’s Day.
Delicious sweet peas from our garden.
Frittata with Fresh Peas, Gruyère and Bacon
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 yukon gold potato, sliced in a mandolin ¼” thick
½ C. peas (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbs. heavy cream
2 Tbs. milk
1 C. grated Gruyère cheese
¼ C. chopped fresh chives
¼ C. chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
¼ C. grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400° F. Cook bacon in 12″ non-stick saute pan until crisp. Remove and drain all but 2 Tbs. of fat. Layer potato slices on same pan and cook on medium until cooked, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, cream, milk, cheese, chives, parsley, salt and pepper in medium bowl.
Sprinkle peas and bacon on top of cooked potatoes. Pour egg mixture on top, sprinkle with parmesan and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more, checking to see when the middle is set. Let cool a bit and cut into six wedges.
Apparently, the smell of freshly grated Gruyère is enough to send my son into a paroxysm of revulsion. He absolutely refused to eat the frittata (although he perked up when I made him a fried “Easter” egg.)
Cooling the frittata allows the edges to pull away from the pan.
Serve with a tossed salad and fresh crusty bread.