Daring Bakers: PIZZA DOUGH!

It is the end of the month and that means it is The Daring Bakers Challenge deadline. This month’s Challenge was hosted by Rosa’s Yummy Yums. Our challenge is something that we love in our house and that is homemade pizza. When people think of baking, typically something sweet, creamy, and chocolatey come to mind, at least that is what comes to my mind. I am so glad that this month our challenge involved something I could serve my family for dinner.

This month’s recipe is “Pizza Napoletana” from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”. Included in part of the challenge was capturing yourself tossing the dough. I unfortunately do not have a picture of this, so please check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for wonderful pictures of my fellow bakers who have mastered the toss.  We also had to use both a sauce and toppings, but it was left up to our imagination as to what those included.

I know a couple secrets to great pizza is a HOT, HOT, HOT oven and don’t overload the toppings. This is a recipe I want to try when I am at my in-laws place, because they cook their pizzas on the grill. My father-in-law has a BGE (Big Green Egg) and it makes for some amazing pizza. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. However, this dough can not be whipped up on a whim. You need to plan for it, because it takes needs to rest in the fridge OVERNIGHT.

My pizza toppings include: marinara sauce (very little), cheddar cheese, Canadian bacon (ham), pineapple (that has been blotted dry), dried Italian herbs, and fresh shredded Parmesean cheese.

I do want to make a pizza with apples. I have a whole crisper drawer full in my fridge.

~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
* BOTH GF AND REGULAR INSTRUCTIONS FOLLOW


Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled – FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast – FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar – FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method:
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

Or

2.  FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

Or

8.  FOR GF:  On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator.  Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

Or

10.  FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

Or

11.  FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

Or

12.  FOR GF:  Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

Or

13.  FOR GF:  Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Chocolate Eclaires

August’s Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen by Meeta of What’s for lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice.  Meeta chose Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs. An éclair is a delicious French pastry, which is made with choux pastry filled with a cream and topped with a glaze. In the United States the closest thing to an eclair in your local bakery may be a cream-filled long john (however long john’s are made with dough pastry).

I have read about choux pastry before and was excited to try my hand at making my own. It was unbelievably easy to make. When I first saw that this month’s challenge was going to be éclairs I was afraid they would be difficult to make. Difficult, no. Time consuming, yes. Many of my daring bakers thought the choux was a little eggy tasting, and I have to agree. After seeing how easy it was to prepare, I look forward to experimenting with the pastry dough, and hopefully will find a less eggy tasting result.

The rules for this month’s challenge were:

1. We had to use the choux recipe provided
2. Had to use at least one chocolate element (either chocolate glaze and/or chocolate pastry cream)

I decided to make an éclair with a chocolate glaze and a whipped cream filling. Other than the egginess of the choux, they were delicious. Unfortunately my choux did not rise as I had expected; so instead of cutting them in half to fill, I put a layer of whipped cream on a whole baked choux, and topped it with another whole baked choux. It worked wonderfully. I also froze my eclairs right after filling and glazing. I did not want to be tempted to finish them in one weekend. They froze wonderfully, and I can take out as many as I need to thaw when I need them. Set them on the counter for 10-15 before you are ready to eat; they will be delicious.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the
boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium
and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very
quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You
need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough
will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your
hand mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time,
beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do
not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you
have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it
should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Notes:
Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Baking:

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by
positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with
waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. (I did not have a pastry bag, so I used a large zip top bag and cut off a small portion of the bottom corner, it worked well in a pinch!) Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the
handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the
oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue
baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking
time should be approximately 20 minutes. (After making these I read from other bakers that opening the oven could have caused the choux to deflate. Some people recommended baking for 10 minutes at 425 degrees F, then dropping the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and baking for 15-20. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR)

Notes:

The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling

Chocolate Glaze
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1)In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Notes:
If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water. It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104  F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly.  Then reduce the heat  to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Notes:
You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or  a double boiler before using. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by PierreHermé

• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.  In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled.  Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it  remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Notes:
The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

* I USED THIS WHIPPED CREAM RECIPE*

Whipped Cream
For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together in a chilled bowl until fluffy.

Assembling the éclairs:

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the
bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40
degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of
the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the
bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms
with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream
and wriggle gently to settle them.

Notes:
1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water,
stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create
bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Enjoy, these are delicious!

Check out the blogroll and see how my fellow Daring Bakers fared with their eclairs.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Filbert Gateau

Unfortunately I had to sit out on this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge due to spending most of the month traveling. Please check out the Daring Bakers’ blogroll for great photos and read out the experience of making this month’s cake.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Danish Braid

Sorry for the extremely late post. June seemed to wizz by so quickly, it was full of lots of traveling. I did find time to make this month’s challenge, and it was delicious. I chose to make one sweet filling and one savory filling.

I was excited when I saw this month’s challenge was the Danish Braid, since I am Danish on my mom’s side of the family. I called my Grandma Bonnie and asked her about traditional Danish fillings. Grandma being the wonderfully resourceful woman she is, went through some of her “Dane Country” cookbooks and emailed me her findings. She said many of the braids were filled with canned pie filling, several had prune or raisin fillings (YUCK!), there was a pecan filling (going to try), and almond paste (going to try). I will include the recipes at the end of my post.

Even though making the dough was really time consuming, I will make this delightful pastry again. The choices of fillings are endless. Check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for some ideas. When I made my braids, I did not allow my dough to proof very long (sorry I was impatient), as a result my dough was not a flaky as it could have been.

Here is the original recipe.

DANISH BRAID

Makes enough for 2 large braids

Ingredients
1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour

DOUGH
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.

BUTTER BLOCK
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.

APPLE FILLING
Makes enough for two braids

Ingredients
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
¼ 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.
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.

HERE IS WHAT I DID:

SAVORY RUNZA DANISH BRAID

1/2 recipe Danish braid (follow recipe)

filling:
1/2 lb browned hamburger
1 c sauerkraut

Follow recipe for cutting, filling, proofing and baking. THIS is amazingly delicious!

* I did not use cardamom or vanilla bean in my dough.

SWEET(ISH) RASPBERRY, BRIE, AND PECAN DANISH BRAID

1/2 recipe Danish braid (follow recipe)

filling:
1 small wheel Brie
1/2 c halved pecans
1 1/2 c sweetened raspberries (recipe below)

Follow recipe for cutting, proofing and baking.
To fill:  slice brie and layer over dough. Add raspberries and pecans.

*This would be delicious with a glaze drizzled over the top.

SWEETENED RASPBERRIES
2 c frozen raspberries, pureed
1/2 c sugar

Mix all in sauce pan and boil until sugar is dissolved and raspberries are thawed.

GRANDMA’S SUGGESTED FILLINGS

Almond Paste Filling—Mix: 1c. almond paste, 1/3 c. butter & 1/3 c. sugar

Pecan Filling:  Cream 1/4 c. oleo and 1/2 c. brouwn sugar, spread on dough and sprinkle with pecans

Raisin:  1/4 c soft butter, 2 c. powdered sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 T. cream.  Beat with mixer and add 1 c. raisins that have been soaked in boiling water until plumped.

June’s challenge was hosted by Kelly from Sass and Veracity and Ben from What’s Cookin’. They chose this recipe from Sherry Yard’s from The Secrets of Baking.

Daring Baker’s Challenge: Danish Braid

I have not forgot about the Daring Baker’s Challenge this month. In fact, I have completed it and enjoyed it thoroughly. Unfortunately I will have to wait another day to blog about it. I have been traveling, and don’t have the photos on my computer to upload. Please check back tomorrow. I have made both a sweet and savory version.

Meanwhile, checkout the other Danish Braid lineup at the Daring Baker’s blogroll.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Raspberry Lemon Opera Cake

This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge is Opera Cake. May’s challenge is hosted by Daring Bakers founders Lis and Ivonne, and two newer members Fran and Shea. Before this challenge I’ve never heard of opera cake. Opera cake is a fancy shmancy French dessert, consisting of five different component –leave it to the French to make a complicated dessert. There is a cake (joconde) layer, syrup (to wet/flavor the cake), buttercream, mousse/ganache, and finally a glaze. Traditionally this cake is made with dark chocolate and coffee flavors, but our creative hosts wanted us to make our cakes light in flavor and light in color.

I will be honest with you, I was overwhelmed from the minute I read the recipe, so many different parts to concentrate on. Coffee and dark chocolate combination sounded so delicious, but we were once again forbidden to use dark flavors. Raspberry and lemon were the first to flavors that stuck in my head, it seemed to be a popular choice. My husband called home while I was preparing this cake and asked if I was a daring baker, I replied “No I am a challenged baker!” So true –at least with this challenge.

This cake was delicious, but extremely sweet. I’ve never thought anything was too sweet but this cake is. I ate only a tiny bite and that was enough. Now what am I going to do with all this cake? This was a fun experience, but I don’t think this will make another appearance in our house. Check out all the other flavors my fellow bakers created at the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

ALMOND CAKE (JOCONDE)

* The cake can be made one day ahead, wrapped and stored at room temperature.

I could not find almond meal at any of my local grocers, so I had to grind my own. WORD OF WARNING: Buy already blanched almonds… I accidentally did not, and had to blanch my own… a MAJOR pain, and not as easy as it sounded. After I had my almond meal the cake came together very easily.

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

LEMON SYRUP

* Can be made up to one week ahead and stored covered in the fridge

The cake was moistened and flavored with this simple syrup.

½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
2 tbsp. of lemon extract

1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

RASPBERRY BUTTERCREAM

*The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.

I thought this buttercream was more buttery than creamy. I’ve never been a huge fan of buttercream, but people seem to “OOOO” and “AAAHHH” over it.

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp. strained/seeded raspberry

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates

a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

*The ganache can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

7 ounces white chocolate

1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.) ***I omitted this step***

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

RASPBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE GLAZE

* It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.

4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)
2 tbsp raspberry extract

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth, add extract.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake.

ASSEMBLING YOUR OPERA CAKE

*The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
2. Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
3. Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
4. Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.
5. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
6. Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
7. Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
8. Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze (at least 30 minutes).

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

My First Daring Baker’s Challenge

I’ve joined Daring Bakers! At the end of each month I watch my Google Reader with much anticipation waiting to see what that month’s challenge was and the beautiful photos that accompany the delicious recipes. Each month I tell myself, “well I could have baked that”.

Baking isn’t my strong point, I don’t have a ton of baking experience. To me baking does not provide the freedom that cooking does. Baking is a science, and measurements need to be accurate. The precision involved intrigues me. I decided to spread my wings and give it a try. I contacted the creators of Daring Bakers and asked to be involved with the challenges. I got my request in just the nick of time, and before I know it I was emailed with all the details, including the theme of April’s challenge.

April’s theme is Cheesecake Pops. Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah from Taste and Tell hosted this month’s event. This recipe is an adaptation of one from Jill O’Connor’s book called Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey.”

I have made only one cheesecake before, it was a recipe from Cooking Pleasures magazine. It turned out wonderfully, so I was really excited to tryout these Cheesecake Pops. I baked my pops at the beginning of the month and experienced some of the same problems as other bakers. The recipe says the cake will bake up in 35-40 minutes, I like most of the bakers had to increase the baking time to 60 minutes. Just keep your eye on it! These pops were so creamy and delicious! I divided my batter into two separate pans, one I flavored with orange extract. I look forward to using this recipe again, and experimenting to make it lower in calories.

I really enjoyed this month’s theme. My family loved these pops, they are a fun treat for Sasha to enjoy. If you want to see more photos of the pops, check out the Daring Baker’s blogroll. I look forward to next month’s theme, check back at the end of May to see what else I’ve dared to bake.

CHEESECAKE POPS
Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks

1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) – Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionery chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.